A Lala cheerleader may have told you about purchasing songs at 10 cents each. Now let’s not cannonball into the pool just yet. While Lala.com can boast over 170,000 independent distributors and labels, the release represents an ominous sign in the digital industry—buying music saved onto hard drives at remote data centers. For one, YouTube’s playlist service already offers Lala’s primary function for free, but this soon may not be the case. There has been an increase in ostensible copyright violations on YouTube’s music videos. Secondly, the rumors of the ten-cent song amount to an obvious foot in the door technique that is really almost the same price as iTunes.
Lala allows users to listen to each song and album one time for free. After then, they can save them to a “locker.” The locker’s first fifty tracks are free, but then users have to start paying. Further, the locker serves as another intermediary to prevent music listeners from backing their purchases up onto their hard drives. If users want to purchase the actual file, the price is 89–99 cents.
One thing that is for sure, what constitutes owning music is getting redefined. The rubble that’s left of Russian-based allofmp3.com (RIP 2006), which offered mp3 files for significantly cheaper, might be the first of many victims to government regulation. It appears that Lala will be one of a series of Web sites assisting in the quarantine of music files into the hands of isolated data centers. By isolating the data centers, it is easier for the government to regulate who can sell what is on them. Not to mention on October 13, President Bush signed the PRO-IP act into law, in which record corporations and the government collaborated to increase seizures and punishments for the unauthorized sale of music.
A fundamental right in owning music is the ability to have it at your disposal, not just on an Internet account. Music is not only listened to. It is used in other artistic mediums such as video editing. Isolating the tracks onto data servers and not onto consumer personal hard drives for their disposal will limit experimentation with tracks, and as a consequence the art will suffer. The government should not discriminate against poor artists who have to be frugal with their mp3 purchases. With Apples recent threat to shut down iTunes, and Lala’s new locker idea, it appears we are heading down an ominous road.