Facebook Gives In, Cuts Off Project Playlist For No Legal Reason

from the safe-harbors,-people... dept

Earlier this week, we discussed how MySpace had blocked Project Playlist's widgets in response to record label complaints (and, of course, its own desire to have a competitor to its MySpace Music offering locked out) while Facebook left it up. We were surprised to see some claim that Facebook was being "irresponsible" here, because Facebook has a pretty strong legal defense. Of course, it's probably a legal battle that Facebook doesn't want to be involved in, so the company has now followed suit and disabled the Project Playlist app, claiming it violated Facebook's terms of service.

This is yet another example of the recording industry's effort to use chilling effects to get its way, such as by going after third parties to do its dirty work. Third party service providers, such as both MySpace and Facebook, have clear liability protection thanks to the DMCA's safe harbors. Yes, the record labels are in a legal battle with Project Playlist -- but that's between the labels and Project Playlist (and most agree that it's really the record labels using litigation for "negotiating" purposes, rather than based on any strong legal backing). It's not surprising that MySpace of Facebook caved -- why should they fight someone else's legal battle -- but it highlights the problems of when companies like the major record labels are allowed to go after third parties. Those third parties will often fold, because they don't have the incentives to fight. It's an abuse of the law to get others to do the RIAA's unsavory business.

And, in the long run, it's only going to hurt both MySpace and Facebook. If I were a developer for either platform, knowing that they would fold like a cheap card table as soon as some bigger company shows up with a bogus legal claim, I'd focus my development efforts elsewhere. Either MySpace or Facebook could have taken a stand, knowing that any lawsuit would likely get tossed after a quick safe harbor review, and developers would have known that those platforms were safe places for developers. Now... it's probably time to look elsewhere.

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  1. identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 25 Dec 2008 @ 11:56am

    Site Ownership Is Law

    I suppose when Facebook (or any other site) throws you off, claiming you’re violating its “terms of service”, there isn’t any right of appeal or any requirement for due process, is there? It’s their site, they can allow or block whatever or whomever they like.

    You can talk about developers “going elsewhere”, but really, the developers have to go where the users are. And if the users prefer Facebook, then you don’t have any choice.


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