Soulseek is one the greatest music sharing communities that most of the world has never heard of. Covering all genres, Soulseek is an active network specializing in electronic music, where many of the members are musicians themselves. The music industry, however, sees the filesharing application as a threat, and will go after Soulseek in court.
Last week we reported that French record labels were going after four file-sharing applications, including Limewire and the BitTorrent client Vuze. Now, just days later, two other French organizations are to continue this crackdown and sue Soulseek.
SACEM, the French association for music producers and SCPP, which represents record labels including Universal, EMI, BMG, Warner have filed a complaint against the filesharing application.
The industry bodies argue that Soulseek, an application created by former Napster programmer Nir Arbel, is designed to permit unauthorized access to copyrighted works. According to a French law adopted in 2006, distributing such software is an offense that can lead to a 3 year jail sentence, as well as a fine up to 300,000 euros.
While Soulseek can be used to share any type of file, it is almost exclusively used to share music. Soulseek has a multitude of sub-communities, each dedicated to their chosen musical genres. The members can be incredibly passionate and many of them are experts in their field. Although mainstream music is available, the majority of the files shared on the network are underground independent music.
On the Soulseek website, it is clearly stated that the intention of their application is not to infringe copyright. Instead, it aims “to help unsigned and/or independent artists find a place in the ever-growing music industry, in a place where discussion and the creation of music can take place.”
Similar to other music sharing communities such as the BitTorrent sites What.cd and Waffles.fm, many members are artists themselves, who share their music freely. True to this spirit, members of the Soulseek community founded Soulseek Records (or SLSK Records), a non-profit netlabel where artists publish their music for free, under a Creative Commons license.
Instead of supporting this creative platform, the French music industry continues its witch-hunt, effectively killing their own business. If they are successful, this case, or the lawsuits against the other four p2p clients, will undoubtedly impact other filesharing applications.