Free music streaming app Hypedmusic shut down this month after receiving a cease and desist notice from the recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Luke Li, the developer of the app, explained in a blog post Tuesday that he always thought Hypedmusic was legal and protected under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), but that he didn’t want to get into a legal fight with the RIAA:
“I’m 18 years old, and I definitely do not want to get sued… Again, just to reiterate: I did not make HypedMusic with the intention of infringing copyright, I thought I was operating in a legal area after seeing different, large companies do similar things. Once I saw the RIAA’s email, I complied immediately.”
Hypedmusic was a web, Android and iOS app that allowed users to find and stream music hosted on services like Soundcloud, YouTube and Tumblr through a simple UI. Users could also generate playlists, which were synced across devices — think of it a bit like Spotify, but without any subscription costs.
Li assumed that the service itself was legal because the sites that were actually hosting the music are protected by the DMCA, and he offered copyright owners a way to remove their recordings from the Hypedmusic catalog. However, the RIAA disagreed, writing in an email to Li:
“By indexing, linking to, transmitting, retransmitting, providing access to, and/or otherwise assisting users in streaming and downloading infringing copies of sound recordings emanating from various unauthorized sources on the Internet, these applications are violating U.S. copyright law.”
The timing of the takedown is curious: Just last week, Ex.fm announced that it was shutting down its free music service as well, citing various “takedowns and legal emails” as one reason that made it challenging to keep the service up and running. At this point, it’s unclear whether Ex.fm was the target of a RIAA-issued cease and desist letter as well. An RIAA spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to comment on the matter when contacted for this story, and I have yet to hear back from the Ex.fm team.
However, even the possibility of a more concerted effort by the major labels to take down services that tap into music hosted on third-party platforms could spell trouble for the music startup scene, as this is how many companies build their first products.
This post was corrected on 1/1/2014. A previous version of the story incorrectly quoted Li as saying that he didn’t have the resources to fight the RIAA.