This section contains some useful Web sites to further your knowledge of legal issues regarding online audio. These issues
the online transfer and "fair use" of music have not yet been fully codified. One of the side benefits to the Internet's anarchic way of working is that you'll see many con-flicting viewpoints. Nonetheless, the U.S. Copyright Office gets the last word, and new laws are
out on an ongoing basis.
Web Sites About Online Music Use
Following are a handful of worthy Web sites to start you on your
journey toward understanding the practically incomprehensible world where the
orderliness of copyright law and the sentient chaos of the Internet warily cohabitate:
United States Copyright Office (The Library of Congress)—
http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright. "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (U.S. Constitution; Article 1, Section 8). The final word.
Music Law Offices of Michael P. McCready—
www.music-law.com. This site contains a practical (independent) series of
, definitions, and how-to's.
ASCAP—Music and Money—
www.ascap.com/musicbiz/money-intro.html. A readable overview (in their own words) on how the whole music publishing system operates can be found here.
Big Myths about Copyright Explained—
www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html. This site is a somewhat
Q&A about online music use. Relevant subjects are covered.
Final Joint Version of H.R. 2281—
www.eff.org/ip/DMCA/hr2281_dmca_law_19981020_pl105-304.html. The full text of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) can be found here. The DMCA was the first major U.S. governmental foray into online copyright protection.
Industry Trade Groups
Here you'll find the official online presences for organizations that represent key building blocks of the music industry edifice. It's best to interpret the information on these sites with a grain of salt. They don't really know what's happening with the current climate of Internet audio any more than
else, although they might try to convince you
. Should you be a dues-paying member of any of these organizations, make sure you make your
known to them. They are ostensibly representing you in their expensive lobbying efforts.
The Recording Industry Association of America—
www.riaa.org.The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade
that represents the major label music business.
The National Music Publishers Association—
www.nmpa.org. The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) is a clearinghouse for acquiring the permissions (in the form of "licenses") to use other people's music online (and everywhere else).
The Harry Fox Agency—
www.nmpa.org/hfa.html. The Harry Fox Agency (HFA) Web page is useful for obtaining licensing. The HFA pages are housed at the National Music Publishers Association.
National Association of Broadcasters—
www.nab.org. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a full-service trade association that promotes and protects the interests of corporate-owned radio and television broadcasters in the United States and around the world. Their site contains a lot of information separate from the Internet, so narrow things down by using their search feature on the word "Internet."
The principal purpose of collection societies is to make sure that users who play
music in public areas, such as the Internet, pay fees. These organizations offer a large online presence, and some have useful explanations about current copyright law.
The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)—
www.ascap.com. The largest music-publishing collection society. Many big-
recording stars are
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)—
www.bmi.com. The second largest music-publishing collection society. Most of the rest of the big-name stars are members.
SESAC (formerly The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)—
www.sesac.com. A collection society that is noteworthy for its recent decision to actually have a Web site.
www.bugmusic.com. A scrappy independent with a long history of egalitarian royalty distribution.
MP3 Licensing and LAME
Although MP3 is an ISO standard, both Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and Thomson multimedia own patent rights surrounding the MP3 technology. These rights enable them to collect licensing fees (see www.mp3licensing.com) from anyone who makes use of that technology.
The majority of MP3 players and encoders are packaged with the Fraunhofer or LAME encoding engine, paying the appropriate licensing for each copy distributed. However, there is an interesting legal loophole that
source advocates have taken with the LAME software.
LAME is officially distributed in source-code form only, and therefore is not subject to license fees that are attached to the actual use of the technology. Individuals are free to download and compile the source
, but then likely will owe MP3 license fees for any use of the technology. Other organizations provide pre-compiled versions of the LAME software on their site, with the caveat that you need to research the legal
The www.mp3licensing.com Web site states that they don't issue licenses for individual users, so if you choose to use LAME, we recommend that you contact them inquiring what the appropriate process is to pay for your single private use, and offer to send in money. A company that sells MP3 software can expect to pay between $2.50 and $5.00 for each unit, so if they do decide to grant individual licenses, the cost should be affordable.
Although Fraunhofer and Thomson multimedia are
to track you down and sue you if you use an unlicensed version of LAME (or any other MP3) encoding engine, you need to be aware that you would likely be breaking the law.
Additional information is available from:
This site is the official Web site for the LAME Project. In particular, www.mp3dev.org/mp3/links.html#patents and the end of www.mp3dev.org/mp3/tech-FAQ.txt contain information pertaining to the patent rights.
This site allows you to download pre-compiled versions of the LAME encoding engine.
MP3 and MP3PRO patent and software licensing information.