As there's been lots of talk lately about music lockers and whether or not they need to get licenses
, it's great to see Michael Robertson, who runs the music locker MP3Tunes, provide a little background on just a few of the ridiculous demands from the record labels
when it comes to music lockers. Remember, again, that music lockers are all about people taking the music that they already have, placing it on a different hard drive (a remote hard drive) and being able to stream (or possibly download) it. There's a very strong argument (and one that Robertson is fighting for
in court) that the record labels really have no say in this matter whatsoever. There are no specific additional rights that they need to license here. The people already have the music, and it's just a question of where the hard drive is and how long the wire is between that hard drive and the listener.
Of course, the real issue is that (yet again) the record labels are more afraid of unauthorized copies than they are of trying to provide actual value to users. And that has become clear in the demands from the labels, including the insane argument from Universal Music that only specially marked files with digital receipts should be allowed in music lockers. That is, if you have legally purchased CDs and legally ripped the music from those CDs... too freaking bad. As someone who still buys most of my music on CD, that's pretty ridiculous. They're telling me that I can't store my legally purchased music on a server of my own choosing?
To combat this they [Universal Music] want only songs with digital receipts to be able to added to lockers. For some time UMG has been demanding that online music retailers embed personal information in every song they sell. They call it UITS. iTunes has been inserting email addresses into every song while other retailers like Napster are using a unique receipt number....
All songs without a proof of purchase would be assumed to be unauthorized and not accepted into the system. Songs ripped from CDs would not have unique identifiers and wouldn't be loaded. Any song purchased prior to retailers inserting personal identifiers or from retailers who have yet to personalize every song would also be excluded. (To date, Amazon's MP3 store does not put any unique identifiers in songs despite UMG's demand that they do so.) Promotional songs download online would also not work.
Of course, that's a complete nonstarter, and would make music lockers almost useless for most users, even those of us who do, in fact, legally purchase our music. Sony Music apparently has a slightly different concern, but an equally dumb idea:
Sony believes users will share lockers by visiting each others houses and syncing in each others music. To combat this Sony wants loading to happen from only one computer. Each locker owner would have to designate a single location from which they could upload songs. Users could load music from either their laptop or desktop or office computer but not all three. Their belief is that this will prevent friend to friend file sharing.
Can you imagine what a headache that would be? It kind of defeats the whole purpose of the music locker. It also would create a huge headache for any music locker service in terms of dealing with customer complaints and customer support when someone buys a new computer and dumps the "officially designated" uploader machine. It's a concept from someone who doesn't understand how people use computers these days.
And then there's Warner Music Group, which is so afraid of file sharing that it wants to make sure it can track you down and sue you if you use your locker in a way it doesn't like apparently:
Most worrisome to Warner Music Group is that users may setup multiple lockers and the distribute the extra lockers to friends. Imagine if a locker owner setup a locker at Apple and Amazon and then gave their less used locker away or maybe even sold it. What WMG would like to see happen is that a central locker authority would administer all locker assignments. For awhile they were pushing Catch Media as the solution. More recently they may have relaxed their demands in this area and insisted that locker identities be uniquely tied to a valid credit card or some other such verified identity.
This is so typical of the big record labels. Rather than looking at ways to provide more value and recognize how the world works
, all they do is seek restrictions and annoyances. To be honest, I've still been hopeful that they'd eventually come around and figure out how to adapt, but these days I'm finally realizing that maybe they really do need to die off.