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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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May 31, 2012

Legitmix Enters Beta, Model Unchanged

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Last December I took a look at the artist alpha of Legitmix. The company (which appears to be in Ottawa) aims to change the way mixes and rights payments are handled.

As things stand now, the person (usually DJ/producer) who produces a track that incorporates material from others is theoretically responsible for obtaining the licenses to all the source material. What Legitmix aims to do is shift that work to the end consumer. Instead of distributing a raw MP3 file of your mix, you'd distribute a Legitmix digital package that listeners would unpack and then obtain all the permissions for before they could listen.

In December I laid out the variety of objections this raises in practice - versioning, orphaned works, uncooperative license owners, etc. It's a great idea in theory but in practice I couldn't see how it would work at scale. A couple days ago, Neal Mc - who identifies himself as "Legitmix Customer Support Guru" invited me to re-look at the site, which I've now done. Having looked I see about the same thing as before.

The site, now in beta, claims to have something like 20 million songs. That sounds like a lot but doesn't address the question of samples from performances, from movies, from speeches, and all the other source materials that go into a typical DJ mix. Maybe Legitmix can get everyone on-board and signed up. Maybe they can figure out some way to handle orphan works - there's no mention of those on the site. Maybe they really can get a "track" identified in under a minute as Neal's comment claims, but how long would it take them to handle this hour-long Glitch Mob set I'm listening to?

Sorry, Neal, but it looks like you still have all the same problems you had six months ago.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use


COMMENTS

1. David McDonald on June 4, 2012 8:30 AM writes...

Hi,

I don't understand your objections. To listen to a mix requires the associated Legitmix file plus copies of the original source music incorporated into the mix. The original source music can be obtained from anywhere; i.e. from Legitmix or iTunes or Amazon. Legitmix sells music to make the user experience more pleasant but any other retailer is fine. Of course if the original music is not for sale anywhere then this doesn't work but presumably a mix incorporating unavailable sources wouldn't be put on Legitmix.

I don't understand why you think this doesn't scale. It scales as well as iTunes. The other objection about uncooperative license owners will disappear if there is no legal objection to the Legitmix procedure. Time will tell.

I think the real objection to Legitmix is the Legit part. Many people will not want to pay for the original tracks.

Yours
David McDonald
(interested party)
David McDonald

Permalink to Comment

2. Alan Wexelblat on June 4, 2012 10:20 AM writes...

@David: First, sorry for the problems with the server accepting comments. It's a known issue and I've poked our tech guy a couple times about it. What happens is that the comment does get posted but then the server lies and tells your Web browser it didn't.

Now as to the substance you raise: I understand that to listen to a Legitmix I'd have to buy all the source material. As I noted in December that's not a big deal for some standard A|B mash-ups, but for a DJ set that includes hundreds of samples it's a crazy-huge burden. Not to mention I'm just not keen on paying 99 cents or 3.99 for every 3-note sample. The price tag on your average DJ set would be astronomical.

If Legitmix's solution to everything else is 'we don't handle it' then that's good for you. I can see why you'd do that. But it leaves you unable to handle a vast chunk (maybe the majority) of remixing.

To say that it doesn't scale is to say that if it takes X amount of time for a mixer/DJ to clear her samples, and N people want to listen to it, by transferring the cost and time off the mixer and onto the listeners you've increased the time and cost by X*N. The analogy "it scales as well as iTunes" misses the point. ITunes isn't transferring a burden onto anyone. In iTunes I want X, buy X, and pay for X whereupon X starts playing. In Legitmix, I want X, buy not-X, pay for A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc etc etc and eventually might get to listen to X.

Just saying "other objection about uncooperative license owners will disappear" ignores history. Look how long it took iTunes to get the Beatles to license. See just for one very public example, Sita Sings the Blues and the multi-year licensing snarl that encountered. Or look how much work the BBC had to do in order to track down and find license-holders for its own archives. Copyright licensing works great when everyone is alive and active and stuff is modern. As soon as you step outside those bounds, life gets complicated very quickly. You may think everyone will just agree and objections will disappear, but that's not the lesson history teaches.

Permalink to Comment

3. John von Seggern on July 4, 2012 2:10 PM writes...

I looked back at the Legitmix site and I stand corrected, they do intend it to be used for DJ sets as well. This would not necessarily be a prohibitive cost however, just the cost of whatever tracks were included in the hourlong DJ set. Of course it might cost more for some artists than others, but we should assume here that the DJ is mixing released tracks which themselves do not include any extra uncleared samples...

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