A copyright infringement case first filed by EMI in November 2007 against startup MP3tunes and its owner, Michael Robertson, was settled Monday, mostly in favor of MP3tunes. The lawsuit found that MP3tunes’ practice of allowing users to upload songs from their personal (and presumably legally-acquired) music libraries while only keeping a single copy of each identical file uploaded among all users was not in violation of EMI’s copyrights due to MP3tunes’ protection by “safe harbor” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The lawsuit also found that MP3tunes’ sister site, sideload.com, was not in violation of EMI’s copyrights. Sideload.com allows users to identify sites that post music files for download so that those sites and their accompanying music files can be pooled and shared across all of sideload.com’s users and housed in users’ storage “lockers.”
While this is certainly a good day for MP3tunes, it’s an even better day for other companies offering similar services, such as Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Drive. Besides cutting down on the physical number of files that cloud services will need to store, sites like Google that already have major search capabilities can leverage those strengths to legally access music posted on the internet for use in its larger cloud of content. It also means that Apple’s practice of setting up explicit usage agreements with individual labels may have been completely unnecessary.
Overall, the real winners here are music collectors who use cloud-based storage systems. In addition to only needing to upload files that don’t match files already uploaded to a given cloud, users can also now safely access and store publicly-posted content without fear of direct retribution.
Let the appeals begin!