The mixtape wars keep on: MySpace bans Project Playlist

News Corp.-owned social network has been particularly vocal in saying that the action is due to labels' legal complaints, not because it runs a competing service.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

MySpace has officially blocked access to embedded widgets from Project Playlist, one of the myriad start-ups that lets members create music playlists and share them with friends.

This could come across negatively because MySpace runs MySpace Music, a service that competes with Project Playlist. And that's probably why the News Corp.-owned MySpace is making it very clear that it has blocked Project Playlist because of complaints from major music labels.

"MySpace is an open platform that welcomes all developers to build rich and legitimate applications for its global community," according to a statement from the company. "We take copyright issues very seriously and our goal is to help developers build a substantial business by creating an environment that respects rights holders and protects their content."

The statement continued: "MySpace has received notices of infringement about Project Playlist at different times from several of the major music companies currently suing Project Playlist. Per our policy of taking very seriously the requests of rights holders to block access to third party sites that are believed to be infringing, we have evaluated the requests of the major music companies and determined that it is in our best interest not to allow Project Playlist widgets on MySpace, and effective immediately, we will no longer be allowing these widgets within the MySpace platform."

Indeed, Warner Music, EMI, and Universal Music Group have ongoing lawsuits against Project Playlist, which recently hired former Facebook Chief Operating Officer Owen Van Natta as its CEO. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)--itself going through a major transition as it ends legal action against individual file-sharers and is rumored to be on the verge of budget cuts--also sued Project Playlist this past spring.

The fourth major label, Sony BMG, has been negotiating with the start-up.

The labels' complaint against Project Playlist was industrywide, not restricted to MySpace. However, Facebook, hasn't blocked Project Playlist widgets. Whether that's due to Van Natta's Facebook connection (he's also an investor in Project Playlist), or to anything else, is unclear. Because litigation is involved, neither party is commenting.

In the digital music industry, 2008 really was the year of the playlist. Streaming music companies took off, and improved social-network sharing features made it easy to swap your favorite music lineups with your friends.

Despite its rampant and well-documented problems, the music industry's muscle has been what's steering the direction of the movement. For example, the two highest-profile "mixtape" start-ups, Mixwit and Muxtape, both shut down amid the threat of legal action that their young founders didn't want to handle. Meanwhile, bigger companies like Imeem and iLike, both of which have negotiated with the record labels and struck deals, have fared better--despite a number of rumors that Project Playlist wants to merge with Imeem.

As for MySpace, the labels have all invested in MySpace Music, so it's understandable that the social network would be quick to respond to its concerns.