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


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.”

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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 to make it harder to capture them.

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Katie Couric gets Diggy with it

Kind of surprised this hasn’t gotten more coverage in the Digg-obsessed blogosphere (other than this and this): Katie Couric, the not-so-critically acclaimed CBS News anchor, has uploaded a video to YouTube in which she asks the Digg community for questions they want her to ask when she’s at the upcoming political conventions. Flashing her Digg T-shirt, Couric comes across (at least to me) as playing along with something she doesn’t really feel committed to — likely true, since I doubt it was her idea — but at the same time cheerfully willing to take a flyer on the idea. Plus, I have to say she looks kind of cute in that Digg T-shirt. But the last laugh could be on me: the video, which got a bump from Digg founder Kevin Rose, has over 3,000 Diggs already, and many of the questions (in fact, most of them) are about serious political issues.

I can has bizness model?

The company behind the I Can Has Cheezburger site, the leading purveyor of “lolcats” photos and related merchandise — as well as the always excellent and several other similar properties — has launched a new site called Engrish Funny, which features… yes, you guessed it: funny pictures. In this case, they are photos of T-shirts, store signs and retail products from Asian countries with mangled English printed on them (if this strikes you as familiar territory, it’s probably because has been around for quite awhile).

As with I Can Has Cheezburger, however, which wasn’t the first to come up with LOLcats (that dubious honour goes to the popular 4chan network), the company known as Pet Holdings says it is hoping to put its own “spin” on the Engrish phenomenon. Pet Holdings’ other properties include I Has a Hot Dog (like LOLcats, but for dogs), the political site Pundit Kitchen (like LOLcats but with politicians), Totally Looks Like (celebrities and their lookalikes) and GraphJam.

According to co-founder Ben Huh, who talked with Mike Arrington on video in the TechCrunch founder’s backyard recently (embedded below), the company plans to launch some other sites soon, and also wants to work with some major media partners. The interesting part of the video for me, however, was when Huh started talking about pageviews and revenue. According to the Pet Holdings CEO, the sites get a total of about 3.3 million pageviews a day, and about 5 million unique visitors a month, with the majority of those going to I Can Has Cheezburger and the Failblog (in recent interviews, Huh has said that I Can Has Cheezburger gets about 1.4 million or 1.5 million or 2.2 million pageviews a day).

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NewsCred launches public beta

After a year or so of invite-only alpha testing, NewsCred launched as a public beta service this morning. The site, founded by Shafqat Islam and Iraj Islam, is trying to create a kind of outsourced reputation system for news websites and blogs, in which users vote on the credibility and accuracy of specific news stories or blog posts, and those votes are combined with the site’s own algorithms to generate a credibility profile. It’s an interesting effort, and one that I think will likely appeal to many news and blog readers, since we’ve probably all read things and snorted in derision at the unbalanced or inaccurate take someone has taken — both in professional media and on blogs. But is NewsCred the solution?

In a sense, Newscred is trying to take the Digg or Slashdot model a step further. When people Digg a story or link, they are often simply voting on whether they like the topic, or the photo, or in some cases whether they like the person who Dugg the link. wants people to explicitly vote on the credibility of the site itself, (or at least the author of the story or post). As more than one person has already pointed out however, credibility is a difficult thing to measure, and it’s not clear whether it’s the kind of thing that a site like NewsCred is going to be able to outsource or generate through an algorithm. If someone clicks the “discredit” button, is it because they don’t like the author? Or because they simply disagree with them, if it’s a blog?

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Byrne and Eno make it happen online

After listening to a couple of the new tracks from David Byrne and Brian Eno’s first collaboration in 30 years — which you can do through the widget embedded below — I’m not sure whether I like it or not, but I am sure of one thing: figuring out how to experiment with the different distribution and marketing models the Web allows isn’t confined to young folks like Radiohead and Trent Reznor. The former frontman for the Talking Heads (one of my favourite bands of all time) and the former keyboard player for Roxy Music — whose real name, Wikipedia informs me, is Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno — have a combined age of about a hundred, but they have still put together a pretty good online package for this album, I think.

The album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, can be streamed through the associated website, and the widget player can be embedded anywhere — an option I’m surprised more bands don’t take advantage of. The songs can be streamed for free (and one can be downloaded free of charge), and the rest can be bought through the site in a variety of formats, including what Byrne calls “a limited edition deluxe package designed by Sagmeister Inc.” All formats can be downloaded immediately, the site says, while physical CD versions will be shipped in the fall. The digital-only package is $8.99 for 329kbps mp3 files with no DRM controls, and also includes a 17-page lyric booklet.

The release is also one of the first big releases involving Topspin Media, the technical support system for artists that former Yahoo Music executive (and former Winamp exec) Ian Rogers and some partners formed earlier this year. He has a post about it on the Topspin blog.