Short-lived startup Muxtape had a great, but illegal, idea: users could upload 12 MP3s in any order, share their playlists with friends, and the service provided links to buy the songs on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes or on Amazon (AMZN). But the RIAA didn’t think too highly of the service, and Muxtape shut down last month. Now we have MixTube, who thinks they’ve found a legal loophole that will allow them to offer essentially the same service. We’re not so sure.
Here’s how MixTube works: Instead of hosting MP3s on their own servers, the site plays only the audio portion from YouTube (GOOG) videos. Users can create playlists of YouTube videos to play (audio-only), and just like Muxtape, buy the tracks for themselves from Amazon. Try it for yourself with MixTube’s Beatles playlist. You’re not going to get high-quality audio, but then again, you’re not paying for it, either.
The MixTube idea is clever, and we imagine the MixTubers think they’ve worked around some of the legal landmines that MuxTape ran into, since they’re not hosting the music themselves. In theory, any copyright problems (and bandwidth costs, for that matter) are Google’s problems. But the labels have also gone after MixTube-like services that don’t host copyrighted materials as well (see Seeqpod), and at this point, it’s not clear where the courts are going to come down on this one. More practically, we’re not sure the MixTube folks have the stomach or wallet for a legal fight.
And what about YouTube? Don’t they have a problem with this? Not from what we can tell. Then again, we’re not sure the Google spokeswoman we talked to was clear about what was going on:
The videos available through the YouTube API are by and large the same as those on www.youtube.com. However, content uploaders can choose not to have their videos syndicated if they wish.
So: In the short-term, if you’re a Muxtape fan, go ahead and enjoy MixTube. But we wouldn’t get too attached to it.
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