The Debate Over Digital Lockers
It's tough to last long in the music industry these days without being involved in some type of law suit, it seems.
The lawyers got pretty riled up when they discussed (or argued bitterly) about how best to tweak the copyright laws. (At one point, a panel moderator actually threatened to turn off the microphones to halt the squawking).
Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3Tunes, admits he's quite familiar with the ugly side of the digital music industry. After starting mp3.com, Robertson was sued by several recording labels for copyright infringement. He later sold the business to Universal Music Group for nearly $400 million, after the major record label decided not to settle with mp3.com.
Now, his new business is at the wrong end of a lawsuit. EMI Group sued Robertson in November for copyright infringement. The recording company claimed MP3tunes' two Web sites, mp3tunes.com and sideload.com, allow users to listen to music on their computers, get copies of songs online, transfer music to their computers and portable devices and share it with others--all without legal rights to distribute the music.
The suit is still pending, but if he loses the case, Robertson said his digital locker service, which is an integral part of allowing music files to be transfered between devices, will likely disappear. Digital lockers have been developed by a number of online music firms to allow users to upload their libraries to the Internet and then access them from any computer or device. There is some debate about whether this violates copyright laws, partly because people can give others access to the files.
Robertson said the digital lockers on his site are password protected. He also said the company shuts the lockers off if too many people try to access the locker.
A few industry insiders at the forum even questioned whether consumers even use the digital locker services. How about you? Do you find them useful or useless?
February 28, 2008; 12:47 PM ET
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