November 8, 2004 4:00 AM PST

Music sharing that's free and legal

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listen for free. In the future, Mercora may charge subscription fees for some services, said Sampath, who became a noted name in the tech industry years ago by founding the antivirus company McAfee.

What happens if listeners download broadcast music? Technically, if the legally broadcast song is for personal use only, the listener does not violate copyright law. "It's like a tape recorder," Sampath said.

If the downloader tries to sell a track or transfer it to another person, it's illegal. In future, improvements in digital rights management technology should begin to curb the ability of listeners to do this. Mercora also inserts technology into its client software to try to control the practice.

Apple has wrestled with the problem as well, issuing a series of upgrades to its iTunes software designed to disable free downloads such as MyTunes. These programs enable users to make copies of music streamed using iTunes' playlist-sharing feature.

"Traditionally, radio generated 95 percent of new music sales, and digital radio is taking that same space."
--Zack Zalon, president, Virgin Digital

Legal or not, Mercora's service most likely will draw the scrutiny of the music industry. The Recording Industry Association of America has already raised concerns about a PC radio receiver marketed by XM Satellite Radio, which enabled consumers to download broadcasted songs onto a computer when used with a third-party software application. XM subsequently pulled the device.

The RIAA has also fought, albeit often unsuccessfully, against peer-to-peer sites where people download songs. An RIAA representative had no comment on the Mercora service.

While the potential popularity of Mercora could dent music sales, Sampath predicts that won't be the case. Not all 10 million tracks on its network are likely to stream at the same time. The ephemeral nature of radio makes it difficult to be sure that a particular song will be playing the moment a listener wants to hear it.

For now, the best Mercora listeners can do is tap into a genre or particular artist on demand. Over time, a larger network and improved search tools should let people pinpoint musical demands.

The concept for the music service owes its heritage, in part, to the dreary state of corporate-owned radio, Sampath said. Salsa and reggae account for 21 percent of record sales, for example--but good luck finding them on the radio.

"You can listen to Clear Channel in Santa Cruz, and it's the same Clear Channel in New York, and it's crap," he said.

Sampath had his own epiphany when he logged on to find music from one of his favorite acts, early-1970s medieval rockers Jethro Tull. He found eight broadcasters with Tull selections. (On the network, Sampath is living in the past. Seventy percent of Mercora's listener/broadcasters say they were born in 1979 or later.)

Legal sharing of personal playlists through radiolike features could set up a new long-term battleground between the record industry and consumers. But backers say they could also be used to create promotional opportunities for artists and record labels.

Networks promoted by Mercora or competitors like Live365 will likely become significant tastemakers for the music industry by providing a forum for public opinion, some music executives predict.

"Traditionally, radio generated 95 percent of new music sales, and digital radio is taking that same space," said Zack Zalon, president of Virgin Digital. "It takes six to eight listens for a song to become a hit in a consumer's ears."

CNET News.com's John Borland contributed to this report.

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9 comments

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Mercora is Amazing!
I am a long time & loyal member of Mercora. Not only is Mercora about sharing music but it's about community and it has one of the best if not THE BEST online community on anywhere. The staff are involved with the community and make an amazing effort to listen to everyones oppinions and act on them for the betterment of Mercora. The program itself though still in Beta testing is simply amazing, easy to use, free but most of all FUN!

This article was a great read and did a great job of explaing the options and what is around the corner and Mercora is it!

Stec
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Will not be free forever... What about Sat radio etc?
They have to pay license fees, so I imagine once they are past the "startup" phase they will start to charge users. But what will the market bear? We already have 2 Audio Sat companies so eager for revenue that they are slasing price everythwere. For $12.95 <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sirius.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.sirius.com</a> you can get sat radio and steaming udio to your desktop for free (XM charges more) Or You can pay $499 lifetime fee for it. I dont own equipment or stock in the company... Just wondering how far it will go when it comes down to business.
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some services may not be free
There may be certian thigns that are not free. For instance Mercora currently provides you not only with streaming audio, but video, Among a host of other features... The music will always be free. But i dont mind charging extra for the streaming video content... or maybe adding in a download service much akin to itunes.
Posted by dfxshadow (2 comments )
Link Flag
Get up to speed download.com!
And another thing!

Get up to speed guys! Start offering G2, G1, and Edonkey Hash links to download and hash codes to compare final files besides just the http links.
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mercora is awesome! Indeed.
I must agree with Stec, I have been around mercora for quite some time.. Stec, Method, Sauce, Atri, Hell just about all of the developers, have always stayed in touch and listened to our feedback, Stec and myself have contributed alot to the overal outlook of mercora, How many programs listen to the users like this. While were not officially part of the team. We are part of the family.. Long Live MERCORA!!!
Posted by dfxshadow (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
outlook of mercora
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/plymouth_prowler_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/plymouth_prowler_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
Replay Music does this for Streaming Music
You can do this with "traditional" internet radio stations like Yahoo Launch, using Replay Music, and it's 100% legal, too.

Check out www.replay-music.com to see how it works.
Posted by applian (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Paradise for the Music Lovers
I think that it will be the paradise to all the music lovers, and i'm one of their. I can't work without music, specially hip-hop, r&#38;b and rock music. When this project be real, we'll see a new age for the digital music, because it will be the solution to all the music lovers that want to listen your favorite songs for free, without braking the laws. Congratulations to this experts, because they're ready to write a new pharagraph in the digital music history, and for us, the music lovers, they'll be our heroes...
Sorry about my english, but i'm latin, i'm from Guatemala City, my name is Roberto Mejía, Webmaster and Multimedia Designer. See you in the future CNet readers!
Posted by robertomejia (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Tunefeed free music sharing
Tunefeed.com is a free music sharing system. It?s similar to Mercora, but without the download. Tunefeed.com is focussed on friend recommendations and are also licensed by the recording industry. Custom playlists and search facilities enable you to find all sorts of new stuff. Tunefeed.com is fully legal free music sharing.
Posted by Tunefeed (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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