Over the years there have been quite a few starry-eyed companies who believe that they have the answer to online piracy, turning the millions who access unauthorized music online into a significant source of revenue for the recording industry.
The latest outfit set to attempt online musical alchemy are known as MooZar. The company was recently touting its wares at MIDEM and has been running very large, very expensive ads recently, both online and in print. So what miracle are they going to perform?
Imagine this scenario. You’ve downloaded your favorite artist’s latest track from a torrent site, or maybe even a blog or Rapidshare. Half way through listening you suddenly became overcome with guilt – the artist, the label, the copyright holders and everyone else involved in making the track deserve to get paid and you have no way of making this happen.
But then you remember MooZar, the site which enables illicit downloaders to compensate the artists and copyright holders. You head over to the site after the February 26th launch date, admit that you’re a pirate, pay some money into your account, MooZar sends the artist/rights holder some money and all is forgiven. Simple.
MooZar seems to be trying to set itself up as some sort of intermediary between creators and downloaders, so in order for this system to work the downloaders/artists/rights holders in question have to create their own MooZar account in advance to be able to send or receive payments.
The amount people can pay is open, but the default minimum suggested payment/donation is set at 1 euro per track, of which MooZar says it will take a 20% handling fee before passing the rest on. Simple thus far, but now the complexity and inevitable politics kick in.
While this type of service might be of interest for artists not on the big labels or those without a deal at all, imagine for a moment those who are already selling their music online, for example on iTunes. If the minimum donation amount is set higher or equal to that on iTunes it wouldn’t make much sense for a downloader to use MooZar. If the price was set to a lower price than iTunes, it could have the effect of driving people away from iTunes and onto file-sharing networks – not that good for Apple.
As the operators of the failing Qtrax ad-supported service might admit privately, the secret of success in this area lies in getting the big labels – EMI, SonyBMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group – on board and supporting the service. While it seems unlikely that these companies will warm to another middle man taking 20% of ‘their’ money, it is even more difficult to imagine a situation where these giants – who have spent much of the last decade trying to destroy file-sharing services and downloading in general through legal action – would about turn and invest in a project which would drive people towards the target of their destruction.
MooZar doesn’t completely overlook the legal issues though. They are proposing a situation where if the donor pays an amount in excess of the minimum fee set by the artist/copyright holder, in effect he/she will have bought an amnesty in the event of a legal dispute. If the amount donated is less than the minimum fee, the downloader is on their own.
However, there is some text, albeit in not particularly clear English, which suggests that downloaders have to pay the artist/rights holder before they download from otherwise illicit sources to get protection. Furthermore, there is no mention that downloaders are able to upload the music they download and be exempt from legal action, which means that this element of the service is useless for BitTorrent users. Indeed, the only way any copyright infringer is pursued on file-sharing networks is due to their uploading, so unless this so-called amnesty includes a license to distribute too (doubtful for 1 euro), it is completely useless.
MooZar are to be praised for trying to find some solution to the ongoing file-sharing wars, but one can’t help being skeptical. The launch is coming soon, so it will be interesting to see what that brings. In the meantime, the marketing info for the service is available here (.pdf).