Back in August, muxtape, a popular music playlist site, was forced to close by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Now mixwit have announced that it is closing too. The only explanation offered was as follows:
We’ve put a year of work into Mixwit so this choice wasn’t taken lightly. I won’t go into the details of our situation but state simply that we boldly marched into in [sic] a position best described as “between a rock and a hard place.”
Reading between the lines, it looks as though they too have fallen at the hands of the RIAA. Under the cover of claims to be protecting artists, claims that do not bear close scrutiny, the RIAA is building an impressive track-record of stifling innovation. While it is possible to take comfort from the fact that attempts to stem the tide of progress always fail in the end, it is nevertheless frustrating to see the suffering of victims of this pernicious organisation in the meantime, whether those victims are single mothers sued for file-sharing or the creators of sites like muxtape and mixwit.
While these sites appeared to be on shaky legal ground from the start, that seems to be a reason to change the rules to fit the new technology, not the other way around. Larry Lessig eloquently summed up the issues years ago in his presentation <free culture>, and the challenges he laid down then are yet to be addressed. I can only hope things begin to change soon and, in the meantime, I hope that blip.fm does not become the next victim of the RIAA.