MP3tunes CEO Michael Robertson is resorting to desperate tactics in his defense against music copyright charges brought by EMI. The digital locker proprietor has emailed users urging them to upgrade to a premium account to help finance his legal case. Labels owned by EMI filed suit in November, arguing the locker, combined with web-hosted MP3-grabbing sister site Sideload, was illegal.
Robertson’s email to users: “We need your help because we are a small, 15-person company battling an international giant … I hope you will consider signing up for one of the paid levels.” More here. Former MP3.com founder Robertson argues MP3tunes is merely off-site disc storage. Though its contents can be played anywhere via the web, on its own, MP3tunes is just a personal locker and not a sharing platform. But, coupled with Sideload and this month’s new Autosync feature that automatically copies users’ new tracks from one PC to another, it may well fall foul.
Yet EMI’s case is all the more ironic given it was the first major to let the copying genie out of the bottle by going DRM-free. Though in the US making a backup from audio CD is considered “fair use”, in EMI’s native UK, copying music from one device to another remains technically illegal. In fact, though government has been advised to amend copyright law to allow “format shifting”, the music business is counter-lobbying for a copying tax.