A while back, Kirk wrote an article called “Prepare for the Worst: 4 Simple Digital Media Backup Solutions.” One of the options was the digital Music Locker at MP3tunes, where you could upload your music and store it, secure and password-protected.
This is not file-sharing. File-sharing is, of course, the digital equivalent of what music fans have been doing since the dawn of time: turning other people on to music they love. This is really the exact opposite: it is more akin to locking your music in a safe deposit vault, where only you have the key.
Apparently, EMI didn’t think so, and sued MP3tunes, essentially trying to shut down online storage of music for any purpose whatsoever.
This, is of course, akin to the RIAA claim that ripping your own CDs for your own purposes (which I just did this morning, because I wanted to listen to the Replacements reissues on my iPod) is illegal, depending on which folder the .mp3z end up in.
As MP3tunes Michael Robertson points out in his blog, there are there are a lot of issues involved with this that go right to the heart of what exactly ownership is in the digital age:
Much is at stake — if you don’t have the right to store your own music online then you won’t have the right to store ebooks, videos and other digital products as well. The notion of ownership in the 21st century will evaporate. The idea of ownership is important to me and I want to make sure I have that right and my kids do too.
But I just want to specifically highlight one of the issues surrounding this, which was part of EMI’s original set of demands. In their initial action, EMI demanded that Mp3tunes hand over copies of everything that had been stored by MP3tunes’ users. Millions and millions of files of music. This goes not just to the blind arrogance of EMI, but also their hypocrisy.
Even if EMI was absolutely 100% correct in saying that any music released via EMI should always be totally and utterly controlled by EMI as opposed to the purchaser of the music, what about all of the songs in all of those collections that aren’t EMI songs? You know, the songs that — by EMI’s own apparent assertion — are fully controlled by Sony or Universal or other evil entities?
I’m neither a legal expert, nor do I play one on TV, but If EMI is correct in this, aren’t they then demanding that MP3tunes break the law by handing over these files? Isn’t EMI, by their own reckoning, trying to steal music that belongs to other companies?
And if they are wrong — which I, of course, think that they are — then they are doing something even worse: trying to steal people’s personal property. If you have music stored at MP3tunes, your personal property. It’s no different than if they walked into Wells Fargo and said: “hey, we think that there might be a Coldplay CD that somebody bought or borrowed in one of your safe deposit vaults, so we’ll need to see the contents of all of them.”
Luckily, a judge threw this transparent act of theft right out of court.