LAMP Shut Down, MIT Chases Wrong Problem

Well, ‘temporarily suspended’ — as the announcement on LAMP says:

LAMP is Temporarily Suspended

MIT’s Library Access to Music service lets students listen to music over MIT’s analog cable television system. LAMP was designed to operate in full compliance with the law and to respect the rights of all copyright holders.

MIT has at all times sought to implement a legal music service for its students. We relied on Loudeye to provide us with authorized content and for Loudeye to facilitate and obtain the appropriate licenses. We have been working with Loudeye on obtaining content since October 2002 and Loudeye assured us on multiple occasions that the content they provided to us was prepared fully under authorization from the record labels and on behalf of the publishers.

The Boston Globe article, (MIT stops the music) tells a relatively industry-friendly story, while Slashdot sees RIAA conspiracy: MIT’s Music Net Shut Down Over License Issues. The LATimes article, Music Service at MIT Hits a Snag reinforces this notion:

Kelly Mullens, a spokeswoman for Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music Group, said, “It is unfortunate that MIT launched a service in an attempt to avoid paying recording artists, union musicians and record labels. Loudeye recognized that they had no right to deliver Universal’s music to the MIT service, and MIT acted responsibly by removing the music.”

Mullens said Universal looked forward to working out a solution with MIT.

A spokeswoman for the Harry Fox Agency, which represents music publishers, said her firm also hoped to resolve the dispute quickly. Neither Loudeye nor MIT has a license from Fox, she said.

At this point, I lean toward some RIAA pressure on Loudeye. It will be interesting to see just how much documentation of the assurances that LAMP cites in their announcement is on hand. At a minimum, there was something fraudulent in the $30,000 paid to buy the music from Loudey. But Loudeye can easily part with the money (and penalties) — Loudeye needs the RIAA to survive.

While the Slashdot discussion is the usual combination of interesting thought interspersed with uninformed drivel, this comment speaks to the real problem I see at MIT:

forget the loopholes (Score:5, Interesting)

by bonds (701580) on Saturday November 01, @07:31PM (#7368653)

We don’t need newer and more creative ways to sidestep our poorly conceived IP laws, we need new laws.

I for one would be grateful if places with clout, like MIT, would spend their resources advocating for better policy rather than engaging in legal contortions. If MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Princeton, Yale, NYU, etc. threw *serious* support behind good policy (like the Eldred act [eldred.cc], IMHO), the RIAA would find it much harder to have their way with congress. Admittedly, uniting these institutions of intellectual debate is much easier said than done, but they are uniquely equipped to put forth balanced proposals that address a broader social agenda than would ever emerge from an industry lobby. We could really use someone with the clout, resources, intelligence and neutrality of MIT to help write (and right) the rules of the game that are fair to *all* the stakeholders, not just the RIAA. [emphasis added]

What we are finding is that leaving the fox (the RIAA) to guard the hen-house (IP policy) is great for the fox and bad for everyone else.

Amen to that — but I’m afraid that MIT’s competition up the river at the Berkman Center are putting far more into this than MIT ever will. See, for example, this announcement and the accompanying Harvard press release.