By Richard Menta 9/21/05
I knew something was up with WinMX this morning when I checked up on MP3 Newswire's site statistics. By that point I saw that several thousand people had read a two year old article that we published on the future of WinMX, an article that by this time normally only received a few hits a day. Tom Mennecke wrote that article and it scores on the first page of Yahoo when you type in just the word WinMX. That position on Yahoo's page served as an early warning that file sharers in droves were desperately looking for something about the file share application.
A little searching on the Net and I found out why. The WinMX network was down and the WinMX.com homepage was offline. We still don't know why for sure yet, but it probably has to do with the cease and desist letter that the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent to several P2P networks. The letters basically said shut down or we'll sue.
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There is something about the prospect of expensive litigation that can be quite intimidating. In this case the RIAA is leveraging the recent Supreme Court ruling that reversed two lower court orders that said P2P applications do not infringe on copyright.
The Supremes ruled that these services are liable if they Actively Encourage infringment. The court did not define what actively encourage really entails - theoretically if a P2P app is released with just a wink and only statements NOT to share copyright files it doesn't satisfy active encouragement - and so the trigger points as to what activities constitute liability were left for a lower court to answer.
Still the RIAA claimed complete victory and plans to sue more P2P services based on the threat that the lower court may declare liability on even the most minor acts of encouragement.
It looks like WinMX did not have the stomach for a legal fight. We don't know that for sure. I can say that because right now WinMX is incorporated on the Pacific island of Vanuatu, a safe haven for companies looking to avoid taxes and other legal limitations that can impede their business. There could be a technical issue too, but Tom Mennecke has said on his site Slyck.com that his attempts to contact the company head Kevin Hearn have gone unanswered.
We should hear more over the coming days. Maybe WinMX just loaded its servers onto a cattle boat pointed towards the South Pacific archipelago and will be running again soon.
Then again, maybe not. Stay tuned...
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