MIT’s legal alternative to file-swapping

Here’s a clever way around the file sharing conundrum: Essentially a streaming audio over cable (similar to a Satellite Radio, only analog), collaboratively programmed from a list of 3500 albums suggested by MIT undergrads:

MIT students develop alternative to file-swapping
Monday October 27, 12:00 am ET
By Justin Pope, AP Business Writer, Associated Press

EXCERPT: CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Keith Winstein and Josh Mandel may soon be the most popular guys on campus. They say they’ve discovered a way to give their fellow students at MIT and elsewhere dorm-room access to a huge music library without having to worry about getting slapped with a lawsuit from the recording industry.

On Monday, the pair planned to debut a system they’ve built that lets MIT students listen for free to 3,500 CDs over the school’s cable television network. They say it’s completely kosher under copyright law. The students will share the software with other schools, who they say could operate their own networks for just a few thousand dollars per year. They call that a small price to pay for heading off lawsuits like those the recording industry filed against hundreds of alleged illegal file-swappers.

Here’s the catch: The system is operated over the Internet but the music is pumped through MIT’s cable television network. That makes it an analog transmission, as opposed to a digital one, in which a file is reproduced exactly. The downside is the sound quality: better than FM radio, but not as good as a CD. But the upside is that because the copy isn’t exact, the licensing hurdles are lower. The idea piggybacks on two things: the broad, cheap licenses given to many universities to “perform” analog music, and the same rules that require radio stations to pay songwriters, but not record companies, to broadcast songs.

It also can broadcast any CD — even ones by popular artists like Madonna and the Beatles who have resisted making their songs available even to legal digital download services.

“I think it’s fascinating. As a copyright lawyer, I think they’ve managed to thread the needle,” said Fred Von Lohmann, a lawyer for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. “They’ve basically managed to cut the record labels out of the equation altogether” . . .

The rest of this article is here:

MIT students develop alternative to file-swapping

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