The Register informs us that talks are taking place between Grokster and Sony BMG ("Bony") with a view to establishing a "label-friendly" peer-to-peer music delivery system that would offer both free material and copyright-protected content through DRM (digital rights management) software. Details of the projected system, provisionally named MASHBOXXX (a name which is reportedly already taken by someone else -- the MASHBOXX website with just two "x"s is "under development"), are unclear. Says the Register report:
The IPKat will be watching this development with interest. P2P is popular for the same reason as DRM is unpopular: it seems to him that one or other element is bound to dominate the blended system: success will depend on which one is the dominant one.
"It's not clear yet how the service would work. Given the Grokster connection, P2P has to be a strong part of the mix, but with a DRM component. Undoubtedly, the client code would block the sharing of unauthorised material, allowing other files to be traded in the usual way. Suitably programmed DRM rules might allow anyone to download a song, play it once or twice, and then require payment before copying to a CD, digital music player or for further listening on the PC.
The Bony/Grokster service is said to utilise digital fingerprinting technology ensure only authorised files are shared. In the UK, music service Wippit has been taking this 'walled garden' approach for some time now, using it as the basis of its MP3-based unlimited download subscription service.
Mashboxxx's technology partner is believed to be Snocap, the company set-up by Napster founder Shawn Fanning. This is the kind of thing Grokster has had its eye on for some time and represents the kind of deal the music industry might have been able to build with a variety of P2P companies if it hadn't got so stuck in its 'P2P = bad' mantra in the early Napster days.
Certainly, a number of P2P companies have tried to license content to enable it to be shared openly, but have thus far stumbled partly on label hostility and partly on the sheer complexity of setting up a broad licensing scheme".