Snapster, MiniSnapster

Robert X. Cringely as come up with a crazy (or is it?) scheme for music sharing and paiement; he calls it Snapster. The theory, which he as supposedly checked with a few lawyer friends, is that a company could be created to become a sort of mutual fund of music albums where every share owner would have a legal right to copy every song on the thousands of album the starting funds would allow Snapster to buy. That’s the one line summary of a pretty detailed idea where he also includes numbers to “support” his theory.

I’m very very sceptical about this, even if it’s not currently illegal I’m sure the majors would do everything in their power to make it so pretty soon (he does mention this). What I’m more worried about is the fact that this covers only currently existing music, there is no structure to find and support new artists. Granted, they can now selfpublish through small online outfits and putting the big companies out of business might help this but I think the goal shouldnt be to destroy the majors but to offer a new channel of distribution and lower prices, more along the lines of Apple’s Music Store. We still need the classic distribution channels, at least for a while. How many people would actually buy a share of Snapster and download music through it? Not everyone is ready for that and if his idea worked it would make for too fast a transition.

His answer is that the majors can just buy in to Snapster and profit from the huge value it will build, becoming marketers of artists instead of the end to end job they do now. In theory it could work and help the new artists but doesnt the majors buying in to Snapster completely defeat the purpose?? How can users still get shares and buy into the music “fund” if big companies start “hogging” the shares?

I’m also wondering if it needs to be that big. Can 50 people get together, put in 20$ each in a little corporate entity (somewhat easy to setup), buy 65-70 CDs and share them? They could then put in a certain amount a month (5$?) or pay per song when downloading and use that to grow the collection which they would share through a private server. Any chance this could work?


Mr. Moral July 28, 2003

I too am very sceptical, normally buying a CD at the store does not include buying the rights to the distribution of the music. You own the case, the plastic wrapper and the material it is made with, but the music remains the property of the Label. You get the right to listen to the music, and normally, and this is changing, backup this music to listen to it in a convenient manner. Making a copy of a CD to listen in the car was considered fair use. This beiing said, recently major label have begun implementing security measures on their new releases which prevent copying, ripping ( mp3 ) or even in some european cases the playback from a computer CD-ROM device. As the original author tells, this as never been tested in court, I hope it will never be.

Patrick July 28, 2003

According to the article “the legal concept of Fair Use, which allows people who purchase records, tapes, and CDs to make copies for backup and for moving the content to other media. So a CD can be copied to an MP3 player, for example.” Which would mean some of the copy protections are illegal. It’s that Fair Use concept that he uses, as part of the mutual fund owners you own the CD and can copy it for your own use on another media. So he’s not saying the Mutual Fund owns the music, he’s saying every “member” owns the CD and can copy it to another media. Minute difference but that’s what legal stuff is all about ;)

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