Sunday, October 5, 2008

Review -- " Muxtape reborn as showcase for bands—kind of like MySpace"

For direct link to main article, click entry title.

Sometimes, I feel bad for the RIAA.
Granted, the moment is fleeting at most, but those guys can have it pretty bad. Their intentions are good (I guess), but there are just way too many strings that come with their business for me to feel very sympathetic. Trying to even figure out what all the rules are (1st week of FSEM) is migraine-inducing.
Remember when Muxtape was taken offline by the RIAA back in mid-August? Remember when OpenTape (almost a descendant of Muxtape) debuted a week later? The copyright war is an uphill battle for those fighting for their property rights.

Anyway, Muxtape's back up again! Well, sort of. It's been totally revamped in order to keep the RIAA from being cranky. It was originally launched to bring back the "mixtape" from the 80s: Essentially, Muxtape users upload playlists containing their favorite mp3s, and listen to each other's streaming playlists. Since the songs were streaming, they could not be downloaded from the site. However, Muxtape linked users to music stores (e.g.: Amazon) where they could buy mp3s they enjoyed (Kind of the same idea as iTunes iMixes). Now, instead of serving as a place that people can upload and share their favorite music (in their favorite order), Muxtape will be a website where bands can display new EPS, old songs, concert tickets, upcoming events, etc. Read the title of the article -- it is very much like MySpace's Digital Music Service, and/or PureVolume.
So why did the first Muxtape get shut down if its concept is basically the same as the iTunes Store's iMixes? The RIAA says Muxtape never procured the official paperwork/permission to stream the mp3s and playlists, which means the the copyrights of the musici
ans and record labels were being violated. In the end, the RIAA wrote to Amazon concerning the matter, and Ouellete was booted out of his account even though, at the time, he was working with Amazon in processing a compromise in order to satisfy copyrights. Additionally, Muxtape was never an obscure site; the RIAA found out about it a week after the site was launched, and Ouellette soon started hearing from different record labels and the RIAA itself. Since Oullette could not afford to defend himself in what could've been a potential lawsuit, he had to drop his side of the case entirely and walk away from the entire situation without doing anything.
"Poor Oullette," you're thinking. Not really. I guess it sucks about what happened to him in the end, but he really should've done his research before making the websit
e. The general picture I'm getting is that he was very unorganized regarding the numerous legalities he should've taken care of before launching Muxtape on the web. According to Wikipedia, the contract between Oullette and his funder (Jakob Lodwick, Oullete's ex-Boss, if you care) was pulled up on a napkin. Not really legitimate. I can't really side with Oullette here.
Then again, I can't really side with RIAA, either. Here's why: because no one was ever against Muxtape. Not the users, not the artists, not the labels, no one. Muxtape founder Justin Ouellete explicitly states that he would have removed any music from the website if musicians or record labels had asked him to. Well, apparently "not a single one [artists and/or labels" asked him to. Here's a quote from Ouellette:
"On the contrary, every artist I heard from was a fan of the site and excited about its possibilities. I got calls from the marketing departments of big labels whose corporate parents were supposed to be outraged, wanting to know how they could get their l
atest acts on the home page. [...] Smaller labels wanted to feature their content in other creative ways. It seemed obvious Muxtape had value for listeners and artists alike." I don't think I could be anymore explicit than that, so..
My conclusion: you can have your great ideas and put them into practice, but as long as the RIAA is referee (I'm sorry, too), you have to play by their rules.

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