Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Facebook Bails on Project Playlist, Too

Four days after MySpace cut the legs out from under Project Playlist by disabling the music streaming service’s app, Facebook is following suit. Here’s the official statement from Facebook PR:

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) initially contacted Facebook last summer requesting the removal of the Project Playlist application for copyright violation, and recently reopened those communications. We have forwarded the RIAA’s letters to Project Playlist so it can work directly with that organization and music labels on a resolution. In the meantime, the application must be removed to comply with the Facebook Platform Terms of Service. Our hope and expectation is that the parties can resolve their disagreements in a manner that satisfies the developer and copyright holder, that continues to offer a great experience to music fans, and that doesn’t discourage other developers from using Platform to share their creativity and test new ideas.”

The only surprise here is that it took Facebook this long to face up to reality: There was next to no upside for Mark Zuckerberg and company in fighting the big music labels, three of whom are suing Project Playlist. But there was plenty of downside: At best, the social network would end up squaring off against potential partners; at worst, it’s conceivable that it could end up being sued by the labels as well.

Facebook’s move is also less important than the one that MySpace made last week. That’s because Project Playlist is first and foremost a music service geared toward users of News Corp.’s (NWS) social network.

It’s also not surprising that MySpace was the first to bail on Project Playlist at the labels’ request: Not only does the network have its own competing music service–MySpace Music–but its partners in that service are the four major labels– Sony (SNE), Warner Music Group (WMG), Universal Music Group and EMI.

Most important is what the big labels who are suing Project Playlist– Warner, UMG and EMI–hope to accomplish by forcing the social networks to cut it off at the knees. The boilerplate answer from the labels is that Project Playlist violates copyright, and that they’d complained to MySpace and Facebook before, etc, etc.

But that’s a silly argument: The labels have also been trying to negotiate a deal with Project Playlist for some time, which is why investor Bob Pittman sank up to $20 million into the company earlier this year and former Facebook executive Owen Van Natta came aboard as CEO last month. I’m told that those talks had reached advanced stages this month.

So that leaves us with two possible conclusions:

  1. This is just another negotiating move by the labels, which have previously sued Web services before partnering with them (see: Warner/Imeem, Universal/MySpace). But since they’ve already sued Project Playlist, cutting off their oxygen is more effective.
  2. The labels have decided that ad-supported, free music services like MySpace Music, Imeem and Project Playlist just aren’t going to work, period, and that’s there’s no point in even trying to let new ones thrive.

For now, I’m going with No. 1, just because it’s the most obvious answer. But I’m willing to hear other arguments: Sound off in comments below or drop me a line at peter@allthingsd.com.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald