With more than 5000 stations and 260 genres of music, Live365 may well be the most diverse streaming audio platform on the planet. Live365 offers a platform where folks who want to start their own radio station can do that for an affordable monthly fee that’s all inclusive – streaming, programming tools, royalty coverage, etc.. Monthly costs range from under $5 bucks a month for a station that you and just a few friends can listen to, to $99 or more for larger reach and even the ability to run commercials.
They’ve recently upped their game by offering a new app called Studio365 that lets their broadcasters to manage their radio stations from their mobile device. Among other things, it features a nifty tool called ShoutOut that enables the capability to go “live” on the microphone whenever and wherever a broadcaster may choose. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the Studio365 mobile app lets users create, preview, and manage Shout Out voice messages, set and update station ID and pre-roll messages, update station profiles including title, image, description, review current and historical station listening stats, as well as monitor their station.
Live365 has been around a long time, since 1999, enabling the long tail of Internet radio, with more than 5000 individual stations, including some nifty curated stations by the likes of Carlos Santana, Pat Metheny and Jethro Tull. They’re one of the true pioneers in the space. CEO Hong Lau will join a panel discussion on International Trends in Online Audio at RAIN Summit West, which is just a couple of weeks away – so if you haven’t registered, I hope you will. More info here…
This is a guest post by Angus MacDonald, General Counsel at Live365, Inc. regarding a recent court ruling that could have significant impact on the streaming audio industry.
Cloud-based music services can heave a sigh of relief. MP3tunes, the cloud locker service founded by Michael Robertson, scored a partial victory in the copyright litigation brought by EMI. In his August 22nd decision, Judge William H. Pauley III agreed with MP3tunes that the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protected it against many of EMI’s infringement claims. The decision represents a significant victory for other cloud-based music services – such as Google, Amazon and Dropbox – who should have renewed confidence in operating their cloud services without a license. Though the decision sets a beneficial precedent for cloud-based music services generally, it is a mixed result for MP3tunes as the court also found both the company and Robertson liable for copyright infringement on some of EMI’s claims.
MP3tunes allows its users to store music files in personal online storage lockers and then to play those stored files from Internet-connected devices. MP3tunes also operates a second website, Sideload.com, that permits users to search for free song files on third-party websites and then “sideload” those songs, which would be saved to users’ lockers. EMI, along with fourteen record labels and music publishers, filed this lawsuit in November 2007, claiming a laundry list of violations of copyright and unfair competition laws.
Yesterday’s decision turned largely on whether MP3tunes is eligible for the DMCA’s “safe harbor” protection, which shields qualifying online service providers from copyright infringement for content uploaded (or “sideloaded”) by their users. To qualify, online services must follow the rules set forth in the DMCA, including expeditiously responding to takedown notices from copyright holders. The court found that MP3tunes – for the most part – complied with all of the DMCA rules and, therefore, was largely immunized from liability.
However, MP3tunes and Robertson did not completely avoid liability. Shortly before filing this lawsuit, EMI sent MP3tunes three takedown notices that identified specific song titles and URLs to be removed. Although MP3tunes disabled the links to those songs, thereby preventing more users from downloading them, it did not actually delete the songs from the lockers of its users who sideloaded the songs from those links. (MP3tunes claimed that it would be subject to lawsuits by its users if it removed property from users’ lockers.) The court held that MP3tunes did not do enough when it failed to remove the sideloaded songs from users’ lockers.
As for Robertson, the court ruled that Robertson was “directly liable for the songs he personally sideloaded from unauthorized sites.” This finding is somewhat confusing based on the court’s earlier statements that “there is no evidence that MP3tunes executives or employees had firsthand knowledge that websites linked on Sideload.com were unauthorized.”
There are several key-takeaways from this important decision. First, this decision provides significant legal cover for cloud-based music locker services to continue providing their storage and play-back services without obtaining a license. (When Amazon and Google launched their respective cloud services earlier this year, the record labels were “upset” and clamored that licenses were necessary.) While the decision does not specifically address the legality of MP3tunes’ music locker business model or other similar cloud-based services, it is clear that MP3tunes would have completely escaped copyright liability if it had removed the specific songs listed in EMI’s takedown notices from its users’ lockers.
Second, the ruling re-affirms the DMCA as a powerful shield against copyright holders, who claimed that the DMCA did not apply to MP3tunes. As the court observed, “the DMCA does not place the burden of investigation on the Internet service provider.”
Third, the decision appears to let MP3tunes off-the-hook for its storage process, which eliminated duplications of the exact same music files so that only one copy of a particular file would be stored on its servers and then streamed to its users. Google and Amazon took a different approach when they launched their respective services as both companies require every user to upload every song, regardless of whether other users had uploaded identical files, thereby resulting in an enormous consumption of bandwidth and storage space.
Finally, the ruling indicated that playing back songs stored in a user’s digital locker was not a “public performance” requiring a license, contrary to EMI’s contentions. This holding was a natural extension of an earlier decision – commonly referred to as the Cablevision case, which determined that a public performance license was not required for the play-back of television shows that were stored on a remote DVR at the direction of Cablevision’s subscribers.
