Chilling Effects: Another Mixtape Provider Shut Down

from the unfortunate-news dept

A few months ago, the RIAA shut down Muxtape, a very popular and incredibly useful online service that let individuals create "mixtapes" for streaming to others. As anyone with even a hint of business sense would recognize, this was a great promotional tool for musicians. I, personally, ended up buying a bunch of music after hearing stuff from others on Muxtape. But the way some of the big record labels see things, no one should be allowed to innovate without paying the record labels directly for the right to do so.

It seems this trend is continuing. Mixwit is the latest to shut down. Like Muxtape, Mixwit let people create cool mixtapes and share them online for streaming purposes. Mixwit had a neat little cassette tape interface as well and, again, was a great way of discovering new music and sharing music with friends. Mixwit founders said that they've been put between a rock and a hard place, which made plenty of folks naturally assume that the RIAA or one of the record labels shut them down. I spoke with a bunch of folks within the recording industry and the RIAA and asked each if they had anything to do with Mixwit shutting down, and those willing to say anything said something to the effect that they had not sent a takedown notice or filed a lawsuit (which, you'll note, answers a different question than the one I asked).

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to "shut down" a site without ever sending a takedown or filing a lawsuit. The Mixwit founders responded to an inquiry by basically saying that it wasn't a takedown or a lawsuit, but the simple uncertainty and expectation that one would eventually show up:
We've had good and not-so-good communications with the record labels over the past year, but we were never sued. I'm sure I don't have to explain that our mixtapes are perceived to be in a legally ambiguous state (at least as far as the labels are concerned). We've explored all options, including becoming fully-licensed, and we decided that the time commitment and economics just don't make sense, particularly with the economy the way it is. The decision was clear: we needed to shutdown the mixtapes. We thought about continuing with mixwit as a company, but we could never get assurance that the future of mixwit would not be hurt by the perceived liabilities of its past so we decided it was time to to shut things down.
That, ladies and gentleman, is chilling effects at work. No lawsuit needed -- just the history of previous lawsuits and an unwillingness to "allow" this innovative service to move forward. The RIAA and the labels insist that they don't try to stomp out innovations, but it looks like they did so here simply by being unwilling to say they wouldn't attack it in the future.

This makes even less sense than Muxtape's shut down, however. In the case of Muxtape, users uploaded their own tracks. Even that was a questionable reason, since you would think the liability should be on the individual uploaders rather than Muxtape itself. However, with Mixwit, it's even worse. Mixwit believed (quite reasonably) that they were on the right side of the legal line because they didn't host anything and didn't let people upload stuff. They just used search engines to find music that was already available elsewhere. So, now they're being shut down for merely letting you listen to music that's publicly available. If the recording industry has a problem with the content, it should go after whoever put it online, not a tool that allows it to be heard. You would think that Mixwit would have a pretty strong DMCA safe harbor argument, but it's probably way too expensive to even fight that fight.

So, the end result is the recording industry appears to have shut down yet another useful tool for music discovery -- and did so implicitly by making it impossibly expensive for the Mixwit guys to get assurances they wouldn't get sued. The guys behind the project appear to be considering open sourcing the code (by donating it to OpenTape, which created an open source version of Muxtape), so the technically inclined may eventually still be able to do something. But, with these types of moves by the recording industry happening so frequently, can you see why we're hesitant to simply trust them when they come up with their latest plan?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    shmengie, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:15am

    lame

    i learned a long time ago, never let someone else say, 'no' for you. why didn't they just operate normally until such time they received a take-down notice? wouldn't have hurt them (except for hosting fees).

    whatever, i never heard of 'em before today anyways.

     

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  2.  
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    Michael Langford, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:24am

    What goes around...

    They can run around shutting down whatever they want, but they are next. There is no way the current industry model can survive, and when they finally decide to join the present, no one will be there to support them. I will never EVER buy an album or movie that have ANY association with the RIAA, I don't care what they do from this point on. They had their chance, and they completely blew it. Now I would actually do the opposite of supporting their artists, I would willfully work against their success in ANY new ventures. The RIAA is like the charicature of evil big business. I hope they fail, all their artists fail, and the big media companies all fail. And when they are down, I hope a couple hundred class action lawsuits put them in the poorhouse, unable to feed their families. They deserve no less.

