Settlement Means Audiogalaxy's Universe Of Free Songs Will Shrink

File-sharing service agrees to halt trading of copyrighted songs on its

A long time ago, in a galaxy based in Austin, Texas, music lovers could

download just about any song for free. But no longer.

Peer-to-peer file-sharing service Audiogalaxy agreed Monday to cease

swapping copyrighted songs on its network as part of a settlement with the

Recording Industry Association of America and National Music Publishers'

Association, according to an RIAA spokesperson.

This doesn't mean Audiogalaxy is completely belly-up, however. Pursuant to

the agreement, Audiogalaxy must obtain permission or consent from a

songwriter, music publisher or recording company to use and share

copyrighted works. And since getting the green light from an unsigned or

independent artist is much easier and more direct than, say, acquiring

consent from an artist with ties to major labels, distributors, songwriters

and publishers, the sun has set on the days of downloading spanking new

tracks from the likes of Korn, Eminem and Jay-Z.

Another term of the settlement requires Audiogalaxy to pay the recording

industry and music publishers an undisclosed — though substantial,

according to the spokesperson — sum based on the company's assets.

"We are pleased to settle this case quickly," RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen said in

a statement. "This is a victory for everyone who cares about protecting the

value of music. This should serve as a wake-up call to the other networks

that facilitate unauthorized copying."

"The message is clear," NMPA President and CEO Edward P. Murphy said in a

statement. "There is not place on the Internet for services that exploit

creators' work without fair compensation. Such services hurt creators and

hurt the legitimate Internet businesses that wish to comply with the law and

compensate the creators."

The settlement, in effect, puts an end to the lawsuit brought against

Audiogalaxy by the RIAA and NMPA in May, which accused the file-swapping

service of facilitating and encouraging widespread copyright infringement.

A similar agreement was reached after the RIAA sued Napster in 2000. But

when Napster's method of filtering songs proved ineffective, the company

voluntarily shut down rather than be ordered by the court to do so (see

"Judge: Napster Must Stay Down Until

Filters Are Perfected").

Napster hasn't been operable since (though some users were able to preview a beta version of Napster's updated software), and the company filed for bankruptcy protection last month while at the same time receiving financial help from German media conglomerate Bertlesmann (see "Shawn Fanning Returns As Napster Receives $8 Million").

Similar copyright infringement lawsuits are still pending against other peer-to-peer file-sharers Morpheus, Kazaa, Grokster and MP3Board. One against Madster (formerly Aimster) has been stayed due to the company filing for bankruptcy. A court hearing in the case against MusicCity properties Morpheus, Kazaa and Grokster to determine scope of discovery, when both sides present evidence and facts they wish to enter into the case, is scheduled for early July.