Downloadable mp3 DJ Sets Legal?
August 25, 2007 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I've recently launched a website featuring weekly hour-long, downloadable "dj sets" - a few other obscure music fans and myself will mix together an hour of music and then offer the hour-long, mixed mp3 for free download on the site. I'm not selling advertising on the site, nor am I making any money off of it. Is this legal?
posted by ghastlyfop to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
No. Sorry.

I work for a college radio station, and even though we pay royalties we have trouble doing this sort of thing. Practically speaking, as long as you don't have much of an audience, no one will care (but watch out).
posted by phrontist at 7:38 AM on August 25, 2007

Phrontist is right. It's not legal. While it's unlikely it will cause any big problems, people have gotten busted for this sort of thing. In reality, as a "public" broadcast, you should be paying money to BMI, ASCAP et al to do this legally. The downloadble aspect of it just makes it less legal.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:42 AM on August 25, 2007

Think of it this way. If you put those sets on CDs and gave them away, that would not be legal. Making them available for download is basically the same thing. The Supreme Court's Betamax decision in 1984 ruled that home videotaping is "fair use" under the Copyright Act, but only for your own personal "time-shifting" purposes. Technically, giving a tape you recorded to your friend is illegal. The principles enunciated in this decision carry forward to all later technology right down to the iPod. So clearly, setting up a system in which material that you record for your own personal use is then distributed, widely, for download, whether or not you charge for it, violates the Copyright Act. Elements of the Napster and Grokster decisions on peer-to-peer sharing arrangements probably come into play as well.
posted by beagle at 7:56 AM on August 25, 2007

No. Take it offline before the RIAA sues you into oblivion.
posted by Merdryn at 8:20 AM on August 25, 2007

Don't kill it, password protect it and give the login only to the posters and the fans you know well.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 10:04 AM on August 25, 2007

This is absolutely not legal. You cannot distribute copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's permission. Fair use exceptions are very limited and simply being non-commercial is not sufficient, no exception period. There is no legal ambiguity about this.

This being said, there are tons of MP3 blogs out there that are for the moment getting away with giving recorded music they don't own away for free. Copyright is routinely violated right here on Metafilter. This type of thing is not particularly what the RIAA is looking for, not because they approve of it but because it is low level. But they could prosecute for it and hold you financially liable for every song you distribute. How risk-averse are you?
posted by nanojath at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2007

There's illegal and there's "illegal." Jaywalking is "illegal." This is "illegal."

What you'll get first is a Cease and Desist order, should anyone find out and care. If you don't honor that, you'll be sued for some abstract amount based on the whims of RIAA lawyers. In theory, they have to demonstrate actual losses based on your violation of their copyright— that people aren't buying something specifically because of you. Instead, they'll engage in barratry, and you can decide then if you want to settle or face endless filings.

(Site sounds neat— email me a link?)
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2007

This type of thing is not particularly what the RIAA is looking for, not because they approve of it but because it is low level.

Considering the audience of some mp3 blogs and, more importantly, the fact that record labels and bands routinely fill my inbox with all sorts of goodies (including mp3s and links to full album downloads) because I run a crappy mp3 blog myself, I'd say there are lots of people in the music industry who absolutely approve. Whether any of them are associated with the RIAA is, of course, another matter.

Practically speaking, the only time you'll get in any hot water is if a) you get really big; b) you feature lots of music from big artists with a vendetta against online piracy; or c) you feature a lot of pre-releases and leaked material. Even so, as mentioned above, it usually starts with a cease-and-desist letter and only escalates if you do nothing.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed; there are people who've been caught out by copyright holders pursuing particularly nasty forms of punishment in order to make a point. But the likelihood of you becoming that example is fairly small.
posted by chrominance at 10:35 AM on August 25, 2007

What about stations that make their shows available for streaming after the fact? Is there a distinction between streaming and straight downloading?
posted by Myself at 1:29 AM on August 27, 2007

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