by Alan Sheckter, Videomaker news editor

Scour is back. Running a beta version with admittedly limited content, the online peer-to-peer video and audio trading service, this time fully legal, is open for business. And for now, the exchanges are free.


Via Windows Media Player (version 7.0 or higher), users can now download music and video files from Scour Exchange. The Windows Media format is based on MPEG-4 technology. With the help of the MPEG-4’s file-compression properties, the file sizes are more manageable. And the quality is excellent. Movie trailers, like an 11MB, licensed Shrek preview, are delivered at near-VHS, full-screen quality. MPEG-4 is similar to other media files, such as MP3 or MPEG files, but allows the use of DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology. DRM ensures artists’ intellectual property rights have been satisfied, and also, with no crummy bootlegs being traded, you can expect high quality music and videos.


Scour expects the free beta exchange to last several months, at which time it will turn into a pay service. Scour says costs at that time are expected to be nominal.


While video and audio choices number only in the dozens now, as record labels, artists and movie studios come on board, Scour predicts that users will eventually have access to over 100,000 music selections and hundreds of video files. Full-length feature films are expected in the future, with one price to view them in a one-time streaming experience, and another price to download a full-length movie to your hard drive.


Potentially, home videographers will be able to upload their features to Scour for exchange with the world. For now, Scour does not offer that option. According to Scour’s Web site, Right now we are focused on developing relationships with entertainment labels to provide a wide variety of high-quality, legitimate content. Once we have the technology in place to share self-published content legally, we may implement systems to allow users to publish their own content.


To use the Scour Exchange, you need Windows Internet Explorer 5.0 or greater and Windows Media Player 7 installed on your machine with the Windows Media Rights Management feature. Scour Exchange also utilizes a Web browser component, called an ActiveX control, from CenterSpan Communications Corp. This helps your Web browser to communicate with other Scour Exchange software on your computer.

Scour, while not a household word yet actually was originally online before that infamous peer-to-peer exchange service, Napster, which feature audio files exclusively.


Five computer students at the University of California, Los Angeles created Scour in 1997. In June 1999, former Walt Disney President Michael Ovitz made a major investment in the company. Scour introduced Scour Exchange in early 2000. After a copyright infringement lawsuit was brought by members of the movie and recording industry, Scour shut down and filed for bankruptcy. Now, after learning a lesson from Napster’s copyright woes, Scour is back and ready to roll legally.


For more info, visit www.scour.com.

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