Byte Rights: Music Copyright Vs. Basic CS 2

Maximum PC Staff

Good news, everybody! The courts have upset music label EMI with a ruling that not only preserves the DMCA safe harbor, but acknowledges basic laws of physics.

EMI was suing Mp3tunes.com, a music cloud service founded by Michael Robertson, who also founded the first music locker, Mp3.com—that one was sued out of existence by Universal Music Group in 2000. Plenty of major players like Amazon, Google, and Apple were watching Robertson's round two after launching their own services. Because moving media from one format to another is a fair use, some cloud services had purportedly stored a copy of the song for every user on the system with that song in their library to protect themselves from labels. Let that sink in for a second: Under this legal theory, if Amazon sold 100,000 of Justin Bieber's "U Smile" for use in its cloud service, it had to keep 100,000 individual identical digital copies on disk at all times.

It doesn't take a lot of tech savvy to figure out why that is insane. It's a misunderstanding of what a digital copy is, as well as 100,000 copies of "U Smile." The court saw this, and ruled in favor of Mp3tunes, decency, and CS 101 classes everywhere.

Beyond wanting to require pointless environmental and cultural waste, EMI wanted Mp3tunes to lose its safe harbor on user-uploaded content that might infringe because Mp3tunes didn't proactively filter what people uploaded. The courts did ding Mp3tunes for not doing enough to comply with take-down requests, but still didn't require proactive filtering, since that's the literal opposite of what the law requires.

Robertson's first baby, Mp3.com, was killed by a lack of understanding of digital technology. Eleven years later its much younger sibling was saved by the fact that the justice system can learn.

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