Music download site MP3.com has launched an updated version of its My.MP3.com service that allows users to store CD collections online.
The 'Beam-it' service uses proprietary software that verifies a CD's identity in any remote PC. The software then transfers the CD content from the company's database to a user's account. If an album is not contained on the database it will automatically upload that CD to its data banks. The CD owner can then create a virtual jukebox, make customised playlists and listen to their CD connection from any PC connected to the Internet. At the same time, MP3.com will gather what could soon be the most comprehensive music archive on the planet.
Despite claims by MP3.com that the software verifies that users actually own the CD to be recorded and that a users' music libraries are password protected, the new service throws up numerous copyright issues according to legal experts and industry observers. "This is quite scary," said Jollyon Benn, operations executive for counterfeit issues at the BPI. "It's perfect for piracy and makes it easier than ever for people to abuse copyright."
Under English law governing music copyright -- widely regarded as almost identical to most other countries -- the service would be an infringement of copyright. MP3.com would, according to George Gardner, partner with London law firm Tarlow & Lyons, need to obtain a specific license from each copyright owner for this form of dissemination. "The fact it is password protected is irrelevant," he says. "The service is a breach of copyright and I would expect copyright owners to vigorously police and protect their rights. This is opening the floodgates and if I was one of the major content owners I would talk to the ISPs to have the domain name blacklisted."
MP3.com which recently floated for $344m, is seemingly unconcerned about facing the wrath of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) which oversees copyright concerns in the US. In fact MP3.com believes the fact the music is streamed to the user, password protected and can only be accessed by one user at a time, will shield it from litigation. "This secure technology infrastructure bridges the interests of artists, labels and consumers," states Michael Robertson, chairman and chief executive of MP3.com, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
"We are not enabling things that consumers couldn't do before," he told the Journal. "We are just streamlining the process," says Robertson. "We don't expect to get sued, because we look at this as really positive for the industry."
A less contentious part of the new service is designed to drive the online purchase of music. The Website's Instant Listening Service allows customers to listen to CDs in real time purchased from one of MP3.com's partner retailers. An instant digital copy is placed in the customer's account.
The RIAA was unavailable for comment.
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