So Shawn Fanning, the guy who created Napster, has come up with a new program called Snocap that aims to prevent peer-to-peer piracy of music files:
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.
It's an interesting idea, although since only two P2P companies (Grokster & Mashboxx) have signed on so far, it's unclear whether Snocap will make a big splash or sink without a trace. Also, people who stick with the old version of Grokster will be able to continue pirating music without impediment.
Personally, I think the "listen five times free, then buy it if you like it" model sounds the most sensible, though as usual with anti-piracy schemes, it'll be interesting to see how resilient the DRM on the limited-use files proves to be.