Monday, December 12, 2005

With the recent appeals court decision against a music downloader's "I was only downloading to figure out what music to buy later" defense, the downloading community is running out of defenses....

Here's one that hasn't been used, at least not to my knowledge. It's accepted that people have the right to make copies for their friends and family, which means that I can make a copy of a CD (or of certain songs on the CD) to give to my sister, next-door neighbor and/or college fraternity brother.

But what is the definition of 'friend'. Is it limited to those people who have proven their friendship to one another, perhaps by bailing them out of jail or sharing season tickets to the Cubs? Or are more casual friendships covered under this definition... perhaps to the point where one could legally make a copy for someone they just met at a party... or online?

If a more broad definition of 'friend' is in play, then perhaps an on-line community, such as AOL (yeah, right) could serve to bring together people, 'introduce' them, let them become 'friends' who could then freely exchange songs over software the community maintained for the purpose of allowing it member 'friends' to exchange files.

And if the community charged a membership fee, such as the fees other on-line dating services charge, that could amount to quite a nice bit of change... as I'm sure that a lot of people would gladly pay $10 a month for the purpose of being friends with people who have an awful lot of songs in their libraries...

Perhaps, even if the more expansive definition of friend didn't hold up under challenge, there might be a market for an on-line community to set up something along the line of MCI's old "Friends and Family" program, where people who are truly friends could self-select and exchange songs from their respective libraries. After all, there ought not to be a legal difference as to the form my exchanging files with my friends take... if I can burn a copy of a CD on my PC and send it to my sister, I ought to be able to send her the file electronically as well.... and, given how many songs my sister has, I'd likely pay some money each month to get access to her files...

As I said, just thinking. Feel free to run with it.