Aimster: the legal file swap program.

By Robert Menta
09/05/00

Below you will find links to our latest Aimster stories - editor 7/4/01

It is already proving to be popular. Three weeks after it was officially launched the company is already claiming to have 1 million users. What makes this software interesting is the fact that it is the first Napster-type program that is designed to avoid legal action by leveraging specifics of the general copyright law that will give it protection.


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Aimster hopes to avoid the courts based on the premise that two friends - the keyword here is friends - can openly and legally swap music files, an act that the US Home Recording Act defines as an acceptable practice.

Napster goes beyond this definition by the fact that the efficiencies of the Net allow Napster users to trade music with tens of thousands of people who are complete strangers. Napster has no restrictions on who trades with who.

Aimster, on the other hand, cleverly fits within this definition by working as an add-on to America Online's instant messaging software. The concept is that Aimster users can only swap files with people on their AOL buddy list. By definition, the only people whose names populate a buddy list are friends and acquaintances. Furthermore, even a large buddy list a hundred names long - not the most manageable list at that size - puts a significant limitation on how many people a user can trade with.

Of course, this doesn't completely insulate Aimster from the courts. Remember the major labels are suing Napster, MP3.com, and others for reasons beyond copyright protection. Control of the burgeoning digital download market is the holy grail for the major recording labels and the cost of legal action alone is an effective tool for them to gain influence. They can sue Aimster, frivolously if they wish, just to suck up that start ups funds and open a door for favorable negotiations or even shut them down.

Hence why Aimster is already talking with big companies like Intel in hopes of forging a strategic alliance to offer it further protection from lawsuits. Intel is already forming an industry group to foster standards and protocols for peer-to-peer (P2P) computing and Aimster could fit into its plans nicely.

An agreement with AOL looks to be the real goal for Aimster. Since it is their IM system that Aimster rides upon, AOL is right now an unsanctioned partner. If Aimster proves promising, AOL will surely want to be cut in.

They have the power to cut off Aimster too, just like they cut off Microsoft's competing IM service. Under pressure from its new merger partner Time Warner, AOL has already pulled the switch on several of its Nullsoft division's creations like Gnutella and a Winamp search engine. If Time Warner sees Aimster as a threat rather than an opportunity, it will no doubt attempt to do the same. Aimster may even draw legal action from AOL/Time Warner before it does the record companies.

Ah yes, the world of big business and how it effects the small companies around them.

Regardless of the outcome, Aimster serves as further proof that the spirit of Napster has gone beyond the corporeal essence of that company. This is the biggest nightmare for the recording studios. No matter how many companies they drag into court, the phenomenon continues to breed and evolve.

Some feel killing Napster could create the online equivalent of the Oklahoma gold rush with hundreds of new companies emerging to step in and fill the lucrative void Napster's demise would create. The truth is, few companies are bothering to wait for that event to occur. The rush is already in full swing.

Copyright 2000 MP3 Newswire. All rights reserved.

Other Stories on Aimster:
Aimster CEO Declares Bankruptcy - March 13 2002
Aimster Sues the Record Industry - May 3rd 2001
Aimster Must Give Up Aimster.com URL to AOL - May 20 2001
Movie Studios Sue Aimster - July 4 2001

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