[advocacy] Music Online Competition Act Ramifications??

Matt and Karin Lawson lawson08 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 17 23:24:08 PST 2001

Forgive the length; I do believe this touches on several relevant

For more than a year, I've had a fledgling site up for independent,
unsigned Christian bands to place their music (ogg) where it's
downloadable for a fee they specify, or free (their choice).  What makes
this possible is that unsigned artists are able to license their music

Up until now, the record labels have had an unbreakable grip on the
*sound recording* copyrights of the music (the *musical work* copyrights
can supposedly be licensed through Harry Fox, although I'm not convinced
of their eagerness to cooperate with ANY sort of Internet distribution)

The Holy Grail of licensing would be mandatory statutory licensing for
sound recordings also.  Without a law, the record companies will NEVER
allow it.  I get a constant barrage of question from my users who can't
understand why Michael W. Smith music isn't on the site...

Enter the Music Online Competition Act.  Although most references to it
talk about 'webcasting', I believe it also applies to selling downloads
('Digital Phonorecord Deliveries').  Is this what I've been waiting
for?  Will it actually allow distribution of 'big name' recordings,
finally?  Perhaps someone who's better at legalese can explain whether
this will be useful to selling downloads of signed bands.

Assuming that this act, or a similar one, finally becomes law, there is
one major thorn that remains.  There is a provision in there that says,
basically, "The record companies can require that any downloads be
protected by copyprotection/DRM software".  Aaarrrggghhhh.  So close and
yet so far.

Someone in another thread was saying that lack of copy protection would
be a limiting factor to Vorbis's adoption, and here is where I agree.
Even if I DO finally get the licensing I wanted, I'll be stopped just
short of distribution big-name Ogg files because it doesn't have copy
protection in it.

Has there been any effort/interest in developing some sort of 'wrapper'
for Ogg files that would satisfy this requirement?  And who will decide
if a given copy-protection scheme is adequate?  No doubt Microsoft and
Real will be able to buy their way in (the next version of Windows will
have Microsoft's version built in - I'm not kidding). A sloppy, 'sham'
wrapper for Ogg would surely not be tolerated; it would have to be a
system that was at least as well respected as the others.

Now, don't misunderstand, I know that ANY kind of so-called copy
protection will be totally useless. (I wouldn't be surprised if people
had Sonique or Winamp plug-ins that would strip that stuff right off,
the first time you play the song - not that I'm advocating such a thing
mind you.)  But what you and I know doesn't matter.  It only matters
that I'm able to jump through the hoops and have an 'acceptable' system
that will allow me operate without getting sued.

Unless some kind of copy-protection is available (optionally) to Ogg
files, you will never see big-name music available legally.  And I think
you need to have it available legally in order for a site to achieve and
maintain visibility on the web without being sued out of business.

Comments?  Do I read the MOCA correctly?  Will we be able to exploit it?

Thanks for your time.

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