4.10 Case Study 3: My.MP3

MP3.com bought 40 000 CDs and copied them into a big database. They then gave anyone who could prove they had a copy of any of those CDs access to the music over the internet in return for a fee.

Lessig explains the My.MP3 service on pages 127–129 of The Future of Ideas and concludes, ‘This service by MP3.com made it easier for consumers to get access to the music they had purchased. It was not a service for giving free access to music … MP3.com's aim was simply to make it easier to use what you'd already bought.’

Arguably MP3.com had increased music sales by 40 000 CDs. They had, however, copied a large number of CDs for commercial gain.

Lessig argues in Chapter 11 that the My.MP3 service:

  • did not facilitate theft;

  • increased the value of individual CDs because it allowed buyers to listen to their music from anywhere; and

  • since anyone could create a database of their own CDs in order to access via the Net, it did not really change anything. The incentive for people to create such databases would increase if a service such as My.MP3 were not allowed. This could lead to increased copying. This presupposes, of course, that large numbers of music lovers have the technical skills and the patience of Lessig's former colleague Jonathan Zittrain, who did just that.

When the music industry sued MP3.com, Judge Rakoff, who decided the case in New York, said, ‘The complex marvels of cyberspatial communication may create difficult legal issues; but not in this case.’ He imposed massive damages on MP3.com because he felt the copyright infringements were ‘clear’ and ‘wilful’, and shut down the My.MP3 service.

In February 2005, MP3.com founder Michael Robertson launched a new music downloading service, MP3tunes.com, offering a catalogue of 300 000 songs. The service will not employ digital rights management or copy protection technologies, which have become the standard with other downloading services such as Apple iTunes.

The light bulb was not invented by the candle industry looking to improve output.

(Joab Jackson)

4.9.1 Some P2P legal developments

4.10.1 Films and copyright