RIAA, iMesh settle song-swapping case

The makers of the iMesh file-swapping software have agreed to pay US$4.1 (AU$5.7) million and make changes to their product to settle a lawsuit brought by the recording industry.

Before the end of the year, a new version of iMesh will be launched that will require users to pay for access to certain content, said Connie Connors, a spokeswoman for Bridgemar Services, which does business under the name iMesh. Until then, the current service will be offered with no changes, she said.

"The parties have agreed to a defined and limited period during which iMesh will transition (to the new service). In the meantime, they do not expect any gap in service," Connors said. She declined to provide specific details about the new service.

IMesh is one of the oldest peer-to-peer (P-to-P) file-sharing applications. Users can search the hard drives of other users for files they want and then download them, much like with the popular Kazaa file-swapping tool. IMesh has been downloaded more than 75 million times since its launch in 1999.

IMesh was sued for alleged copyright infringement in September by several recording companies represented by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The RIAA has been battling online piracy for years and compares online sharing of music to shoplifting.

The RIAA had asked for US$150,000 (AU$209,791) for each copyright-protected song shared by iMesh users, plus attorney fees. By settling the case for a relatively small amount of money, the RIAA has achieved its goal of getting iMesh out of the illegal file-trading business, said Evan Cox, an intellectual property attorney at Covington & Burling, who followed the case closely.

However, while iMesh will try to discourage its users from sharing copyright-protected content, the decentralized nature of the service means the company has little control over its users, Connors said.

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