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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MP3.Com Allows Music Swaps on Net




SAN FRANCISCO -- In a threat to the recording industry's attempts to control the distribution of music online, MP3.com, a San Diego-based company that operates a popular web site for downloading and listening to digital music, planned Wednesday to launch a service that will facilitate the open swapping of copyrighted music over the net.


Like RealNetwork's and MusicMatch's Jukebox software, the MP3.com service will enable consumers to record CDs as MP3 files or to listen to such files on their computers. But unlike existing Jukebox players, the new service will be Internet-based, meaning that the music will be accessible from any Internet-connected computer. Eventually, the company says the service will be made available for wireless Internet devices as well.


The company planned to establish Wednesday 10 million accounts for its existing customer base. Initially, the service will be free of charge, but eventually it will require a paid subscription.


"The move is fundamentally sound for these guys," said Mark Mooradian, an analyst at Jupiter Communications. "Being the default repository where consumers keep all their stored music will be a linchpin of success in the music business."


But he added that the service seems duplicable. "Unless it's for legal reasons, I don't see why RealNetworks wouldn't dive into this very quickly," he said.


Consumers who open an account on the MP3.com site will be able to place CDs into their CD-ROM drive and, if that title is in MP3.com's database, which is currently at 40,000, a digital copy will be automatically transferred to their MP3.com account. In addition, consumers purchasing a CD from MP3.com's online retail partners will simultaneously obtain a digital copy of the CD in their account.


Currently, MP3.com is partnering with Duffelbag.com, Jungle Jeff.com, Cheap-CDs.com and CDGlobe.com, but more agreements are in the works, the company said.


User's accounts will be password protected. Since the security of the service is in the hands of MP3.com, rather than the record labels or artists, the recording industry is likely to react unfavorably to the service.


The industry launched the Secure Digital Music Initiative to develop technological standards to combat rampant music piracy on the Internet. By allowing prime content to be stored on the Internet with security of its own devising, the MP3.com service may be perceived as a circumvention of that effort.


Company officials said they had not yet briefed the recording industry on their plan but they intended to do so sometime next week.


Mark Lemley, a professor specializing in Internet law at the University of California at Berkeley, said it was probable that MP3.com would be sued, but that MP3.com had a good chance to win such a case.


He explained that as long as MP3.com can demonstrate that the service is being used legally by a substantial number of people, it is probably on solid legal ground.


"As long as there are a substantial number of people making legal use of the service it doesn't matter if there are a whole lot of people making illegal use," he said.


"The recording industry would have to sue the individuals."