     

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  3.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:29am

    Nice thing about the internet...

    ... is that someone will do a free, distributed version of this. (Heck, I could probably do it with some simple scripting.)

    Good luck with the Hydra hunt, RIAA.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:53am

    i keep reading stories like that and keep wondering why ppl don't start setting up there companies outside the US.

    look at TPB with all various companies keep trying to sue it and keep sending it take down notices but the laws in Sweden are protecting its going concern.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:37am

    I am not familiar with the particulars of this site (actually "former" seems more appropriate) and how it stacks up against the facts in Grokster. Anyone have such info?

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    I am not familiar with the particulars of this site (actually "former" seems more appropriate) and how it stacks up against the facts in Grokster. Anyone have such info?

    The site uses various search engines to find music that is freely available online, and then lets you create a streaming playlist of them.

    It does not create downloads or any permanent storage. It just acts as an interface to stream music that is available elsewhere.

    It does not induce infringement, as it does not encourage any downloads or copies being made. It's just a search engine and a player.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 12:04pm

    Re: What goes around...

    2 things...

    (1) Don't lump all the artists together in your hatred of the RIAA. From their point of view (the artists) many have to tow the company line to keep their deal and feed their families and mortgages and big egos I might ad, others are just cowards, but many don't know what else to do. they have been told like many of us that the path to recording artist success is demo, get heard, sign to a label, developed, recorded, packagage sold. They don't know how to leverage new media and are afraid to do so. Just because they are recording artists doesn't mean they are nerds like many of us who sit behind the keyboard and wonder what the fuck is wrong with the rest of the world and why won't they join is in 2008/9.

    2. i have heard this argument for the last decade about how the RIAA and the current business models are going to fall and die. But you know what. They haven't. A little battered from the battles, but their still chugging along. So yeah they might fail one day, heaven help us, but it won't be anytime soon. Not that we shouldn't wish for it so we can stop getting spoon fed the same radio hashed crap over and over again. Just don't hold your breath.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re:

    Thank you. Just a couple of clarifying Qs.

    1. Is this search engine along the lines of the Grokster engine, or any other search engine for that matter? In other words, it canvases the internet for possibly relevant information and presents the user only with links to the information. Grokster did this, but it fell on its sword because of facts associated with how it dealt with site users.

    2. Can someone very briefly explain what is meant by "create(ing) a streaming playlist"? I know what streaming is. I presume creating a streaming playlist means one can download music, add whatever one thinks is cool (graphics, etc.), and then "host" the result somewhere...though I haven't a clue where that "somewhere" would be beyond the obvious blog page, personal website, etc.

     

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  9.  
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    Mike (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    1. Is this search engine along the lines of the Grokster engine, or any other search engine for that matter? In other words, it canvases the internet for possibly relevant information and presents the user only with links to the information. Grokster did this, but it fell on its sword because of facts associated with how it dealt with site users.

    It actually feeds off of other search engines. Basically, it sends the query out to existing search engines and shows you the results. So... if you wanted to listen to, say, "It's The End Of the World..." by REM, you would search on that, it would send the query to the various search engines it uses, and then display the results if the song was found.


    2. Can someone very briefly explain what is meant by "create(ing) a streaming playlist"? I know what streaming is. I presume creating a streaming playlist means one can download music, add whatever one thinks is cool (graphics, etc.), and then "host" the result somewhere...though I haven't a clue where that "somewhere" would be beyond the obvious blog page, personal website, etc.


    No. You cannot download the music. You simply say, yes, that you want to add that song to your playlist. Then you add other songs, arrange the order, and hit publish. Then you get a link to your "mix" which anyone can hit play on and hear the songs, streamed in the order which you put them.

    So, no, there's no download. There's no hosting that needs to be done.

     

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  10.  
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    Mark Regan, Dec 20th, 2008 @ 3:23pm

    Apparently You Haven't Heard

    It is amazing how ignorant you folks are, because obviously you haven't yet heard or learned the lesson: "He who has the gold makes the rules."

