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The Sounds of Silence

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Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

Technology and the law butted heads a few more times this week. For many music fans, their computers and cell phones will soon be silenced. Last.fm made announcement that will change the pricing for everybody outside of three countries and remove many options from the cell phones of all customers. 

Last.fm has become the way that many people listen to music as it turns your PC’s speakers (or headphones) into a radio. Last.fm, which was founded in London, had the very democratic idea about letting people choose the music themselves - rather than being subjected to the whims of a radio DJ. Using Last.fm you can create your channels as well as listen to channels that other folks created. A great example, if you’ve never tried it out, would be to check out this mix of New Zealand Rock.

But wait; don’t click on that link just yet. Once upon a time it would have been free for you to go listen to those songs. While folks in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany will continue to get last.fm for free, the rest of us will now have to pay €3.00 per month. The reason behind this change is likely international licensing fees, which led Pandora, a similar service to pull the plug on international users back in 2007. Prior to that event, Pandora fans were streaming so much music that at peak hours, Pandora claimed that their traffic represented 1.5% of global Internet data.

I would tell you to go to the Last.fm blog  and share your thoughts, but the response was so overwhelming that they had to turn off the commenting feature and redirect people to the forum

Before you start thinking that those folks in US, the UK and Germany have it made in the shade listening to their free tunes – Last.fm had more “fun” announcements to make. Whereas they did not really announce that the licensing fees caused the international change, they did point fingers as they announced the end of Last.fm on your phone - “You won’t be allowed to use our API to stream to mobile phones. This is unfortunately a limitation of some of our licensing agreements.” A whole universe of third party applications such as MyStrands, Mobbler and many others will soon be silenced.

Musicians and their record companies should make their money, and I don’t support the theft of music. But the reality is that music fans won’t stand for the sounds of silence and steps like this, backed by the powerful recording industry, lead to folks using websites and tools that allow for the illegal sharing and downloading of music.

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