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A company buys a word and TOPtext turns that word into a link on users’
web browsers.
THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF SWAPPING
How TOPtext's Insidious Ads Harshed My Mellow By Taking Me To Sites Controlled By The Man
Even though Napster has been put to sleep, I should still be able to swap Grand Funk Railroad bootlegs. So I did what more than 5 million people have done, I downloaded KaZaA from CNet. As is my custom, I breezed through the installation instructions and began downloading "We’re An American Band" from a show in Toledo. Man, it’s awesome. Mark Farner really drives home the point that his band comes to town and helps people party down. They love to help, okay?

Anyway, I was surfing the web the next day or so and I noticed that text on sites had yellow links over words such as "music" and some bands. Like a dumbass, I clicked on the links and was taken to a certain major label group’s website. For the sake of the story let’s call them "BMG." I first noticed it on hitsdailydouble.com and assumed that the clever web team had found a way to sell words to companies, thus guaranteeing another four months of revenue. But when I saw it on every site I visited, I figured out that it was another annoying form of advertising. The clever web team deduced that I downloaded a browser plug-in with KaZaA.

Turns out that it was eZula’s TOPtext, an advertising program that sends clickers to companies’ websites. It isn’t specific to KaZaA, but because the file-swapping program has it bundled in, it is gaining plenty of unsuspecting users.

Here’s how it works: A company—for the purpose of this story, let’s call them "BMG"—buys a word and TOPtext turns that word into a link on users’ web browsers. Those of you who clicked on "hitsdailydouble.com" above know how annoying it is to be sent to an unexpected website.

The interesting twist is that BMG paid eZula to redirect KaZaA users to their site. BMG’s parent company is a Napster investor, but this is a way of infiltrating illicit swapping. BMG and others know that in the wake of Napster’s demise, people are switching to other swapperies, and in buying the word "music," it hopes to get users to buy music. This is the covert side of the war against free swapping, with the lawsuits providing air support.

With the help of the clever IT team, I was able to uninstall TOPtext, as well as KaZaA. For the time being, I’ll be using Morpheus, Gnotella, Limewire or AudioGalaxy instead. In fact, I just got Blue Oyster Cult’s "Don’t Fear the Reaper (Extra Cowbell Mix)." Now if I can just find that bong…

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