Justin Ouellette's Muxtape, a site which hosts online mixtapes, is on shaky legal ground — and not just over the way Ouellette left his former employer, IAC-owned video site Vimeo. Making a mixtape for personal use is clearly accepted; but posting it online, for everyone on the Internet to listen to? Unclear at best. Ouellette himself has hinted that he's worried about being sued. On Userscripts.org, a site where people post and discuss add-ons to the Firefox Web browser, Ouellette has been scolding programmers for creating tools that let Muxtape users download MP3 files directly from the site — even as he was claiming that he wasn't worried about copyright issues."Please remove this script, it can only contribute to getting the site shut down," Ouellette wrote in April on Userscripts.org. "As long as you can hear the music you can copy it, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to do the diligence of trying to stop casual downloading (one of the things that would hurt its long-term viability)," he wrote on another occasion. "I was naïve enough to think assholes like you wouldn't want to wreak a good thing, but I guess I was wrong," he concluded. He's been quieter since then, aside from suggesting the site would drop the popular MP3 format in an effort to stop downloaders. The scripters have kept up their efforts. Not that this cat-and-mouse game matters. The RIAA has wisely left Muxtape alone, avoiding an ugly publicity squabble over a site that has yet to show any commercial potential. If it does begin to show some financial success, then the music-industry lawyers will swoop in demanding money. People are swift to criticize the RIAA, which has made a number of boneheadedly unpopular moves. But what should we say about the naivete of entrepreneurs like Ouellette, who are hoping that battling Firefox script kiddies will somehow count in their favor when the record labels come knocking? Muxtape's lawyers might make a "safe harbor" argument under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — but that requires showing that Ouellette was unaware of copyright violations on the site. Hard to argue that, when he uses it himself.
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