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Music Search Engines Under Attack

As the founder and former CEO of MP3.com I like to think I played a small role in helping MP3 become the global standard and vanquishing DRM (at least with music). I noticed there are many meta search engines for free MP3 files, but none for commercial MP3s. (A meta search engine is one that searches multiple places and compiles the results.) Since there's a large variety in what stores carry I thought it would be useful to create an MP3 store search. Check out the newest version of MP3 Store Guide which now profiles more than 30 MP3 stores and includes a meta search feature. (We're also making the source code for the search engine available for all to use and improve.)

MP3 Store Guide Search Engine

While we're on the topic of music search engines, I wanted to share the latest developments in our court case. Major record label sued me personally and my company MP3tunes trying to shutdown the Sideload.com music search engine and our MP3tunes personal music locker which lets you listen to your music everywhere. (See: EMI Wants My Minivan, I Get To Keep My Minivan and Open Letter To Doug Merrill.)

Below are excerpts from our recent court hearing where the Judge heard oral arguments on our counterclaims but did not rule. Anyone who uses a search engine should care about the outcome. If Sideload is infringing, then other music search engines like Seeqpod and Project Playlist (who are also being sued) are also illegal. If this is true, then Google is infringing too since they are linking to millions of MP3 files.

MP3tunes Attorney:
It's fairly extraordinary that in 2009, the record business is still trying to shut down a search engine.

MP3tunes Attorney:
Sideload dot-com is a search engine. It is like Google. You don't download anything using Sideload. You don't distribute music using Sideload. All it does is post links, the same way that Google does, in fact....

MP3tunes Attorney:
So you can't put something on the web and say, well, it's for everybody except MP3tunes. Google links to a trillion Web sites; they don't have express authorization from a trillion different Web sites. That is what the Internet is about. If you put it publicly there, others are allowed to link to it.

The COURT:
Do you [EMI] agree that if the plaintiffs distribute music for free on the Internet, your client distributes music for free on the Internet, the fact that those songs are somewhere on MP3tunes Web sites' is not infringement?

EMI Attorney:
I think it still is infringement.

MP3tunes Attorney:
And your Honor asked a very good question which I think cuts to the very heart of this, which is once they [EMI] put something on the Internet for free, can we link to it? And if we're linking to it, can we be sued for infringement, can we be accused of infringement? The answer is absolutely no.

The COURT:
On that point, why isn't -- and I may have asked you this before the break, but why isn't the demand that MP3 remove all EMI tunes a misrepresentation if in fact EMI knows that some of its tunes are available for free or offered for free on the Internet?

MP3tunes Attorney:
There are two answers to that. One is that -- the simple one is that they didn't rely on it, they didn't take it down, so there is no damage. But the other one is that we can authorize free uses of our copyrighted material in certain specific ways. I gave you the streaming example beforehand.

MP3tunes Attorney:
And now they said, well, you can stream it but you can't download it. Your Honor, I assisted Mr. Robertson in the declaration and I went personally and tested every link that he put in his declaration. And your Honor can do the same or your Honor's staff can do the same, not using Sideload dot-com but using their own links. If you go to their own links, they don't ask you for any personal information. They don't restrict you from downloading them. They are the easiest things in the world to download. These are things that they put on to be downloaded. And now they are suing us for linking them.

NOTE: [Words in brackets I added for clarity.] Read the entire transcript here.

--MR



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