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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK
File-sharing upgrade taunts record labels
Jon Bon Jovi, AP
Bon Jovi's new CD was online weeks before release
Popular file-swapping system Kazaa has released a new version of its core software and announced an important alliance.

The swapping network has signed a deal with European net service provider Tiscali which will see both partners promote each other to their respective audiences.

The deal gives Kazaa much needed legitimacy at a time when file-sharing systems are facing legal and hacking threats from the music industry.

The alliance could also help Tiscali boost the number of customers signing up for its broadband service.

Legal battle

File swapping services such as Kazaa have become hugely popular since the demise of pioneering service Napster. Kazaa says its software has been downloaded 120 million times.

The new version of the software has some additional features which are bound to anger the record industry.

Shakira, PA
Some Shakira CDs are copy-protected
Users can now share entire playlists of music and download all tracks in a list as a collection.

It also adds reliability information about bogus files used by some labels to counter piracy and includes an anti-virus system.

The software also recognises frequent users and lets them get to the top of the queue for popular items.

Another feature lets people pay for music, movies and software from the Altnet network.

As it released, the software Kazaa announced the tie-up with Tiscali.

Under the deal the separate services will be cross-promoted and Kazaa will get a bounty for every user that signs up to Tiscali as a result of the advertising.

European net service provider Tiscali has seven million customers across 15 countries but only a small proportion, 100,000, are signed up for broadband.

Like many net companies Tiscali has been looking for a good reason to get people using broadband and Kazaa might help them convince customers to upgrade.

The deal will provide welcome cash for Sharman Networks, which owns Kazaa, and gives it a much needed stamp of approval from the business world.

Hack attack

Kazaa, and many other file sharing networks, are facing legal action by record industry groups which claim the swapping systems promote piracy and rob artists of royalties.

Many record companies are now starting to put copy-protection systems on CDs to stop them being played on a PC and limiting the chance that the tracks will be shared online.

Organisations such as the Campaign for Digital Rights are maintaining lists of which CDs are copy protected and are lobbying for discs to be clearly labelled.

And a potentially greater threat to swapping networks is looming.

US Congressman Howard Berman is introducing a bill that will allow record companies to take direct action against file sharing networks they suspect of pirating pop.

His bill allows them to flood the networks with bogus files and attempt to knock them offline using other hacking tactics.

See also:

23 May 02 | Science/Nature
20 May 02 | Science/Nature
10 Jul 02 | Business
27 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
23 Sep 02 | Technology
17 Sep 02 | Entertainment
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