via The New Yorker (web only):
Sacha Frere- Jones, September 26, 2008
If you are looking for a story that encapsulates all the short-sightedness, greed, and plain old dumbassery bringing down the music industry right now, I’ve got a candidate for you—Muxtape. Click on that link and you will read the whole story of the Web site, told by its founder, Justin. (No last names—the law is funny about names.) In short, the site offered you the ability to create a twelve-song mixtape which would stream from the Web. You uploaded your songs of choice, and then your playlist was rendered in enormous black Helvetica type on a white background. Clicking a title would cause it to play. Simple, and addictive. I made six or seven of them, and probably spent about forty hours in total on them. No regrets.
People took to the site and began sharing “muxtapes.” All these people! Loving and sharing music! The music was streaming, not downloadable, and it cost the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) and labels nothing. A free, promotional tool. Sounds like good news for an ailing industry, right? I mean, nobody using a muxtape was walking away with any digital assets. Muxtape was not a file-sharing service; in fact, playlists were eventually modified to include embedded links to Amazon, where you could buy the MP3 in question, if it was available.
Justin got many calls about Muxtape, not all of them sympathetic. He sought legal counsel:
I talked to a lot of very smart lawyers and other people whose opinions on the matter I respected, trying to gain a consensus for Muxtape’s legality. The only consensus seemed to be that there was no consensus. I had two dozen slightly different opinions that ran the gamut from “Muxtape is 100 per cent legal and you’re on solid ground,” to “Muxtape is a cesspool of piracy and I hope you’re ready for a hundred million dollar lawsuit and a stint at Rikers.”
You can imagine how this ends. Read his story in its entirety, and then maybe write me a different kind of list. (No prize, necessarily, beyond the rewards of thinking in public together.) Can you name ten good things the R.I.A.A. has done for music? Five? Three?