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Mashboxx Aims to Make File Sharing Legit

Grokster Founder Prepares Licensed P2P Service

By David McGuire
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2004; 6:32 AM

Ever since the day he became president of the Internet file-sharing service Grokster in 2002, Wayne Rosso has prided himself on being a thorn in the recording industry's side. The loudmouth tech executive remains the go-to guy for journalists seeking incendiary quotes comparing music lobbyists to murderous dictators.

But if Rosso's latest venture gets off the ground, he may wind up generating piles of cash for the music industry giants he once savaged. His new company uses technology developed by another former industry pariah -- Shawn Fanning, the student programmer who kicked off the file-sharing craze with his Napster service in the late 1990s.

''I'm about to get everything I've been fighting for and frankly so is the record industry,'' says Mashboxx creator Wayne Rosso. (Courtesy Wayne Rosso)

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Dubbed Mashboxx, Rosso's new service is set to go online early next year. It will rely on the basic "peer-to-peer" technology offered by Grokster, Kazaa and other file-trading programs that allows users to download and swap digital music files.

The big difference is that Mashboxx will be the first peer-to-peer network to use SnoCap, the music-licensing service founded in 2002 by Fanning. This makes it the first "real" legal alternative to popular free P2P networks such as Kazaa and eDonkey, as well as industry-supported downloading services like iTunes and Musicmatch.

"Our model is regular peer-to-peer. You're going to have all the content you're going to get with all the major (file-sharing) networks," Rosso said. "Unauthorized content will not be blocked. Instead, what we're going to be doing is replacing unauthorized content with authorized versions."

SnoCap won't prevent Mashboxx users from downloading, uploading and swapping popular songs over the network, but it will force them to pay for their music.

Although SnoCap promises to clean up and legitimize Internet file trading, it won't work unless peer-to-peer companies allow the San Francisco-based firm to scan the traffic that travels over their networks.

Ali Aydar, SnoCap's chief operating officer, confirmed that the company is in discussions with Mashboxx and several other potential partners that he declined to name. He said Mashboxx could be the first retailer to use SnoCap if it launches as planned in early 2005.

SnoCap works by electronically "fingerprinting" songs and maintaining a database of those fingerprints that it can compare against tracks being sold on retail sites or traded over peer-to-peer networks. Under SnoCap's approach, it will be the record companies' responsibility to claim the songs they own and set the rules for how those songs can be traded.

SnoCap gives song owners the option of making their music available at no cost, allowing free trades for a limited time, selling them, or demanding that they not be distributed electronically at all, Aydar said. Copyright owners will also be able to change the rules at any time.

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