Kazaa set to hatch points program

File-swapping software giant Kazaa is steps closer to music-business legitimacy with a software upgrade later this month that lets users win prizes and earn points that they can use to buy multimedia content.

Sharman Networks Ltd. will update the Kazaa Media Desktop later this month to version 2.5, and bundled within the update will be an enhanced version of the Altnet component. Altnet Inc., a subsidiary of Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc., delivers premium content in Kazaa search results. The component has shipped with Kazaa for a year, and it drew critical attention when users discovered its presence.

When you upgrade to Kazaa Media Desktop version 2.5 you automatically download the new Altnet program, called Peer Points Manager. The Altnet component comes as a default option with Kazaa software, but you can uninstall it later.

The Peer Points Manager lets you trade hard-drive space and bandwidth for points. You can use these points to enter sweepstakes for cash and prizes, or you can use them to purchase Kazaa's premium content, says Kevin Bermeister, Altnet's chief executive officer.

Keeping Swappers Honest

"We are just trying to solve the riddle of how to turn a profit on peer-to-peer file swapping and to entice illegal file swappers to actually buy content," Bermeister says.

Kazaa users can easily opt out of Peer Points Manager, or they can set caps on the resources they make available, he says. The trade-off helps Altnet save money on hosting and bandwidth costs. And Altnet protects users' privacy and does not collect or track their surfing habits or other personally identifying information, he says.

Altnet currently offers a payment scheme called TopSearch that seeds the Kazaa network with copyrighted content such as games, music, and videos authorized by their owners for swapping, Bermeister says. Users pay for full use of this content.

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