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The Crowd As Our Legal Team

The Crowd As Our Legal Team

Some months back I made a public plea on my blog for readers help in our legal battle called You Lie EMI and the results were astounding. First some background. I am CEO of MP3tunes which offers a personal music locker. The UK based record label EMI doesn't like the fact that our service lets people listen to their music anywhere they like so they filed a lawsuit against us. They are accusing us of copyright infringement for storing music files online. They've told the court that we encourage piracy in spite of the fact that we're a rare online storage service which doesn't allow sharing of any kind unlike storage products from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and hundreds of others.

EMI also complained about the music search engine that MP3tunes operates which links to publicly available music files. EMI told the Judge that they have never put any music files online for free downloads therefore all songs on Sideload are unauthorized and we're promoting piracy. Anyone affiliated with the music business knows this is completely false. A decade ago my company popularized using promotional songs as a marketing tool online and even back then EMI participated. Today using free songs as marketing is even more commonplace. However EMI has repeatedly told the Judge that they don't distribute free songs online. When we demanded that EMI turn over a list of all songs that they've distributed for free they submitted a list of 3 songs. That's right a measly 3 songs.

This is where we turned to a crowd sourced legal team and our customers came to the rescue in an amazing way. We asked them to install a bookmarklet to help us collect songs and locations where EMI distributes music files for free. In a very short time users uncovered almost 1400 free songs online which they matched to EMI artists. You can browse the list and download songs you like from here. You'll see lots of well known artists.

This list is just a fraction of the songs EMI makes available, but it's irrefutable that EMI uses free song files as promotion. Astonishingly they are still telling the court that they don't authorize song files to be distributed for free. They are denying these songs are legitimate in spite of overwhelming evidence of MP3 files from retailers, blogs, artist sites, label sites, and marketing sites. Even when you point to one of their own corporate blogs which offers downloads they remain steadfast in their claim that they don't distribute MP3s online for free.

Thanks to the MP3tunes user community we have powerful evidence to refute EMI's claims that they don't distribute promotional songs. I think it's one of the first examples of crowd sourcing evidence. The evidence was assembled not by parties to the litigation or their legal teams but citizens with a computer and motivation to help out. We'll learn later this year whether it will help MP3tunes prevail.


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