Congressman: I Want My MP3

A bill introduced in the House could dramatically alter the landscape that led to massive copyright violations against MP3.com, and open the door for competitors to stream into the digital locker space unimpeded by licensing agreements.

A bill introduced in the House could dramatically alter the landscape that led to massive copyright violations against MP3.com, and open the door for competitors to stream into the digital locker space unimpeded by licensing agreements.

Representative Rich Boucher (D-Virginia) — along with three Republicans — introduced legislation Monday that would make it legal to create a database of sound recordings for the sole purpose of transmitting those recordings to individuals who had previously purchased music.

Such a law would be a complete reversal of the landscape that resulted in MP3.com paying a reported $20 million in fees and damages to each of four major labels, then getting zonked with a $118 million judgment against a fifth.

“Simply stated, a consumer who lawfully owns a work of music, such as a CD, will be able to store it on the Internet and then downstream it for personal use at a time and place of his choosing,” Boucher said in his floor statement introducing the new legislation.

“After the consumer shows proof of ownership of the music, he will be able to listen to it streamed to him over the Internet from any place that he has Internet access. Consumers would not be able to transfer music to someone else or use the music for commercial purposes under the provisions of our legislation.”

Boucher said that he didn’t believe the new legislation would affect the royalties that copyright holders already received since consumers had to first prove they had purchased the music.

Had Boucher’s bill been implemented at the beginning of the year, the digital music landscape might look completely different.

In April, a federal judge ruled that MP3.com had violated copyright with the creation of its my.mp3.com service — which allowed users to stream music from a database of music the company stored on its servers.

This new legislation would make the creation of such a database legal, and immune from copyright violation issues.

Before damages had been set in the case, the company settled its dispute with four of the major labels. The Universal Music Group held out and received a judgment for a staggering $118 million. MP3.com is expected to appeal.

While MP3.com battled its way through the courts, two potential competitors funded by the major labels prepared to launch similar streaming music services.

With backing from BMG and Universal and a deal with Virgin Megastores, Musicbank is set to debut sometime before the end of the year. Earlier in the year, Sony announced plans to unveil a streaming digital locker service.

Boucher’s bill would remove a major hurdle for streaming services, as none would have to obtain the licensing agreements that MP3.com accepted as part of its settlement.

Included were licensing provisions for MP3.com to pay 1.5 cents per song stored by people in virtual lockers, and one-third of a cent each time a song is streamed.

Author: Brad King

News Service: Wired News

URL: http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,39082,00.html