The new Scour: Users will pay

It will cost money to swap movies and music, say the new owners of Scour technology. Expect the service, called C*, to roll out before March

CenterSpan Communications, the new owners of Scour's file-swapping technology, plan to start charging users when the service is re-launched sometime before March, a company spokesman said Thursday.

"The world is changing. There are not the opportunities that there once were for the download of free content," said CenterSpan spokesman, Keith Halasy. "It's been shown that content holders won't accept a free model."

He added, "any service (that) provides that type of free distribution and access will suffer the same fate that others have been suffering ... millions in lawsuits."

It was a lawsuit by the Motion Picture Association of America that forced Scour to shut down in November. CenterSpan bid $9m for Scour's assets during a bankruptcy auction, this week, beating high-profile music companies such as Liquid Audio.

CenterSpan still plans to use the technology to swap movies, as well as smaller files that require less bandwidth, Halasy said.

The company is already preparing content for the relaunch, having reached a deal two weeks ago with online movie aggregator, Moviehead.

The new Scour will have digital rights management elements built in to the technology. That means 4.5 million registered users might as well trash the application that's sat dormant on their desktops since Scour was deactivated in November.

The old Scour application won't work on the new CenterSpan version either, said Halasy, although he added, "We're actively going to be reaching out to these folks."

CenterSpan has already begun testing the new service, code-named C*, pronounced "C star." It mixes the Scour's peer-to-peer file-swapping technology with CenterSpan's "Socket" programming, which it already uses for online gaming.

The C* service will be paraded around in January to potential investors and business partners, Halasy said. No release date is scheduled so far.

CenterSpan's winning bid took many by surprise. The company is a relative unknown in music circles, compared to bidders such as Liquid Audio, whose $5.25m bid was filed two days late, and Listen.com, which bid $5m.

Formerly a joystick maker, known as ThrustMaster, CenterSpan changed its focus to online gaming in 1998.

Liquid Audio spokeswoman, Kim Strop, said the company had planned to use Scour for music-swapping. "We're definitely going to keep our ears open for a peer-to-peer technology," Strop said from the floor of this week's Streaming Media West 2000 trade show.

Ric Dube, of Webnoize, called CenterSpan a "virtual unknown" in the music space, that may be trying a risky business model.

"Nobody knows if there is a commercial market for the peer-to-peer environments," he said.

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