Beam-it and my.mp3.com

The use of MP3 files is a thorny legal issue. So many illegal MP3s are available that it has become a byword for pirated music. But the legality of listening to MP3 files made from CDs that the user owns is a different matter. It’s a legal grey area. As I understand it, so long as the files aren’t given away, you’re OK. One company that has been dancing on the fine line of MP3 legality is MP3.com. In fairness, it’s done everything possible to promote MP3 as a legal music format. The latest feature of MP3.com is my.mp3.com and Beam-it software, opening a whole new can of legal worms. They let users register legally owned CDs, and then listen to them from any computer with Internet access. Free and easy
The first step is to open an account, which is free and only requires an email address and a password. The next step is to download the Beam-it software – a control panel to send details of your CDs to MP3.com. Now all you need do is register your CDs. Put a CD in the drive, and the control panel asks if you want to beam it. It then contacts MP3.com and confirms that you own the CD. It doesn’t RIP the audio files and upload them, it simply checks the copy is legal. Now one of two things happens. Either access is granted to a pre-RIPed MP3 version of the CD, or, if it isn’t available, you can register its unique code – so that when it becomes available, you’ll be notified. When registering my eclectic CD collection, around 90 per cent were available. That’s pretty impressive. Once the CDs are registered, they appear in your MP3 account and are available for streaming play anywhere. Playing music at work is no problem. Simply access the account, choose an album or play list, and it will play via an MP3 player. Sadly, Macworld’s offices are a music-free zone since the River Dance incident in 1997. One draw-back is that, as it’s streaming, the bandwidth it uses could affect others’ browsing. Unless there’s a 256K or better connection at work, IT managers will get a little hot under the collar. Listening at home is a different matter, because this is where most people’s CDs are. Why will most of us want to pay 60p per hour to listen to CDs that have already been paid for? However, when ADSL arrives, with a permanent broadband connection, it might just be easier to play music though a Mac than messing around with inconvenient CD cases. However, the music industry isn’t happy, and MP3.com is currently fighting lawsuits from Universal, Sony, Warner Bros, Arista, BMG, RCA, Capitol, Electra, Interscope, and Sire. In an attempt to appease them, MP3.com has frozen all of its tracks from the major labels. If used properly, my.mp3.com doesn’t break any laws, but it does make it a easier to listen to other people’s CD collections. But I’m not sure this is easier than making CD-Rs of music.

OUR VERDICT

It costs nothing. Even if you didn’t listen to the music online it does a great job of cataloguing music. So, take advantage of it while you can.

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