Fanning’s Snocap:File Sharing with a Twist

“I hate mornings,” Shawn Fanning said as he arrived one bright day last spring, dressed in torn black jeans, a black ribbed pullover and gray sneakers, looking much as he did five years ago on the cover of Time magazine. He was profiled in the NY Times on Sunday about his new venture for file sharing called snocap.

“Now Mr. Fanning is on the verge of settling, somewhat reluctantly, into a more adult phase of his life. He left the house he shared with two buddies in Silicon Valley and moved into a loft on Potrero Hill in San Francisco with his girlfriend, who works at Apple Computer.

Neither she nor the neighbors are quite so accommodating as his old roommates when it comes to his desire to play drums and guitar; when he really wants to cut loose, he says he now has to visit a friend’s music studio.

When Mr. Fanning starts to explain the details of the complex software and business arrangements behind Snocap, his eyes glow with the intensity of many of the 20-something entrepreneurs of the dot-com boom. But he is living their dreams in reverse: first he revolutionized an industry, then he made the cover of Time and now he is figuring out the PowerPoint presentations for the business model.

The heart of Snocap is its sophisticated registry, which will index electronically all the files on the file-sharing networks. “Rights holders,” which are what he calls musicians and their labels, will use the system to find those songs on which they hold copyrights and claim them electronically. Then they will enter into the registry the terms on which those files can be traded.

It could be just like iTunes – pay 99 cents, and you own it – or it could be trickier: listen to it five times free, then buy it if you like it. Or it could be beneficent: listen to it free forever and (hopefully) buy tickets to the artist’s next concert. Of course, the rights holders could also play tough: this is not for sale or for trading, and you can’t have it.”