I've been playing a little bit with Pownce.com today. I must say I somewhat share the sentiment of many bloggers that Pownce isn't all that original compared to other microblogging /messaging platforms, but I do like the file sharing function.

Pownce users can send their contacts files with a size of up to ten Megabytes. There doesn't seem to be any file type filter in place - I could send MP3s, photos, HTML documents and even Windows executables.

pownce

There aren't any options to view photos online, but MP3s can be played back right in the browser through a simple flash player. Playback unfortunately is interrupted when the page is reloaded for new messages. A pop-up player or better use of Ajax should solve this problem.

One interesting aspect of the file sharing function is that you can send files to individual users, all of your friends or selected groups that you can configure for that purpose. Let's say you have a couple of friends who are into the same kind of music. Just combine them to a group - Pownce calls them "sets" - and send your files to that specific group.

pownce

Another interesting feature is the forwarding option that makes it possible to send forward any received file to any number of friends. Sure, you could do the same thing with your email client, but Pownce makes it possible to spread the love without multiple up- or downloads since all the files are stored on their servers.

So what about the legal side? Pownce does explicitly forbid copyright violations in their terms of service:

"User agrees not to use the Services (...) to contribute or send any Content that is infringing, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, offensive or otherwise violates any law or right of any third party."

It is unclear however what kind of content is infringing. Fair use rights allow you to make individual copies of your CDs or MP3s for friends - and that's exactly what you are doing when you are using Pownce. Granted, one might argue that sending MP3s to groups of 50 or 60 people is beyond the scope of Fair Use, but violations like that would be hard to police. It's not possible to make files available to the general public on Pownce, which makes it tough for rights holders to seek out offenders.

There is no obvious need for Pownce to limit file transfers either. The company outsourced all their file storage to Amazon's S3 service, so the Pownce web server won't go down just because you send too many files to your friends.

Pownce instead seems to be willing to capitalize on file sharing users. Paying subscribers get the chance to transfer files of up to 100 Megabytes. We'll have to see whether that's enough of an incentive to make lots of users sign up for the premium membership.

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