MySpace: Music piracy is a competing business model

Screen grab
MySpace's new music site.

MySpace launched its new music service Thursday morning. The site taps into millions of tunes from the four major record labels and allows users to buy the tracks or stream them free of charge.

The social network has long thrived as a hub for sharing music, but the new deal takes off the locks that usually come with mainstream digital songs and permits MySpace members to listen to entire tracks without spending a dime, then compile and share playlists of those free songs. Apple's iTunes store, on the other hand, only allows for 30-second clips.

One of the more interesting points to come out of MySpace’s unveiling is a quote from Steve Pearman, the site’s senior VP of product strategy:

"The goal is to make it as easy and compelling as stealing," he says on "If you give people something that's as easy as stealing and just as fun, that's the biggest defense against piracy."

This concept that online piracy should be viewed as a competing business model is one that – much like the new music service – is not original, but rarely made by anyone with a name as big as MySpace's.

The common line of argument says piracy is against the law (which, of course, it is) and should be snuffed out through enforcement, fines, and complicated software protections.

The last time I heard a major company make this point so clearly was in 2006, when Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney said:

"We understand now that piracy is a business model," said Sweeney, twice voted Hollywood's most powerful woman by the Hollywood Reporter. "It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do - through quality, price and availability. We we don't like the model but we realize it's competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward."
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