Give music labels time and they'll sue their own grandmothers upon the sole premise that said grandmothers aren't buying enough of the labels' music. Now Universal Music Group, the largest label in the record industry, is proving this by suing Myspace, the News Corp-run social networking site. The label bases its lawsuit on the idea that the website "encourages, facilitates and participates in the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, distribution and public performance of music." The lawsuit put forward by the label would see the social networking site pay up to $150,000 for every single instance of copyright infringement found on the site, a fine that would easily reach astronomical heights in a very short time.
What this exactly means is unclear. Obviously, band-run Myspace profiles would not fall under copyright infringement, but what about users who then link to that song for use on their personal profile? In the end, the song links to the band-run profile, so is this classified as straight out copyright infringement or legal music distribution within the same network? The site is set up in such a way that people cannot add any song they wish to their personal profile – it has to already exist on the band-in-question's profile. Of course, there is the increasing issue of people creating band profile's simply as a means of uploading those songs they want, and in that regards, copyright infringement is clear. But for the average Joe?
There is also the issue of the implications that this could have on the site. Should Rupert Murdoch deem that Myspace is becoming a legal burden, it wouldn't be too hard to offload the site, or simply disband it altogether. What does that mean? Fourteen year olds everywhere have suddenly lost their only remaining form of inter-personal communication, having already evolved beyond the traditional and rather mundane verbal form. Teenagers everywhere return to SMSing, dreading the day when suddenly digital technology is redundant, and they have to communicate face-to-face.
Don't forget, also, that Myspace has of late been used by indie and mainstream bands far and wide as a marketing tool, a way for both established and potential fans to preview a song, a single, a B-side, or even a whole album. Just seen the latest episode of the O.C. and want to hear that one indie-pop song once again? Too bad, Myspace is gone, the latest victim in an increasing onslaught of Web 2.0 sites designed to expand the rights of the user, rather than create more ways for music labels to trap its own consumers.
Unfortunately, this is an inevitable action in a bid by music labels to ensure that the money keeps streaming out of wallets. Of course, they still have the might of Murdoch himself to compete against, but as much of a burden as Myspace appears to be, it has actually done the music industry some good. Rather than relying on Saturday morning video charts for music recommendations, the average consumer can now find for themselves whether a band is worth their hard-earned cash or not. In the continuous battle of industry vs. consumer, the end result is often unpredictable, since there are so many possible forces on it. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I hope Myspace comes out unscathed.