Convert? Or be shut down for eventual transmogrification? The commercial p2p scene is beginning to look like a Borg movie with former independent commercial p2p operators being sucked into the corporate maw one by one, to reappear as rigidly controlled mutations of their former selves.
The Borg are known, “both within and beyond Star Trek fandom for their relentless pursuit of what they want to assimilate,” says Wikipedia., and increasingly, Assimilate or Die seems to be the choice facing the commercial p2p application operators, with Bearshare as the latest company to go over.
Casualties in the p2p wars so far include it, Grokster, iMesh and LimeWire, with Morpheus, Blubster and Warez as the hold-outs. Sharman Networks’ Kazaa, which recently announced a $115 settlement deal, is a case by itself.
Kazaa became the p2p application, walking in the open door when Big Music crushed the original Napster. But it almost single-handedly introduced spyware to the Net to become a pariah within the informed p2p world, also being relentlessly pursued through the Ausralian courts by the Big Four labels who accused it of being a facillitator of ‘illegal’ file sharing.
Alone, it was a lost cause and Sharman associates Altnet, a peddler of a DRM application described by Freenet creator Ian Clarke as a lame duck, and Brilliant Digital Entertainment were in equally dire straits. But Sharman and its friends both achieved their ambitions and saved the day by ‘settling’ with the cartels, reaching an accord they’d been seeking for years and indeed, Altnet is already being touted on a Big Four site, re-introducing its so-called Global File Registry.
And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a shiny new (and ‘legal’) Kazaa will appear soon, ‘legal’ in this context meaning compliant with the desires of Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG, the Big Four record label monopolies, with the major Hollywood studios close behind.
Meanwhile iMesh was in effect the first former independent p2p company to ‘settle’ with the Big Four Organized Music cartel, reopening as an “approved” p2p “network” soon afterwards.
In July 2004, the Big Four agreed to let iMesh continue operating, “even with millions of copyrighted songs being traded online – while the new service was being developed,” said CNET at the time. “In return, iMesh agreed to pay labels $4.1 million” and, there was, “genuine excitement about the offering,” the story had the Big Four’s RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) boss Mitch Bainwol saying.
Now, “iMesh, Inc. subsidiary MusicLab LLC today announced the beta launch of the newly acquired BearShare software in an authorized peer-to-peer application (P2P) – BearShare 6.0,” says an iMesh press release, going on:
“Continuing its commitment to the authorized P2P marketplace, iMesh offers consumers a compelling service inclusive of the traditional benefits common to the P2P file-sharing experience, while assuring compensation to registered rightsholders through the new BearShare application.
“With the acquisition of BearShare assets in May 2006, including its expansive user base, iMesh further solidifies its position as the largest globally active authorized P2P service.”
iMesh is run by ex-Sony Music boss Robert Summer.
One wonders what’ll happen to the Bearshare database with its priceless and confidential personal information on millions of former users? Similarly, wonders what’s to happen with the Kazaa user data base?
Kazaa was by far the most-named application in the vicious sue ’em all marketing war run by the Big Four’s RIAA in the US and other so-called ‘trade’ organizations elsewhere in the world.
Meanwhile, BearShare 6.0 will include the introduction of a ToGo portable music renal service under which users pay to borrow downloads which disappear as soon as they stop paying.
“The service offers consumers both a subscription plan and a la carte options for premium content, with the ability to download and burn music and videos,” says the statement.
It’s free for 30 days, “and will transition to a subscription plan thereafter,” it adds.
Back to The Borg, they’ve, “become a powerful symbol in popular culture for any seemingly unstoppable force against which ‘resistance is futile’,” says Wikipedia.
Is that the case in the peer-to-peer world? Certainly, with The Borg controlling the mainstream lamescream media it seems to be.
But in Star Trek The Borg always eventually come unstuck, thanks to their untrammelled greed, and in the real online world, for the first time in history ordinary people are completely by-passing the traditional corporate press, using blogs and web sites to disseminate unspun, unfettered and accurate news and information to each other.
And with this parallel universes are building with corporations which thrive on consumer control, lies and deception in one, and communities which foster openness, truth and innovation, in the other.