Robert X. Cringely as come up with a crazy (or is it?) scheme for music sharing and paiement; he calls it Snapster. The theory, which he as supposedly checked with a few lawyer friends, is that a company could be created to become a sort of mutual fund of music albums where every share owner would have a legal right to copy every song on the thousands of album the starting funds would allow Snapster to buy. That’s the one line summary of a pretty detailed idea where he also includes numbers to “support” his theory.
So it’s basically a private library. Nice concept except that the original media transfer, from the CD to the HDs is what killed my.mp3.com and I don’t see how this system overcomes this hurdle.
Also, fair use does not apply (IIRC) to profit making endeavours, like this plan. Otherwise, it’s not fair use, it’s a normal unlicensed copy.
Time and space shifting are still only fair use defences to infringement in US law, which I don’t think you can use to protect the acts of a company that would not be themselves protected by fair use, even if you own that company or if it acts on your behalf. One could argue this is different with our “fair dealing” doctrine, but that’s really a long shot.
The private library concept is excellent though, maybe a co-op model would even be better, skirting the profit making part, but that would also eliminate the economical value for the music industry, which seems to be an important aspect of the Snapster scheme.
The problem I see with these celestial jukebox wannabes is that to make online distribution possible, you need to do an act that is still generally considered a “copy” in the physical sense of the word. Maybe an elaborate system enforcing a “one listener at a time” rule might convince a judge that although bits are replicated, the system is functionally equivalent to “lending” or “sharing” works on a physical medium? The alternatives being individually licensing works, à la iTunes Music store, compulsory licensing scheme or a modification to copyright law to make sharing digital files possible without them being considered a copy or a public performance of some sort.
I think there is room for all three in the market. The store works well for most purposes. I’d like to see a compulsory licensing for streaming, and legislative modification, to give people the same rights they enjoy in the physical sphere.
Am I still allowed to invite a couple buddies over to watch a video?
(oh, and Roxio already owns snapster.com)
Update: great post by Charles Miller, found on a K5 discussion: All in all, a brilliant hack of the legal code. And totally useless. […] The law is not code. It is not compiled into an inviolate binary and run by a deterministic system. It is passed through the heads of human beings whose job it is to interpret the intent of the law.