A QUESTION OF POLICY OR PREFERENCE?

I look at who links to Soul Sides from time to time. I came upon this post at Professor Amardeep Singh’s blog:

    “Funk You, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, and Soul Sides tend to put up MP3s that are copyright protected, and then take them down very quickly.

    I’m enjoying the music, though I’m not sure how I feel about the strategy. This class of podcaster isn’t really harming anyone, since the majority of what they offer is either out of print or quite difficult to find. No CDs are being not being bought that would have been bought otherwise. (In Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture taxonomy, they are “Category D” [see chapter 4 of Lessig’s book])

    Still, it would be better if these sites were able to pay a licensing fee to a centralized location, and then keep their offerings up permanently, without fear of attracting a lawsuit. Here’s to hoping Lessig’s manifesto for a saner licensing system comes to pass. (Without it, I don’t see how the above sites, as excellent as they are, can continue for very long)”

In respectful response to Prof. Singh’s points:

1) Actually, I leave the Podcasts up permanently but I take down sound files. In a day and age where RIAA is trigger-happy, there’s no reason NOT to be more careful.

2) More to the point, audioblogging – to me – is closer to a new variation on pirate radio than it is to an audio archive. The issue here isn’t just one of licensing – though obviously, that’s a large part of it. I think Prof. Singh forgets to take into account that an ever-growing archive of sound files taxes storage space and more importantly bandwidth.

The latter is actually far, far bigger of a concern for the average audioblogger than licensing. It’s one thing to have 10 songs available on any given time, but after two months, that could conceivably grow to 80 songs. Multiply that by how many downloads you’re likely to receive per day, plus anywhere from 2-4MB per song and you get the idea. It’s not a surprise that smaller audioblogs – suddenly inundated by a rush of traffic – get shutdown by their hosts for exceeding bandwidths.

I can appreciate that people want audioblogs to keep content up longer but the idea of content-on-demand, while it works for pay-per-view cable, iTunes, and other corporate media companies, isn’t remotely within reach of hobbyists like myself and practically every independent audioblog out there. Even Music-For-Robots and Fluxblog.com – the two biggest ones out there, sites that actually license the songs they carry – don’t archive. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think bandwidth – along with philosophical stances – has much to do with it.

I do agree with Prof. Singh – it would be a boon to have a central licensing clearinghouse but music publishing is such an incredibly byzantine system that such an entity for older music would be pragmatically impossible. I could see it for newer music, but it’d require ASCAP and BMI and other publishing companies to collaborate. Again, unlikely.

Most of all, I don’t know what to make of the comment, “I don’t see how the above sites, as excellent as they are, can continue for very long.” The ability of these sites to continue is largely dependent on human interest (ours) more than legal concerns – at least at this point.

Obviously, the current case before the Supreme Court around P2P networks shows that the issue of file-sharing is at the forefront of both industry and legal concerns but I don’t see this touching the audioblog sphere in the immediate future.

In the meantime: listen on.

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