Altnet opens Kazaa's doors to paid content

Peer-to-peer company Altnet has struck a deal with Sharman Networks' Kazaa to roll out an opt-in, peer-to-peer resource sharing...

Peer-to-peer company Altnet has struck a deal with Sharman Networks' Kazaa to roll out an opt-in, peer-to-peer resource sharing network, which offers users goods and services in return for letting content providers use their computing resources, such as storage and bandwidth.

The Altnet Resource Network will be separate from Kazaa and is poised to launch in the autumn. It will offer content providers a way to process and deliver content protected via Microsoft's DRM (digital rights management), allowing them to set prices and terms of use for accessing their works.

A small group of Altnet Resource Network users would be invited to download and install Altnet's Digital Dashboard application, which allows them to become a resource-sharing partner. In exchange for offering access to their computing resources, these users will receive points that can be exchanged for goods and services.

Resource-sharing partners will select when and how their computers can be used, but they will not have access to the content unless they buy a licence.

Altnet stressed that it would employ a stringent privacy policy that protects the identities of these resource partners.

Kevin Bermeister, Altnet's president and chief executive officer, said that the network is an attempt to bridge the gap between the content providers and the technology industry.

"In essence, the Web is not an efficient place for content providers," said Bermeister, citing the mounting bandwidth and storage costs most major providers face.

"Altnet enables providers to license to the end-user directly, rather than via a Web site," he added.

But while PtoP may afford content creators new commercial opportunities, it has also caused them a lot of headaches. Major content providers, such as the music and film industries, battled against the free sharing of their copyright-protected content, the most notable case being Napster.

While it may take some time for these groups to warm to the idea of their content being distributed by Kazaa, the real question is whether PtoP users will welcome paid content combined with the free content they have come to expect.

Bermeister is confident that Kazaa users will appreciate being able to access content that would not be made available to them if content providers were not compensated. Still, he recognises that the Internet marketplace is unlike any other.

"I don't believe you'll ever get away from free data exchange. It's at the root of the Internet," Bermeister said.

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