MySpace, a site owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has decided to disallow copyrighted music from being uploaded to its member pages. Reported in The Globe and Mail, MySpace will use "audio fingerprinting" to filter copyrighted material. The site will check uploaded songs against Gracenote's database. From the article: "'MySpace is staunchly committed to protecting artists' rights, whether those artists are on major labels or are independent acts,' said Chris DeWolfe, MySpace chief executive and co-founder."
I was going to spend much of my TMT space elaborating on the story, but I started reading some of the comments posted after the article. Not that you have to travel far, or at all, to find someone who is frustrated with copyrights and music rights, but the debate on The Globe and Mail is especially telling.
goofy fathead wrote: "im not going to use myspace then. i pay 40 bucks a month to my cable company, that should entitle me to download what i want, when i want, and share what i want as well."
Rick Czarnota wrote: "You are entitled to nothing more than being able to access the website. Why do you... seem to think you should have access to a product for free?"
Mark H. wrote: "Every good thing sells out. I am not in any way infringing on the rights of the people who 'own' the content (It's not property, I can't write a letter to data, or transport it without media, or grab it out of the air). Hell, it's free freakin' advertising. Posting is not stealing. It's just attaching a different url to a datastream."
We are saturated by intellectual property these days, with iPods, Walkmens, video iPods, home studios, DV cameras, and home-editing suites. Companies are doing A LOT to get us the media we want. They have to do it under the letter of the law, and really, why should they do it any other way? Mark H's comment that MySpace has sold out just means that they are large enough to show up on the radar of law enforcers. Google removed copyrighted material from YouTube because that site, like MySpace, is a distributor of content. Saying, "it's just attaching a different url to a datastream" is, like most arguments against copyright, circumventing the obvious: "owned" media displayed without consent. It sucks, but it's the cost of doing business. And it is a business.
Perhaps we should be discussing what constitutes intellectual property or copyrightable material and how one might go about "owning" it. Go to an AMC-owned movie theater and see that they've made "Silence is Golden" a registered trademark. What about the aggressive campaigns to patent animals, plants, and even human DNA? And did you know Time Warner owns the song "Happy Birthday to You"? How are these any less objetionable than filtering out copyrighted music? How are they more? These topics are important, and it is more important that we all take a step back and count where we stand on privatization, copyrights, and intellectual property. Argue against MySpace and Google, but do it because that is what you believe, not because you want to save a few bucks. Let's debate in earnest. I know where I stand. Do you know where you stand?