I did saw a puddy tat
May 23, 2009 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Apparently last.fm's parent company CBS did recently hand over last.fm user data to the RIAA. Most likely last.fm did not know until after the fact. Previously.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist (58 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sweet! another anonymous tip. This will go as well as the last one.
posted by cavalier at 11:44 AM on May 23, 2009


Tech Crunch: "And to the CBS employee who was fired and threatened based on this story - we believe certain U.S. Whistle Blower laws may protect you from retaliation from CBS in this matter. We’d like to provide you with legal counsel at our cost."
posted by ericb at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not an idle question -- I'm genuinely curious -- what sort of info could the RIAA glean from Last.fm to use against pirates? What more does the site do than collect play counts from you audio listening software of choice, and how could that be used against you? I'm not a big music pirate, but not every single song on my computer was ripped from a CD I own, or bought from iTunes. How would they know which was which?
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:00 PM on May 23, 2009


What is the RIAA looking for?
posted by Brian B. at 12:04 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


They are looking for users who were listening to records before their release, aka leaks, aka most likely illegal downloads.
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:13 PM on May 23, 2009


Techcrunch is full of shit.
posted by - at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2009


They are looking for users who were listening to records before their release, aka leaks, aka most likely illegal downloads.

Hey everybody! I robbed a liquor store today! Meetup at my house!!
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:17 PM on May 23, 2009


They are looking for users who were listening to records before their release, aka leaks, aka most likely illegal downloads.

But what good would this do them? A listener doesn't have a way of telling if what they're listening to is a leak, do they? NPR had the new Neko Case album streaming on their site before it was officially released - obviously, Case and her record company were okay with this, but how would I, as a listener, know that the stream on last.fm is from an illegal download and not a promotional preview? I don't keep up with the release dates of every recording out there - is the listener responsible for knowing that the song playing right now isn't due to be legally released for two weeks?
posted by rtha at 12:27 PM on May 23, 2009


What kind of bullshit excuse is this?
posted by graventy at 12:28 PM on May 23, 2009


But what good would this do them? A listener doesn't have a way of telling if what they're listening to is a leak, do they?

last.fm also tracks things you listen to via audio players such as itunes or foobar, assuming you have a suitable plugin installed.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:32 PM on May 23, 2009


what sort of info could the RIAA glean from Last.fm to use against pirates?

Well for one they would have the IP addresses of the users on the site, tied to their e-mail, username, and Real Name, if the user submitted it to the site. They could match that information with IPs they get from people who use filesharing networks or web sites and then have definitive knowledge that that person is an illegal downloader. Maybe they would use this as evidence in trial. Some schools refuse to give the RIAA the identity of the offending party and all the RIAA has is an IP, so this would be one way they could find out.

More benign but still nasty uses would be comparing the music they look at on Last.FM with what they pirate on filesharing networks to get an idea or theory as to how much of the music they listen to is pirated.

I can think of lots of other good ideas, but since they have a lot of data including my own, maybe I should be quiet and let them figure it out themselves.
posted by banished at 12:35 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


To my knowledge, none of my music was obtained illegally.

Mods, would you please attribute the statement to Methylviolet's sockpuppet, it is currently reading as though Methylviolet issued the statement.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:35 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The big deal, AFAIK, isn't over users listening to stuff at last.fm. The big deal is over scrobbling (gee, what a perfectly dreadful word) — people posting logs of the mp3s they've most recently played. If the RIAA saw me posting that I'd listened to a mp3 before its release date, they might try to go after me for pirating it.

Of course, all last.fm really logs is the name of the mp3 you listened to most recently. Seems to me like that would make a pretty solid defense. "No, I wasn't listening to the Chinese Democracy back before it came out. I was listening to my buddy Brad's album. He used those track names as a joke. Prove me wrong."
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, if you were clever, you could check filesharing systems for unusual names (typos, odd capitalization, missing/added words/punctuation, etc.), then search the Last.fm data for anyone listening to those names.

Also check for prerelease/never-released songs, songs with names that are unique to MySpace/Youtube/DVD rips/other quasi-legal sources.

You could also find correlations between multiple listeners: if two users have a song with the same typo, and no one else does, it's likely that one gave it to the other.

This is just off the top of my head. Correlation to other datasets would give even more information.

And remember, the RIAA isn't really trying to build strong cases, just gather enough data to send an out-of-court settlement offer.
posted by reventlov at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2009


yet another reason for keeping the minutiae of one's private life off of the web for all to see.
posted by the aloha at 12:44 PM on May 23, 2009


For those that didn't click the first link, it's worth remembering Last.fm's response to the previous story.
posted by revgeorge at 12:45 PM on May 23, 2009


http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/02/last-fm-and-the-diabolical-power-of-data-mining

Also has some excellent points.
posted by banished at 12:54 PM on May 23, 2009


last.fm also tracks things you listen to via audio players such as itunes or foobar, assuming you have a suitable plugin installed.

Ah, thanks. I didn't know this - obviously, I'm not a last.fm user.
posted by rtha at 12:54 PM on May 23, 2009


But what good would this do them? A listener doesn't have a way of telling if what they're listening to is a leak, do they?

