If you are on Facebook you know that music applications are by far some of the most popular 3rd party apps across the network. The poster child for this is iLike who have basically doubled their membership base within the span of about a week after they rolled out their FB app. Also, Numair Faraz's "Audio" application currently can be found on over a half million profiles. The application is little more than a flash player that you give an MP3 url. As more people find and add URLs to free-range MP3s, the larger the index becomes so that others don't have to forage so hard.... you can stumble across a song that someone else has already found and just add it to your profile. There has been no exchange of media assets, just a bookmark. In one recent conversation John Parres captured the issue very succinctly...
I'm not hosting it. Numair's not hosting it. And Facebook is not hosting it. Butgo ahead and click the play button. It will point you to the MP3 file right over.... THERE>
Am I breaking any laws by publishing a search result? Are Numair and the Facebookers breaking any laws collaborating to build an index of publicly knowable URLs?
I, of course, am no lawyer - and don't have a clue whether/how the recording industry will look to stem this tide. But what I do know is that there is a huge trend of new services going this route... Streampad, grabb.it, Project Playlist, Webjay (although Yahoo will shut down this month), MP3Realm. Hell, I can just as easily use Google to find "free-range MP3s", build a XSPF playlist and drop a flash player into my blog. Unlike imeem and others that host the files, these (to your point) are just a bunch of pointers to locations all over the web.
If this approach gets locked down, then others will pop up. It would be just as easy (if not easier) to create an audio experience out of the freely available (and often times licensed) music videos on YouTube and others. Personally, I am not a music video watcher, but I would gladly leverage the audio track from them to build a free, legal (?), personalized playlist (or is it a station?). Who is liable then?
The damn has more leaks than the industry has fingers. Time to stop wasting time trying to plug the holes - and instead spend that energy on developing ways to leverage the power of the current.