P2P Client Does a Deal With the Devil

The name Discordia Ltd is connected to the neutering, hijacking, faking and commercialization of several P2P clients including iMesh, Bearshare and Shareaza.com. Following initial reports that the company had hijacked the Lphant client, it now seems that the business simply sold out to the music industry.

lphantRegular readers will be familiar with Discordia Ltd, the company responsible for the commercialization of iMesh and Bearshare, and the shocking hijacking of the previous official Shareaza website at Shareaza.com. It is far from cut and dried who Discordia are since the company has taken steps to hide who and what it is, but now it seems increasingly likely that the elements of the music industry are behind the operation.

During the last few days, we received a flurry of emails from people worried about the BitTorrent and eD2K-compatible Lphant P2P client. The vast majority of readers won’t know or care about Lphant, and that’s understandable but most will probably be concerned when they discover that along with a steady stream of other P2P software, it has been taken over – backed by elements from the music industry.

As with the takeovers of iMesh, Bearshare and the Shareaza.com website (and the faking of their client), Discordia has cleverly replaced the original P2P clients with one of its own – one which neuters the content previously available (via now-dead inbuilt BitTorrent or eD2K functionality) and provides its own, DRM-ridden and filtered content. On the Lphant site, the ‘new’ client offered is the same as that offered on the iMesh, Bearshare and the (fake) Shareaza.com sites – the old clients in each case have been killed off.

So did Discordia hijack Lphant in the same way as they did Shareaza.com? It seems not. It is unclear if the developer of Lphant did a willing deal with Discordia or if the deal was a pressured settlement, but a deal was definitely done.

Enter ‘Merlin Network’. According to its own website, Merlin Network is “a non-profit organization charged with representing independent music companies in enhancing the commercial exploitation of their copyrights on a global basis,” and it has just done a deal with the iMesh service. The deal adds music from the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, not for free but on via iMesh’s subscription service.

So where does Lphant fit into the picture? It appears that US-based iMesh wants to expand its services into Europe. To facilitate this expansion it has bought (maybe acquired via ‘settlement’) Spain-based Lphant, castrated the client, and relaunched it as a ‘licensed’ music service.

What this means is that Merlin’s member labels music – which they claim represent some 9% of the total US music business – will be available across all of the Discordia-linked applications including iMesh, Bearshare and both the fake Shareaza and Lphant clients.

In a statement, Merlin CEO Charles Caldas said, “We are pleased that iMesh inherently recognized the value of the Merlin repertoire in expanding their footprint to the global market, and are happy to be involved in working with them to license and legitimize the Lphant P2P network. It shows again that the tremendous efficiency and global reach that Merlin provides those wishing to license the world’s most exciting and commercially valuable independent repertoire has been recognized.”

In October 2008, along with Universal, Sony BMG, EMI, Warner Music Group and The Orchard, Merlin announced it had done a distribution deal with Spotify. Unlike Spotify, however, Discordia does not have a good reputation and has showed with its abuse of Shareaza.com that it has no qualms about using underhand tactics in pursuit of its goals.

Other P2P client developers should watch their backs – unless future assimilation into the Discordia collective sounds attractive.

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