The EMI v. MP3tunes case, however, is not over. While the decision disposes of some claims, several issues (such as damages) still will need to be tried – unless there is a settlement. The range of damages is $750 is $30,000 per work infringed, and can increase to $150,000 per infringed work if there is a finding of “willful” infringement. Because there are at least 350 works at issue, the damages could exceed $50 million dollars, though that result is highly unlikely. And, barring a settlement, one can certainly expect an appeal of this decision. But, in the meantime, the decision provides some important clarity and leverage for cloud-based storage services that may have been considering the daunting process of negotiating with labels (and other copyright holders) for the right to store and play-back their users’ lawfully-obtained digital files.
A copy of the decision is available here:
Your comments are welcome below. You can reach Angus MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SoundExchange, the performance rights organization that collects royalties on the behalf of sound recording copyright owners, has exercised its right under the Digital Media Copyright Act to request that access to a webcasting platform be disabled. SWCast is a platform that has offered a streaming solution to smaller webcasters that may not have the funds to develop their own streaming platform. “DJ your own web radio station.” says the site, offering “clearance to legally broadcast your music” along with technical support, streaming audio software and other tools.
According to SoundExchange, SWCast has failed to make any payments for royalties incurred after 2005 and has not filed reports necessary for compliance, while collecting monthly fees from webcasters for those payments and reporting services.
Randall Krause, President and CEO of SWCast, in a letter posted on his website, does not deny the claims and says he is “committed to ensuring that we reconcile any and all compliancy concerns of SoundExchange going forward.”
Meanwhile the more than 100 webcasters that were streaming with SWCast are left looking for another streaming partner – not to mention the monies they were paying thinking they were covering their royalties. Jason Stoddard, Live365’s Director of Broadcasting Sales, says there’s always room for them in their network. “While the disabling of SWCast is an unfortunate event for many webcasters, our ongoing dedication to complying with all royalty regulations means they still have a place to go.”
By everything I have read, the stations that were streaming with SWCast had no idea they were not compliant. While it seems that they were eclectic stations with smallish audiences, the betrayal of the stations and their listeners is not small at all. By all that I can see, SWCast represented that they covered all the licensing obligations for its stations. And SoundExchange hasn’t received payments for any period since 2005? All I can say is, what took SoundExchange so long?
Live365 has launched a new Internet radio service and website for women. Athena365 features a wide variety of female-friendly music including popular AC, Top40, and Pop/Rock Hits; New Age, Classical, and Jazz stations; and talk shows covering a variety of topics.
“The Athena365 Beta site brings together the best of Live365 stations, plus new targeted content packaged to address the needs and preferences of a very specific audience — digital moms,” says Heidi Elgaard, Marketing Director for Live365 and Athena365. “By narrowing our audience focus with this initiative, we have a unique opportunity to provide a richer and more personal online radio experience.”
Featured stations on the website’s homepage include Jill92.7, an AC station based in Los Angeles, B98 Country out of Missouri, and Harpo Radio, a talk radio platform owned by Oprah.
“Live365 has always catered to niche audiences, and Athena365 is an extension of that strategy.” says Elgaard. It’s a move that is bound to benefit ad revenues as well – Elgaard says Targetspot, who sells inventory on Live365, will sell the inventory on Athena365 as well. She says they’ll continue to work with banner networks also, along with plans to increase direct sales efforts for both Live365 and Athena365. The website also offers a premium subscription with fewer ads for $3.95 a month.
It’s a great idea to build out a branded Internet radio platform targeting women, and one that is perfectly suited to Live365. They’re already a site that aggregates stations, grouping them by demographics and rebranding them should benefit both audience and make it easier to attract ad dollars.
Live365, one of the world’s largest internet broadcasting networks is celebrating their ten year anniversary. That makes the service one of the oldest and most resilient out there. Live365 is a streaming broadcast network that enables anyone to easily start an Internet radio station. Their list of over 6,000 stations includes tiny webcasters programming to a few friends to stations programmed by famous personalities like Pat Metheny, and Carlos Santana, and includes both commercial and public radio stations.
To celebrate, they’re hosting an online video contest. Listeners and broadcasters can create a video, upload it to YouTube, and fill out the entry form by clicking the homepage banner or going directly to live365.com/video. Deadline for new entries is July 1st, 2010, and finalist videos will be featured on the new Live365.com website to be unveiled this summer.
Live365.com has been streaming continuously since 1999 and is one of the few Internet music companies to survive the dot-com collapse. More than one hundred stations have been with Live365 since the beginning and are also celebrating ten years online.
In the early days of Internet radio, they were a visible and vocal advocate for the industry. “Live365 was the first Internet radio station to launch a substantial Internet radio marketing campaign,” says Kurt Hanson, Publisher of RAIN: The Internet and Radio Newsletter. “Their Radio Revolution campaign was a highly visible campaign that helped kick start and raise awareness for Internet radio.”
Live 365’s a true pioneer company of the Internet radio space whose journey over the past ten years has not been easy. Hat’s off to Live365! I’m delighted that they’re ten years old and wish them enormous success…