Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a weekly column about the future of technology, multimedia, and
digital entertainment. Today's Switched On is the second part of a two week
column on la la:
When I wrote about Peerflix last July, I speculated that creating the same kind of service for compact discs would create a "slow-man's KaZaa," One of the most interesting debates I've had with la la's management team regards whether the company "induces" piracy, an offense that convinced the Supreme Court to vote unanimously against Grokster. Certainly, on the surface, la la is doing everything by the book. While one could argue that the company will benefit from piracy, at least as it gains scale, it actively discourages piracy and is putting in place some precautions to help prevent against it.
For example, there is a "cooling off" period between when one acquires a CD and when one can offer it for trading, and la la will act against anyone who sells a burned copy of a CD. Together, these measures won't do much to stop even casual infringers; and it is naïve to think that traded CDs won't be ripped. The only question is to what extent. Regardless, la la says it has more in store to steer people down the right path.
In addition, la la is different than Grokster in two important ways. First, unlike with digital media, selling CDs – somewhat to the chagrin of the labels -- is still protected under the first-sale doctrine that enables consumers to part with their shiny discs at the local used record shop. La la is simply enabling the same kinds of transactions that have been going on at eBay and its subsidiary half.com for years. It just accelerates the process by making it ridiculously simple to offer a CD for trade.