ActiveX add-on makes file-swappers pay

Kokopelli Networks thinks it has the solution to file-sharing copyrighted content, but it is still far from clear whether P2P networks will sign up, and whether users are willing to pay the price

An application designed to help legitimise content on existing P2P applications such as Kazaa and BearShare is due to launch later this year.

Kokopelli Networks says it plans to launch BluFilter Authorize in December -- around the same time that Napster is scheduled to return. BluFilter is a security and copyright tool that plugs into existing P2P applications and allows artists and record companies to set prices for music downloads. Although similar services already exist -- such as Altnet, which is used by Kazaa -- BluFilter will be supplied free to P2P companies. The software could also be made to scan any file and distinguish between studio or live versions of a song, test the track's recording quality and charge the downloader an appropriate amount, according to Kokopelli.

Alex Sauriol, technical director and co-founder of Kokopelli Networks, told ZDNet UK that the BluFilter Authorize tool is a two part process. First, copyright owners add their tracks to the online BluFilter database and set prices. Second, file-sharing networks plug an ActiveX component into their applications. "When a file sharer completes the download of a song, the BluFilter component extracts a digital signature of that file and cross-references it with the content database to check for copyright validity. If the file is copyrighted, the user can opt to purchase it for the preset price, otherwise the file is deleted," said Sauriol.

Most of the revenues generated by the system are handed over to the artist or record company, while a percentage is passed onto the file-sharing network as a commission, Sauriol said. The rest will go into Kokopelli's coffers.

A new version of Napster, the original and best-known file-sharing application, is set to be launched later this year. Napster 2 is expected to be a full-blown rival to Kazaa, but it would not be seen as a rival to BluFilter, said Sauriol.

"We are focused solely on the copyright protection aspect. We embed our technology inside a component that any developer can freely integrate into their application," said Sauriol, who would like to see Napster embed BluFilter technology into its product because "it will save them the development costs."

Kokopelli has not yet approached Napster, but it has signed up two smaller P2P companies and is in "serious discussions" with three that are well known, said Sauriol.
The company is also in the process of signing up record labels. "Since launching the beta a little over a couple of weeks ago," said Sauriol, "we've had several independent labels and artists sign up. We are scheduled to meet with a senior executive from one of the top five record labels the third week of August and we have had preliminary contact with two of the other three."

The company is also still in the process of "tuning" its software because it is having problems recognising different tracks that are heavily sampled, particularly hip-hop. Another issue is that accurate recognition of tracks degrades overall performance, but the company is confident it will have a full version of the system available before the end of the year.

A beta version of the system, which simulates transactions, has been available from the company's Web site since mid-July.