This is a post that’s been brewing a while, so by now I’m sure you’re all too aware that Muxtape is no more, and it would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for that meddling RIAA.
David Porter, founder of 8tracks (more below) reckons it was only a matter of time before the RIAA brought it down:
“I (too) love the user experience of Muxtape – however, there really was no ‘gray area’ regarding the legality of the service. It’s an on-demand offering, and that requires direct licenses….which cost around $.01/stream and require fairly substantial upfronts.”
However, EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann says this is basically bollocks:
“Porter is wrong about the legality of Muxtape. As I understand it, all the content on Muxtape is uploaded by users, which means it qualifies for the same protections that YouTube and every other UGC site enjoys under the DMCA safe harbors (but they have to have “notice and takedown” and a policy for terminating users who repeatedly infringe — I have no idea whether Muxtape followed these requirements). This issue would have been the key question in the Warner v iMeem lawsuit, but that one settled before we got any answers. It’s also the centerpiece of the Viacom v YouTube case.”
What’ll fill the Muxtape-shaped hole (and be the next service the RIAA come after?) Well here are a few for starters:
Lets you upload 8 tracks (with no more than two by the same artists), which are then streamed sequentially, so as to qualify for SoundExchange’s royalty rates for small webcasters – and which you can then embed elsewhere online
Rather than uploading your own tunes, Mixwit lets users create embeddable mixes from the catalogue provided by SeeqPod and Skeemr – Mixwit claim it’s all above board because they pledge to take down any copyrighted materials on request from the copyright holder. Also lets you customise your digital mixtape with your own pictures, artwork, photos etc. All fine and dandy except that the ‘catalogue’ simply scrapes mp3 blogs, music directories etc, so the mix you create is largely dependent on what’s available.
OpenTape picks off where Muxtape left off. It’s borrowed the (publicly available) UI code from Muxtape, and created a free, open-source package that lets you make and host your own Muxtape-style mixtapes. Muxtape’s achilles heel was that they hosted the content on their servers, so the RIAA had one target to go for. OpenTape still have the same issue of copyright infringement, except that the individual users host the content themselves, meaning that the RIAA have the same issue as they do with Limewire, i.e. the tool itself isn’t the problem, it’s whether its users choose to infringe copyright or not. And if the users do, that’s an awful lot of people to go after.
Lets you create & share a mix favourite tracks from your Pandora or Last.fm profile. That’s about it.
Imeem claims to be the “number one in social music”, and became the first social network to strike revenue-sharing deals with the big four labels (Universal, Sony BMG, Warner & EMI), along with a deal with Viacom to show videos from Comedy Central, MTV and VH1 – and lets you create embeddable playlists. Most certainly a different beast to the young upstarts listed above, it’s predicated upon the model of revenue generation (in partnership with the labels) rather than the simple provision of tools or applications to enable users to share their music.
Who’ll win out? Is the future in co-operation with the labels, the model employed by Imeem, the forthcoming Myspace Music and We7. Or will the challengers – the Opentapes, the Blip.fms, or the Limewires win out?
My other half, surprisingly for a record producer, is wholly on the side of the underdogs, because, as he’s said “I come from the direction of someone whose living is from money from people buying music, but I can still see they’re getting it so badly wrong, I’m against how the labels and the RIAA are behaving as much as the next person”.
As Chris Anderson outlines in his Taxonomy of Free, the tide of free and open sharing of music is too great for the labels and RIAA to turn back:
A taxonomy of free: Zero marginal cost
What’s free: things that can be distributed without an appreciable cost to anyone. Free to whom: everyone.
This describes nothing so well as online music. Between digital reproduction and peer-to-peer distribution, the real cost of distributing music has truly hit bottom. This is a case where the product has become free because of sheer economic gravity, with or without a business model. That force is so powerful that laws, guilt trips, DRM, and every other barrier to piracy the labels can think of have failed. Some artists give away their music online as a way of marketing concerts, merchandise, licensing, and other paid fare.
The cost of distribution may be close to zero, but artists can’t and won’t make music for nothing – but blocking the sharing of music isn’t going to turn back the tide.
Whether it’s giving your music for free to encourage paid sales (like Radiohead), giving it away to make money from touring and merchandise (like NiN), selling it outright to a media partner for exclusive distribution rights (like Prince) or whatever the next experiment in tweaking the model will be, simply blocking the sharing of music isn’t going to hold back the tide.
But what’s the bet that the RIAA keep on trying anyway?
[ via Wired ]