> Now onto today's topic...
> There you are. You're sitting at your desk at work and
> suddenly the urge comes over you. You simply must hear that
> new Backstreet Boys single. But, oh darn. You've left your
> CD at home.
> Not to worry! Now, through the magic of My.MP3.com, you can
> listen to that music anytime you're near a computer.
> If you haven't heard about this, get ready for a fun argument.
> I guarantee this is one people will not quickly straighten out.
> The Recording Institute Association of America (RIAA) has
> filed suit against MP3.com for copyright violation, but it's
> not what you think. They're not being sued because of the
> compression system people are using to post songs to the net,
> they're suing because MP3.com is posting songs to the net...
> or are they?
> MP3.com has a new service available to music buyers. It's
> called the Instant Listening Service or Beam-it. Here's the
> deal. You buy a CD from an MP3-approved outlet, and MP3.com
> will allow you to post the songs you bought to the Web
> within the domain name My.MP3.com.
> Furthermore, if you already own a CD containing "approved"
> songs, you can pop your CD into a reader and upload those
> songs to your account. Cool, Huh?
> Now, as you might have guessed, MP3.com does not allow you to
> upload your own songs. They copy the song over from their
> database for you. It's a real time saver, I'm sure.
> You see, MP3 purchased 40,000 CDs and recorded each song into
> the format and placed them upon a Web site.
> You open an account, "upload" the song titles you own, and
> then you can access those songs from the songs already placed
> there by MP3.com. Get it? That's the reason why you have to
> buy the music from an approved place or have an approved CD.
> You don't really upload any music. Your account is filled by
> the songs already on the server.
> As far as I can tell, you actually do get a copy into your
> account. It's not like there is a central database and you
> play off of that. If you open an account and ask for XYZ song,
> XYZ song is transferred into your account.
> So, let's look at the facts.
> The Copyright Act of 1971 prohibits making copies of
> copyrighted music.
> The exception to the rule came in 1992 when the U.S. Congress
> stated that people may make copies of music they purchased if
> they keep those copies for their own personal use. That makes
> sense. I don't want to have to buy three copies of the same
> CD for home, car and work. I also don't want to lug one CD
> Now that we have the ground rules, let's look at the players.
> MP3.com bought the 40,000 CDs and could legally make a copy.
> So far so good. A kid goes out and buys the latest album by
> his favorite group. That group's album happens to be an
> approved album, meaning it's one of the thousands upon
> thousands held by MP3.com.
> Still, I don't see a big concern.
> The kid gets an account at My.MP3.com. He proves he bought
> the CD through back-checking of receipts (again, the reason
> for the "approved" retailers). A copy of his favorite song
> from the album is transferred into the account. He goes to
> work at the video store. Business is slow, he logs onto the
> Internet, plays the MP3.com version, and hums along with the
> Somewhere in that last paragraph lies the illegal part of
> this transaction.
> MP3.com can make a copy. The kid who bought the CD can make a
> copy. Technically, the kid wouldn't have been able to make a
> copy into his account unless he bought the CD in order to make
> the copy. Is it illegal that MP3.com simply transferred the
> music file over into the kid's account to produce a copy? I
> mean, wasn't it was going to happen anyway? Maybe the kid was
> going to create an MP3 file and upload it to his account in
> the first place.
> This is actually better than the kid making the copy because
> it's a password protected account. You have to have access to
> get at the copy. If the kid simply sent it to a Web account,
> the copy would be there for the world to see...and hear.
> Now you know the general facts of the story. Is this illegal?
> Does it break copyright laws? If you answer yes, tell me
> where. Both entities bought the music. Both made a copy
> intended for personal use.
> I think most people, including me, point at the part where
> the kid receives a copy into his or her account via MP3's
> database. If that's your final answer, then you're on the
> right track, says Lon Sobel, editor of Entertainment Law
> Reporter. He states, "The copy was made by MP3.com, not by
> the consumer, I couldn't imagine how they thought that what
> it was doing was legal."
> I guess that's right. So, let's make it all legal. When you
> sign up for an account with My.MP3.com, you'll be sent a
> piece of software that allows you to turn your songs into MP3
> format. You'll also be allowed access to the account in order
> to perform an upload.
> The result is exactly the same except that the recording is
> probably pretty bad and it took longer to complete the process.
> Now, this is going to upset someone who will ask me how I
> would feel if someone made a copy of HTML Goodies for personal
> use. Before you ask, it's not the same thing. Copyright law
> does not allow for you to make a copy. It does allow a copy
> of the music.
> MP3.com chairman Michael Robertson is standing firm, stating
> that he can't see how the music industry feels this is a bad
> thing. I have no doubt there will be a fight and a half over
> this one in court.
> The entire argument will hinge upon one question, "Who made
> the copy?" The music industry will claim MP3 did. MP3 will
> claim the kid setting up the account and enacting the server
> to transfer the copy did it. The music industry will state
> that the copy was not made from the kid's CD, but rather from
> the MP3-owned file. MP3 will come back and say that in order
> to make a copy, the music must have been purchased first.
> Are there enough shades of gray to state that MP3 is acting
> against copyright law? Thank goodness it's up to a jury. I'm
> going back and forth on the issue with every paragraph, just
> sitting here writing this newsletter.
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