being sued by EMI, asks users for help

mp3tunes_logo Seems nobody wants to let Michael Robertson help people back up their music online. First it was which, as you may or may not remember, was a very cool service where you placed one of your CDs in your computer’s CD-ROM drive, the software scanned the disc, and a few seconds later all the tracks from that disc were available for you to stream from any internet-connected computer in the world. That was back in 2000, too — light years ahead of its time.

Robertson went on to run, a similar service that allows you to synchronize all of your music tracks up to the servers and then re-synch them down to your computer and/or stream them via iTunes, Windows Media Player, WinAMP and a bunch of other software players.

Recently, EMI has gone after, even though the service consists of copying music files “to a personal, password protected, secure music locker” where “they can only be accessed with the required username and password,” according to a blog post by Robertson back in January. The full case is available here as a PDF.

Here’s the entire letter I got in my inbox, which asks MP3tunes users to help out by upgrading their accounts to help pay for legal fees and/or post about this case on their blogs. I’ve chosen to do the second one and I’ll think about the first one.

Dear MP3tunes Customer,

Let me start by saying that as the CEO of MP3tunes I appreciate your support over the last few years. Your suggestions and patience have helped us build the Locker system we have today. We just launched AutoSync that makes managing your music collection easier than ever.

As you may be aware, the major record label EMI has sued MP3tunes, claiming our service is illegal. You can read about the case here. Much is at stake — if you don’t have the right to store your own music online then you won’t have the right to store ebooks, videos and other digital products as well. The notion of ownership in the 21st century will evaporate. The idea of ownership is important to me and I want to make sure I have that right and my kids do too.

I would like to ask for your assistance in our battle for personal music ownership. We need your help because we are a small, 15-person company battling an international giant. They would like to make us spend all of our money paying legal bills. Here’s what you can do to help:

1) Please upgrade to a Premium account. This week MP3tunes is launching 3 service levels. I hope you will consider signing up for one of the paid levels. This will not only help us pay for the costs of our service (machines, storage and bandwidth) but a portion will go to cover our legal costs in our case with EMI.

2) If you have a chance to talk publicly about our cause on your blog, with friends, reporters or even EMI personnel please do so. MP3tunes is working hard to design a secure personal music service. We don’t promote sharing of music in any manner. We want people to legally acquire their music. But once they do, we think it’s important that you be able to use it how you want for your personal use. The AmazonMP3 store says: “You may copy, store, transfer and burn the Digital Content only for your personal, non-commercial, entertainment use.” and this is what MP3tunes allows you to do.

You have my commitment that I’ll continually battle for your right to store your music online and listen to it anywhere on any device. I hope you’ll consider helping MP3tunes in our battle. Thanks.

Michael Robertson