The owners of the Kazaa file-sharing network have settled with the music industry, agreeing to pay more than $100 million in damages to the world's four major record labels. The legal battle against Kazaa has been going on for some time, but Sharman Networks, the company behind it, has decided to pay up and go straight -- apparently now planning to become a seller of licensed content using its P2P system. While it would be nice to see some new models for buying and downloaded content emerge, the turn-P2P-into-something-legit path has been trodden before, with little success, whether it's been Napster (which abandoned P2P), Napster founder Sean Fanning's Snocap, or various efforts from labels or movie studios. The head of the IFPI, the international equivalent of the RIAA, says that Kazaa "hampered our industry's efforts to grow a legitimate digital business", implying that business will now begin to flourish. Well, if nothing else, the future of Kazaa will prove or disprove this common refrain: sure, Kazaa could go on to revolutionize the entertainment industry by delivering products people want, at reasonable prices, in a convenient way and without so many pointless restrictions. But given the entertainment industry's penchant for locking down content and business models, that seems pretty unlikely. What's more likely is that, in the continued absence of better legitimate services, Kazaa users will just move on to the next file-sharing system. It's not the availability of file-sharing systems that's holding the download business back, but rather the lack of attractive legitimate options.
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