Muxtape: What’s our lawyer’s number again?

by Mathew on August 19, 2008 · 8 comments

Update:

It doesn’t sound like Muxtape is coming back anytime soon, judging by the statement that Portfolio magazine got from the RIAA (hat tip to MG Siegler at VentureBeat for the link), which said that the record industry group had “repeatedly tried to work with them to have illegal content taken down” and that the site “has not obtained authorization from our member companies to host or stream copies of their sound recordings.”

Original post:

Muxtape, one of a host of popular online music-sharing apps that have sprung up over the past few months, has shut down, but claims that it isn’t gone for good. The website says that it will be “unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA,” while the Muxtape blog says that “no artists or labels have complained” and maintains that “the site is not closed indefinitely.” Will the site be able to strike a deal with the record industry’s lobby group/enforcer? Many music-sharing services have tried and failed to do so in the past.

The issues are laid out fairly well in a recent Valleywag post about the startup, which is run by Justin Ouellette, formerly of Vimeo, and financed by Vimeo co-founder Jakob Lodwick. The fact that Muxtape allows you to share your music with others is a legal grey area (depending on whom you talk to), but the ability to download those songs quickly and easily is likely what has the RIAA’s knickers in a twist. According to Valleywag, Ouellette has talked about changing the format of the songs streamed through Muxtape.com to make it harder to capture them.

There are a number of other similar music-sharing sites, including Mixwit, as well as Songerize, Seeqpod (which is being sued by Warner Music) and Songza. A recent addition to the genre that I’ve been experimenting with lately is Favtape.com, which lets you type in your Last.fm user name and then gives you a Muxtape-style view of your favourite tracks for easy sharing or playing. Some or all of these services (Marshall has a good overview of three at Read/Write Web) could be open to a lawsuit, if the RIAA’s past activities are anything to go by.

One of the few music-streaming sites that appears to have considered the legal issues in advance is the newly launched 8tracks, which says that it is in the clear because the mixes that users create are played in random order, although it’s not clear yet whether the RIAA is going to buy that particular rationale. And meanwhile, whether Muxtape reappears or is headed for the deadpool also remains a question mark.

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