EMI Demands Music Files Stored Online

emi.gifMusic giant EMI is demanding that music file storage company MP3tunes turn over all music stored on its servers. Apparently, EMI is demanding this irrespective of who owns, or published, the music. What is unclear is what “hand over” means in this context. Clearly, though, it does mean EMI seeks to violate the privacy and personal property of MP3tunes subscribers.

mp3tunes.gifMP3tunes allows its 125,000 users to back up their music files online in case their PCs have a meltdown, and affords the ability to transfer music to different user-owned devices in a low-hassle way – called “place-shifting.” It is not a file-sharing service.

This case underscores the differences between old and new media in terms of copyright: In what manner do intellectual property rights follow the work product, rather than the form it takes?

In a blog post, MP3tunes CEO Michael Robertson describes a court ruling that denied a request by EMI to compel MP3tunes to fork over stored music files:

In court EMI v MP3tunes, EMI demanded that MP3tunes provide copies of the more than 100 million songs in their subscribers’ personal music Lockers. MP3tunes offers a free and paid service for people to store their music files digitally so customer or music fans can both keep them backed-up and listen to them anywhere through a Net radio, like those from Logitech, Reciva or Terratec, or from any Net connected device, such as a Wii or PC. The newest feature allows subscribers to automatically sync their music files to a device of their choosing so all their music is where they want it to be, without the hassles of running software and plugging devices in via USB cables. All access to a music Locker requires a unique username and password, and there is absolutely no sharing between Lockers.

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No corporation should have the right to demand the content of tens of thousands of personal accounts be turned over to them. There’s no reason to suggest that the users are doing anything but listening to their own music collections in a modern manner. There are millions of Gmail accounts that have MP3 files stored in them – same with Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft’s email and hosting services. If EMI can gain unfettered access to wantonly look through personal accounts on MP3tunes those services will be next.

I can’t see any legal argument on behalf of EMI here, especially since the courts have struck down the RIAA’s “making available” argument. Since there is no sharing among MP3tunes users, the only motivation I can see is the duplication inherent in backing up a file, as well as that used in the process of place-shifting a music file from one device (like a laptop) to another (like an MP3 player).

In essence, the recording companies view music and format as one and the same, whereas the public sees media as merely a representation of the music they purchased – and therefore, that they should have the ability to change that media information from one form to another.

If the market is allowed to decide, the consumer will likely win this one, unless Congress steps in and does something typically underhanded and short-sighted. Gulp.

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