New research points to the possibility that Napster’s demise is actually exacerbating the spread of Internet piracy of copyrighted materials. According to research firm Webnoize, consumers transferred more than 1.5 billion digital media files during September using FastTrack, the back-end technology of Kazaa, MusicCity, and Grokster.
In July, Webnoize forecast that FastTrack would reach 1 million users by the end of September, and it appears that they were correct. During September, roughly 1 million users were typically logged on to the network at any one time, compared to 580,000 simultaneous users in August. Webnoize estimates 1.51 billion files were downloaded using the network in September, up 56 percent from 970 million files downloaded in August.
“FastTrack has pulled clear of competing systems to become the dominant player in post-Napster file sharing,” said Webnoize Senior Analyst Matt Bailey, who led the study. “The FastTrack system offers consumers fast, reliable and free access to more material than any commercial subscription service is likely to offer.”
More than 25 music and movie companies have filed suit against MusicCity, Grokster, and Consumer Empowerment (also known as FastTrack), the company that licenses peer-to-peer technology to MusicCity and Grokster. Consumer Empowerment maintains and develops Kazaa, which offers users access to music, movies, software, and games. The lawsuit accuses the defendants of “massive” copyright infringement.
Webnoize Senior Analyst Ric Dube predicted that music companies will focus most of their legal strategy against Consumer Empowerment.
“Since FastTrack provides the technology behind all of the defendants, the plaintiffs in this case will work them hardest, urging them to settle out of court by agreeing to shut down MusicCity and Grokster,” Dube said. “Even if that happens, they won’t drop their case against MusicCity and Grokster because they need them as examples to set for others.”