The Big Beat?

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The Big Beat?

MIT recently announced a new campus music system called LAMP they say is perfectly legal and doesn’t pay the RIAA a dime.

I looked into this, and yes, they are right. It is perfectly legal.

Is this some great act of legal genius, like more than a few dim bulbs commenting on LAMP in the media would have you believe? Absolutely not. It works on the same general principle as (regular) radio stations and jukeboxes.

Under U.S. law, generally, record companies get paid only for the recordings themselves. They/RIAA do not get paid for the performance of such recordings. Other organizations get paid for that (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC). This is nothing new; this division has been around for more than a few decades.

If you have one of the more elaborate cable TV packages, odds are you have a number of music channels. That’s all this is. MIT has sixteen music channels in its cable TV network.

The only difference between it and the music channels provided by a regular cable company is that students at MIT get to play DJ. A little. Very little.

A Two Week Wait…

A Two-Week Wait

If you want to play a song over MIT’s network, you have to wait your turn to get access to one of the sixteen channels (which are also accessible to everyone else at MIT listening). Then you get to play DJ for up to eighty minutes, and anyone listening will know you’re the DJ (which could be a mixed blessing if you like, say, porn soundtracks. :)).

If you just want to hear a single song twenty seven times in a row, or rewind a song, say fifty times, to hear the part of the song you like, you can do that, too, though the price you’ll pay in social ostracism will far exceed the RIAA tax. 🙂

This may sound good until you realize that there are sixteen channels for about 10,000 students. Assuming half of them use this, and each person takes eighty minutes, round the clock, you get to hear your songs about once every two weeks.

Can’t you just save the songs you like from the system? No.

Could MIT add more channels? Yes, they could, but how many can they realistically add? Dozens, sure, maybe hundreds, but five or ten thousand? Might be some technical limitations there.

Even assuming you could, adding an additional channel apparently costs a few hundred dollars. If you’re talking about 5,000-10,000 channels, you’re talking about a few million dollars, and no doubt an increase in the student activity fee.

This system also takes advantage of blanket licenses for universities. It is very likely that universities adapting such a system will find out that ASCAP, BMI and SESAC will ask for quite a bit more money when the annual contract gets renewed.

Should universities decide to provide one-on-one music channels, that’s something else the RIAA will seek legislation on.

In all likelihood, some universities will adapt this system, and those that do probably will provide, say, a hundred channels. That will mean lots of campus radio, and little more than that.

If that floats people’s boats, great, but it’s hardly revolutionary or an RIAA-killer.


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