As of March 1, 2009, The MTTLR Blog is migrating to http://www.mttlrblog.org. All new updates will be posted at the new location.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Free Online Music - That's Legal

by: Bill Andrichik, MTTLR Associate Editor

The next round of the ongoing legal battle between the music industry and online music providers is here. This time the new MySpace Music (launched September 25, 2008) has taken several key steps to avoid the legal issues that plagued peer-to-peer filesharing services like Napster, Aimster, Grokster and others. The new site allows users to listen to the music of their choice, at no monetary cost, funding the mechanical royalties required for streaming audio through advertising directly to users. It limits personal use of the songs, only allowing music to be played if a user is connected to the MySpace site. If a user wants to use a song independently of the site, as on a personal mp3 player, he or she can link to the Amazon mp3 site and purchase it.

Though it is no more or less “legal” than the popular online music source iTunes, MySpace music does get one step closer to giving users what they have been missing since the legal collapse of Napster, Kazaa, and the like. “The goal is to make it as easy and compelling as stealing,” says one site representative Steve Pearman. Though the site is clear about its objectives on that front, the timing of the release is also advantageous for them. It coincides with rival Facebook’s redesign that has left many users disgruntled. A potential wave of users looking for a new social networking site, coupled with a number of twenty-somethings feeling nostalgic about getting free music without worrying about legal troubles might just make MySpace Music a serious competitor.

The biggest step that MySpace has taken to prevent the legal actions faced by past online music providers is its cooperation with the music industry and individual artists. MySpace has long been a forum for new and established artists to advertise and release music, but it went one step further before launching the new site by partnering with the “big four” of the music industry (Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music, Warner Music Group, and EMI Music) as well as indie aggregator the Orchard. Partnering with the major record labels before launch ensures that all use of music is legal and approved by the artists/record labels. MySpace also avoids legal risk by paying the necessary royalties each time a song is played by a user.

Even with these initial precautions, MySpace may not entirely avoid legal risk. It is very easy to imagine certain users of the site overriding the safeguards and somehow using the site to download free versions of songs onto their computers without paying the fee to Amazon. The site’s biggest defense against liability in that instance lies with their partnership with the music industry and the fact that they would likely be a victim rather than an enabler in that instance. Another potential source of strife is the lack of partnership with most indie labels. It remains to be seen whether the site will be able to eventually add these labels or have to face the backlash from artists feeling they have been left out of the deal.


Though the site is only a few days old and MySpace promises to constantly change it to keep up with user input and demands, below are some observations from my first experience with the site:

+ The music service is very user-friendly (even for someone like myself who did not previously have a MySpace profile).
+ The site integrates the benefits from its previous music siteby allowing users to add songs to their playlist via a database search, sharing with other friends on MySpace or through the artists’ profiles themselves which also offer music videos, blogs, and tour updates as you listen to the music.
+ MySpace still allows established or up-and-coming artists the freedom to promote themselves and their music in they way they want to.

- The advertising causes a slight delay and the music is occasionally interrupted when adding new songs to the play list.
- The initial lack of indie labels leaves some users wanting more variety.
- The search feature returns songs from all users on the site (not just professional artists) so it is a partial return to the days of Napster and Kazaa where it is sometimes hard to find a non-remixed version of a song or one that has not been edited for the radio.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home