SeeqPod Suit Thoughts

By Richard Menta 2/11/08

Back at the beginning of the decade, when the major music labels were suing the original Napster into oblivion, I found it curious that the big record companies thought the elimination of Napster would make file sharing go away. That's because Napster's concept of users sharing files was an easy one to copy. Not only copied, but improved upon as the likes of Gnutella, BitTorrent and Ares bear witness.

This is why Warner Music Group's recent lawsuit against SeeqPod seems equally futile. For those who are not familiar with Seeqpod, it is nothing more than a specified search engine, which scours the Internet for posted music files. It then presents the files you search for in a Web interface that also serves as a track list and music player. Think Google with a simplified Winamp front and you have the idea. SeeqPod doesn't post any music on the Net, it just plays files that anyone can also find (and download) through Google and Yahoo. Eliminating SeeqPod does not make those music files go away.

The DMCA's safe harbor clause theoretically protects the search engines here. With billions of dollars in the bank Google and Yahoo are hardly the companies Warner Music want to go against in court to challenge the limits of this clause. Clouding the issue is the fact that there is a lot of music posted online legally by the artists themselves for exposure, including many major label artists. This gives SeeqPod and all search engines in general a non-infinging use that arguably benefits record labels. Still, a judge will have to weed out what is acceptable activity and what is not.

The legality of SeeqPod aside, the suit ultimately suffers from the same weakness as the Napster suit. The SeeqPod concept is an easy one to copy. Closing SeeqPod could only speed the emergence of clones, many overseas and away from US jurisdiction.

At best, Warner's suit only serves as an advertisement for the SeeqPod concept, a side-effect we first saw benefit Napster during its hey day.

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