Would you pay ten bucks per month for the chance to access thousands of school papers that your teachers won't find with a simple Google search? Essayrunner.com is betting that some folks will, and it is using the Gnutella P2P network to build a business based on this idea.

essayrunner

The site is basically a giant archive of essays, currently promising access to over 140,000 school papers. There are dozens of essay sites with names like Duenow.com out there, and many students have started to upload papers to sites like Scribd. Essayrunner however offers an interesting twist: The site scours the Gnutella P2P network for essays shared via Limewire and similar file sharing clients. From Essayrunner.com:

"Because of Limewire's complex distributed nature most of the essays are not available on the network at any given time. EssayRunner scours the network for files 24 hours a day 7 days a week so you don't have to. EssayRunner is a mirror for Limewire content. "

A site like Essayrunner obviously brings up a whole bunch of legal issues. Most people use Limewire to download music and videos, and documents are more often than not shared accidentally (in fact, newer versions of Limewire don't share any documents by default to prevent inadvertent file sharing.)

Essayrunner does have a take-down policy, promising to remove any content at the request of the original author, but one has to wonder whether such an author will ever know that their articles are hosted on Essayrunner in the first place.

But wait, that's not all: Adding to the murky picture is the fact that the owner of the Essayrunner.com domain previously tried to spam file sharing networks in order to prevent copyright infringement. He started a Sourceforge project called kNewt about a year ago that was supposed to scour torrent sites for popular file names and then pollute Gnutella with fake files using these names. From the kNewt website:

"For several years open source developers have continued to release versions of p2p software that protect against varied threats, such as spam, but fail to prevent the distribution of copyright files. Should open source software create problems or solve them? Should open source solutions that are mainly used to subvert copyrights be hosted on sourceforge?"


Luckily, his plea for deleopers to "corrode the effectiveness of the Gnutella network to distribute pirated works" got completely ignored, and kNewt never evolved beyond the concept stage. After all, how would Essayrunner have found all those papers in a network of rusty tubes?

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