A new twist on file sharing is holding out the promise of allowing millions of people to share their song collections online, at no cost–and without legal risk.
The trick involves marrying peer-to-peer technology with Internet radio. Using that combination, some companies are creating powerful tools that automatically broadcast people’s private playlists onto the Web. The output is then pulled together into a searchable database that lets listeners find the music they want, when they want it.
Safeguards are in place to prevent unauthorized downloads, ensuring copyrights are honored. But if the technology behind the networks keeps improving and the number of people using them keeps growing, the services could one day turn into something akin to free, on-demand request radio.
Few companies have staked out this territory yet. A handful of pioneers–including Apple Computer, Virgin Digital and upstarts Mercora and Live 365–are just beginning to see demand.
The MethodShop Spin: Like so many of the freeware apps, this I believe will become a huge way for music lovers to enjoy and share their collections. It is undoubtedly also going to further corner the RIAA as well as push the technology used to restrict illegal sharing of audio among connected users.