Search as content delivery

Posted on January 30, 2008

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Warner music announced recently that it has filed a law suit against music search engine Seeqpod for all the usual copyright music industry wrongs.

The interesting thing in this case is that Seeqpod don’t host any of the music you get to find: all they do is provide a (rather nice) user interface on top of an mp3 search.

The law here isn’t the slightest bit clear. Already by providing particular strings to google you can get directory listings of mp3’s, so all Seeqpod are actually doing here is delivering a UI.

The interesting question seems to be that the precedent set by cases like this could determine how search engines are allowed to operate. One line of argument is that no one but the hosts of the content (you, me, anyone with mp3’s on our webspace) should be held responsible for the copyright infringement. That then puts a huge strain on the legal machine (hurrah!) because each case has to be dealt with individually.

Once the gateway providers to that content – in this case, the search engines – are held accountable, the game changes shape considerably.

Anyone who has spent any time on this blog knows where I come from on this: the music industry needs to accept that the landscape has changed considerably and embrace the fact that every single one of us has – with any home PC – the potential to copy material. If you show me one person who has never duplicated, ripped or ‘distributed’ (even to their mates) copyright material then I’ll show you a liar…

The ‘search as content delivery’ paradigm is hooked intimately into the fact that users now work with our content both “traditionally” – within the confines of our sites, but also via other means such as google images – users see and use our content but never come near our website.

The ramifications of this are far reaching and require us to ask questions about context, metrics, ‘success’, virality, marketing, and also, apparently, legality as well…

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