    The companies involved in music, over time, have become the OWNERS of ALL past, present, and potential music, lyrics, and sound, either by purchasing same from other record companies, patenting technologies, exercising trademark and copyright protections with their battery of "intellectual property rights" specialists, and if a sound comes out of your mouth or your instrument, they are owed royalties.

    Already they have put the jukebox industry out of business, forced mom and pop radio stations to sell out, turned television variety and music shows into a vast wasteland, are breaking the backs of the satellite music delivery companies, and control nearly every technical and performers union, and thereby the members who perform or produce nearly all music in the world.

    My church's organist recently married and moved out of town. The church already has subscribed to and purchased music rights to play every song in the officially proscribed hymnal. However, when they used modern scanning techniques to digitally scan the notes from the songbook and convert them to MIDI and to be played as a virtual organ through the church's sound system, the hymnal company said that was not a permitted use of their music, and threatened to sue the church and revoke their use of the hymnal if this occurred, so the church had to switch to another music publishing house at a cost of thousands of dollars to tide them over until they could hire another organist.

    People are willing to pay for "fair use" of another person's compositions and performances, and studios who produce and distribute the music also deserve fair recompense. But they need to understand that they cannot make it so difficult for their listeners to rent, buy, listen to, or use their products by imposing unreasonable restrictions on the place of sale, type of product, manner of use, cost or fees associated with each "listen" or use, or pack so many unwanted products with it that it becomes unwanted or un-affordable.

    If that industry cannot spot a MARKET with potential PROFIT in the download industry, then they need to keep on selling 8 track tape players and 78 RPM records and get out of the way of progress.

    None of these giants will sell me a mp3 or avi player loaded with the music that I want. Instead, they want to sell me a fragile, bulky CD or DVD containing lots of stuff I DON'T want in order to get the one song I DO want.

    Stupidity was rampant among the rulers who owned all the "gold" in the middle ages, and imbeciles also appear to dominate that same class of folks running our governments and monopoly industries.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2008 @ 6:30pm

    Makes me glad to be a DJ. I stopped paying ASCAP and BMI for royalties after a friend of mine was shutdown for copyright infringement even though he was paying his dues to ASCAP and BMI. Aparently RIAA does not see that as enough anymore. I even canceled all of my subscriptions to RPM and all of the other music pools I was enrolled in and turned to downloading and copying CDs from friends in my DJ association. As far as any of us are concerned... Fuck RIAA. They have no influence over anything we do. Sue us, we will continue as if nothing happened.

    Mixing & remixing music is a part of the industry, why can they not understand that? Do they want to kill off the clubs and mobile DJs? We get the music on the air before anyone else can and we do it better than the radios. This is basically an extension of that industry.

     

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  12.  
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    Robbing Hood, Dec 21st, 2008 @ 7:16pm

    I'm a pirate.

    It really doesn't matter what the RIAA or MPAA do any more, I simply will not give them money by buying their wares.

    Since I will be accused of and lumped in with piracy any way there is no moral reason not to download whatever I want.

    Since the RIAA and their ilk are insistent on labeling anything that doesn't generate them immediate funds as piracy--including ripping CDs I own--there is no reason to even try to navigate the increasingly useless and ridiculous legal system and do things 'right' and I refuse to even try any more.

    I used to care. I used to scrupulously investigate whether an artist was on an RIAA label before purchasing anything by them. I used to seek out independent artists, to try and do things the 'right' way. Then the RIAA started attacking online radio, stifling podcasts, and claiming even if I ripped a CD I bought brand new I was somehow still stealing from them.

    PFFFFT! Whatever. I'm done trying to play according to the rules.

    If my corporate masters insist on making a thief out of me, then I'll happily oblige them and save my dollars for other things.

     

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  13.  
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    smartguy2012, Feb 16th, 2012 @ 5:43pm

    Let's shut down

    the leading website in regulating internet behavior
    it is called chilling effects
    i think instead of shutting down websites like mixtape music website we should retalliate against the people who are going around trying to regulate the internet. they are clearly a bunch of micromanaging freaks with no lives. let's teach these guys a lesson! shut down chilling effects! thank you very much for reading and agreeing. Good day!@#!@$$

     

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