Bopaboo, Jammie Thomas and the Persian Bay

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Great ideas are built on thinking differently. There's a new website called Bopaboo that hopes to solve the record business' current woes. The site allows users to take their unwanted electronic music files, and sell them as used MP3's for a cheaper-than-retail price. Sellers can upload their unwanted songs in a closed community, set the price, and wait for buyers to come knocking like eBay. Bopaboo would offer record labels a percentage of the transaction, small as it may be. The idea has possibilities, but is fraught with legal and ethical issues.

First there's the basic legal issue of duplicating a copyrighted product for profit without specific permission from the rights holders. Bopaboo hopes to circumvent that issue by only allowing one sale of each MP3 file. When you sign up for Bopaboo, your computer hard drive is scanned for MP3's and tagged. Those tracks can only be sold once. And there's no trading of tracks with DRM so old iTunes tracks are off the table. But the real problem is the site has no defense yet for songs that have been illegal procured, which frankly, is most of the transmission of MP3's. Bobapoo is creating a virtual black market of MP3's. While I support the out-of-the-box thinking, I can't imagine artists and labels will agree to accept ten cents on the dollar for stolen goods. Right now the website is still in beta form and undoubtedly trying to deal with all these issues.

The first ever RIAA file-sharing lawsuit that made its way to a jury kicked off its famous retrial this past Monday. The defendant, Jammie Thomas, had been accused of downloading and sharing several files illegally through the website KaZaA. The latest daytime drama unfolded when the defense lawyer for Jammie Thomas asked Sony lawyer, Gary Leak, if the highest penalty would be appropriate for Jammie's alleged infringement. The highest penalty allowed is $150,000 per shared track. He answered, “Certainly.”

This demonstrates how much the record labels feel they have lost in illegal file sharing. The trial is only expected to last five days.

And for something completely different; the controversial website, The Pirate Bay has re-branded itself as The Persian Bay in solidarity with the Iranian people. The new homepage was created to foster free speech in the wake of the communication lock-down, following the announcement of the election results there. The site offers forums and advice for Iranian protestors, as well as links and a database of missing persons.

The Pirate Bay continually takes an active stance on shifting the political agenda outside their own borders. The company is run by individuals obsessed with the power of music, free speech and the political will to seek change. Last week, the loosely affiliated group The Pirate Party, earned a seat in Swedish Parliament. This week, The Pirate Bay will attract tens of thousands with their support of the Iranian protestors. Passion is no ordinary word and music is no ordinary driver.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.