It's no secret that the record industry hates Seeqpod, a music site that lets users stream songs for free. Last year the company was sued by Warner Music Group (the outcome of the suit is still pending). Now, the company has just been slapped with a complaint from EMI. But the new complaint goes one step further, personally naming some of the Seeqpod executives, and in a move that may well raise the ire of countless developers, a developer named Ryan Sit who happened to tap into the Seeqpod API.
The legality of Seeqpod is murky. The company says that it doesn't store any songs, but instead streams them from countless music files littering sites across the web. In effect, it acts as a powerful music search engine with a media player built in. The record industry claims that this is still illegal, and the new EMI complaint goes as far as to say that Seeqpod actually does host some of these music files, at least temporarily (which would strike a major blow to Seeqpod's defense if proven true). In any case, Seeqpod is clearly on some shaky legal ground, so the new lawsuit doesn't come as a surprise.
What is surprising, and potentially very alarming, is the fact that Ryan Sit was named in the suit for running the one-man startup Favtape, which leverages the Seeqpod API to stream music. Sit has created a number of sites, including Swurl and FavThumbs. In short, he's a prolific developer who takes advantage of the APIs offered by many popular websites.
Favtape allows users to create playlists of their favorite songs, which are then streamed using the Seeqpod API. Favtape never hosts any of these files. At its core, it's essentially just a fancy front-end for Seeqpod. In my past coverage of Favtape, I've noted that the site would become virtually useless if Seeqpod ever got sued. But it never crossed my mind that the site itself, and the man who built it, would also be named in the case. For one, there are dozens of other sites that use the Seeqpod API to do exactly what Favtape does. Why was Favtape singled out? There's also the fact that – given the already murky laws surrounding Seeqpod – Favtape is yet one more degree removed from any possible transgressions.
If EMI does win, it would set a precedent that the usage of an API puts the developer at risk of a lawsuit should the service they're tapping into ever get sued. Such a decision would have huge ramifications for developers, who could become weary of using any service that could conceivably be considered illegal. It would stifle innovation. And frankly, it's ridiculous.
For more, check out this post by Michael Robertson.