Music City and Kazaa have been the most popular file sharing programs recently, taking Napster’s place. The recording industry filed suit Friday in federal court in Los Angeles against Music City, Kazaa, and a company named FastTrack that licenses the software to those services. Here’s the first news item I saw about the lawsuit. Here’s The Register’s analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the lawsuit and the real motivation behind it. Here’s a memo purportedly written by the RIAA legal team evaluating the technology and the claims.

There are some fascinating issues to be resolved. Some of the companies are overseas – FastTrack is based in Amsterdam, and it describes itself as a “virtual organization” of programmers from Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. International jurisdiction and enforcement are difficult problems. And the software does not run on central servers like Napster; instead, searches ripple through individual computers running the software. The company computers do not play a role in creating or maintaining an index of files, and theoretically, all traces of the companies could disappear and the software would continue to operate without a hitch. Napster’s liability for copyright infringement was questionable, and these companies are much further removed from the alleged infringement.

It’s no coincidence that the record companies are about to roll out wildly unappealing pay services. They’re trying to sell songs that are locked up with all kinds of restrictions on what you can do with them and how long you can play them without ponying up more money. Why would you do that?

Remember this quote from a few weeks ago? “A spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America acknowledged there would be a certain amount of piracy online and offline. But she said: ‘We are not going to sue our way through the internet, as we do not believe that litigation is a business model.'” They were just kidding.

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