Michael Robertson has been throwing bombs at the music industry in the name of users for almost a decade, and today he introduced another product that’s going to drive them nuts: Dar.fm.
The service lets users record music and talk shows from hundreds of radio stations that have online streams. The recordings are stored online, and users can can then play back the recordings in any order, skip and rewind songs, and pause playback.
Robertson introduced the service on stage today at Launch. It’s launching with mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Palm WebOS, and Windows Phone, and will also be available on home digital audio systems like the Logitech Squeezebox.
For online storage, the service uses MP3tunes, which was also founded by Robertson. Users can store up to 2GB of audio for free, and because the files are lower quality than most audio downloads, that gives users plenty of room.
Robertson says “We should be on solid legal ground” because of a legal case called Cartoon Network v. Cablevision. The cable company created a digital video recording service where all video was stored online rather than on a local set-top box. Media companies sued them and said they’re making copies without permission. But the judge said that as long as the user is hitting the record button, the company is not liable.
But Robertson acknowledges that he doesn’t know how the record companies will feel about it. Robertson’s first site, MP3.com, was one of the first “music lockers” that let users upload their MP3s to an online source, then listen to them from anywhere. The record companies tried to sue the site out of existence, but all cases were settled and the site eventually was purchased by Vivendi Universal — one of the big record companies at the time — for $372 million. The site eventually got shut down.
MP3Tunes has also faced lawsuits from content owners which are still ongoing.
Robertson said that although the record companies have changed owners several times since he launched MP3.com, “the legal departments are the same” and their strategy of “sue everybody” hasn’t changed either.
He swore he’d never do another digital music service after his last experience, but apparently he just can’t stay away.
Update: The original version of this article oversimplified the history of MP3.com — when it was purchased by Vivendi Universal in 2001, it was a publicly traded company and its legal issues had been resolved.
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