Greg Bildson is the COO of LimeWire and president of P2P United, a consortium of P2P software companies created to help educate Congress and the public about peer-to-peer software, technology, and culture. P2P United is the organization that paid 12-year-old Brianna LaHaras $2,000 RIAA settlement after the RIAA served her with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act subpoena.
P2P United is also trying to educate the RIAA about the many ways in which P2P technologies could be beneficial to its member companies. LimeWires MagnetMix web site provides one example of the numerous ways that traditional web-based programming can be combined with P2P technologies to provide new kinds of experiences for music lovers.
In this interview, Lisa Rein catches up with Greg Bildson to hear his views on the state of P2P, the RIAA, and the challenge of educating lawmakers.
Greg Bildson: Yes, we cut the check to her mother to reimburse her. We felt that suing a 12-year old in the Bronx wasnt the answer.
GB: P2P United is basically trying to make sure that Congress doesnt do anything stupid, which theyre apt to do in the technology world. Were trying to make sure to protect our rights to innovate and write software, and to address all of the bad mouthing the RIAA is constantly doing to P2P.
P2P was proven to be legal in that California decision. If theres anything we can do with respect to the overreach of the DMCA and invasion of privacy and, basically, due process -- we feel that there should be due process, and there should be an actual lawsuit before they are able to get information about users.
Congress is writing bills targeting P2P, and the RIAA is talking about pornography and homeland security and identity theft and all of these things that are really minor concerns, with regard to P2P. For the most part, Congress is either overreacting or doing the bidding of the RIAA.
So the RIAA is basically using the high $150,000 per infringement to extort a settlement out of people who wouldnt even consider fighting it. People view this more like a speeding ticket instead of something where one act of infringement can cost you $150,000. Were in favor of people being able to protect their copyrights, but in a way that is fair. If the government is going to regulate, they need to know what theyre doing. They shouldnt be getting their information only from the RIAA.
GB: Yes. P2P United is trying to educate Congress. However, their staffers need to be willing to be educated. So far, theyve been willfully blind or ignorant.
LR: Do you think that the RIAA might eventually see the various ways that P2P could be beneficial to their business model?
GB: We hope so. Were seen as a threat to the record industry, but theres definitely potential for a win-win solution. The discussion needs to move beyond sound bites for soccer moms. Congress is making sound bites rather than thinking seriously about technology or innovation.
GB: The big media companies -- the "Big 5" -- have had a lock on both distribution and licensing in the past. If the RIAA had let people license their music in the 90s, they wouldnt have the piracy problem they have today. There was a natural demand. Theres a benefit to the current world of having music currently available.
LR: What about iTunes and Buymusic.com? What do you think of them?
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GB: Weve been putting the technology in place for this for a while. Its an example of integrating P2P networks and the Web. We think thats what the future is going to be. The Web can present things nicer and give you nice images, while the existing P2P networks just act as sort of a raw Google search. "Magnet links" can work into P2P networks for a richer experience by packaging the content into a single download. We think that its going to appeal to content creators in the future. The portals will highlight high-quality, legitimate content for high-quality independent artists of all kinds.
So rather than running their own web servers, artists will create their content and then bundle it into a package media file thats just a .zip file with an index.html file inside to launch from. This file is placed on a P2P network. The entire experience is serialized, if you will, in these packages.
LR: So a user would see the web page, and then click on the link to get the music via a P2P network, rather than eating up bandwidth.
GB: Right. Its expensive to serve, but its easy to use P2P to share. We think there are going to be a lot of creative independents in the future.
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