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According to an article in the New Scientist, the music industry has developed a new “legitimate“ file-sharing solution. Uh oh is right. Called the Content Reference Forum or CRF, the standard allows people to trade files over the existing P2P networks about, say, the new Britney Spears single, but not traffic in the copy-protected ditty itself. Once received, that file could then be used by a consumer to suck down the song legally from a so-called “Content Reference Server.” The referrer would get some kind of payback from the record label that could later be cashed in toward other merchandise.

This isn’t file-sharing, it’s viral marketing with payola attached. The Universal Music Group, founder of the Forum, is trying to milk the peer-to-peer culture as a new kind of free advertising system. But who’d want to download a 13-year-old’s shrill endorsement of the new Offspring CD besides the kid’s mother? If anything, the only way this technology might fight piracy is by duping the people who mistakenly downloaded a referral instead of a song.

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