Why would they care? For the price of a stamp, they can give you the choice of paying them $4000 now, or take it court. You'll cave and pay them the $4k because everyone does - the extortion fee is far cheaper than a court battle, and over far quicker.

Every listener that "doesn't have a way of" telling proving that everything they listen to is entirely legit, is a fat bag of cash waiting to be extorted. The RIAA's new business method seems far more profitable than that old gig of selling music. :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Of course, all last.fm really logs is the name of the mp3 you listened to most recently. Seems to me like that would make a pretty solid defense. "No, I wasn't listening to the Chinese Democracy back before it came out. I was listening to my buddy Brad's album. He used those track names as a joke. Prove me wrong."

last.fm's audio scrobbler will make a hash or fingerprint of a mp3 file to identify it in cases of misspelling, misattribution or no ID3 tags.
posted by stavrogin at 1:35 PM on May 23, 2009


yet another reason for keeping the minutiae of one's private life off of the web for all to see.

I know it's wrong, but as someone who has an inexplicable dislike for the web/blog practice of broadcasting lists of the media one has recently consumed, I felt a little sinister twitch of glee that people who broadcast their media consumption are about to get slapped hard for their oversharing.
posted by jayder at 1:37 PM on May 23, 2009


Since when? There are plenty of songs that I have that are different songs (different versions, etc.) that all register as if I've listened to the same song.
posted by klangklangston at 1:41 PM on May 23, 2009


Yet another reason to get your music via anonymized Google searches through file sharing sites, and get your money to the artist via merchandise and going to live shows.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Too bad. I've enjoyed last.fm, and scrobbling has allowed me to learn of some new artists I've enjoyed -- and paid for -- from my "neighbor's" stats. It's been more about that than a love for exhibitionism, jayder. And, also, I've been pleased that they've automatically told me about upcoming concerts and CD releases.

The vast majority of that data comes from tracks ripped from CD's on my shelf vs. pirate downloads. And I never had illusions that their data on me was secret. But there's a difference between that and an outright stance of "we will voluntarily give this data to people whose only relation to you is to your potential detriment, and whose apparent immediate goal is to mine it looking for potential targets for lawsuit." You can't be both my friend and theirs.

Excuse me while I go wipe that plugin.
posted by tyllwin at 1:44 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could we get a real journalist to look into this please? Techcrunch is full of shit. Repeatedly. They may be right on this story, you know, the second time around. Or they may not.
posted by Nelson at 1:48 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could we get a real journalist to look into this please?

That would be nice. All the news stories I've been able to find on this refer back to Techcrunch.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:56 PM on May 23, 2009


Having said that, it sure does feel true.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:59 PM on May 23, 2009


I really hate TechCrunch. They've declared that RSS is dead, as if that means anything at all, and Arrington repeats this stupid phrase over and over again as if it gives greater weight to the argument.

Their classy move with this story was to post it on a Friday evening, knowing that the Last.fm staff would be away until next Tuesday (Monday being a bank holiday in the UK). Still, this hasn't stopped Last.fm informally denying it already. Deleting Last.fm accounts seems hasty at the moment.

http://ismikearringtonadick.com/
posted by chorltonmeateater at 2:07 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I too am waiting for real journalists at organizations like CBS to look into this story. We'll only know the truth when the headlines hit the broadcast and cable news networks.

Is your child scrobbling? More at 11.

Is your child broadcasting personal information to predators on the Internet?

social networking: We list 10 reasons why sharing is wrong!

First MySpace, then Facebook, now last.fm. Find out why it may be the last place your child ever visits!
posted by formless at 2:15 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


What "real journalist" would care?

That said, deleting an account would be locking the barn door after the horse was stolen anyway. I, at least, don't plan to go do that. I'm just getting rid of the plugin because I no longer feel good about it. It could easily be replaced later.

Techcrunch's first story on this dod feel sort of sloppy and sketchy, and like rumor-mongering. But, are people here so distrustful of Techcrunch, they think they're actually fabricating emails? Are you expecting that on Tuesday, last.fm will be suing them?
posted by tyllwin at 2:20 PM on May 23, 2009


Since when? There are plenty of songs that I have that are different songs (different versions, etc.) that all register as if I've listened to the same song.

It started in audioscrobbler 1.4, beta release notes here. In the scrobbler app, go to options->scrobbler->"allow last.fm to fingerprint your tracks." and you can disable it.
posted by stavrogin at 2:29 PM on May 23, 2009


Another denial here.
posted by Knappster at 2:31 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since my version is 1.2, I'm gonna guess this isn't a problem for me.
posted by klangklangston at 2:37 PM on May 23, 2009


By "real journalist" I don't necessarily mean a TV network or newspaper. A blog is just fine by me. But one that believes in journalistic standards and ethics. One that will actually try to research both sides of a story, and confirm facts, and seek a source on the record. Not some scattershot rumour sheet that sometimes gets stuff right by accident. There are plenty of real journalists who would find this story interesting. Then again the story is so tainted already it may not be worth the effort. A shame, it'd be helpful to know the truth here.

And no, there's no need to believe Techcrunch is fabricating emails to believe this second try at the story is full of shit, too. There's plenty of other sleazy things Techcrunch does in pursuit of their rumours that lead to misunderstandings, falsehoods, and misleading stories. I'm not saying their current rumour blog post isn't true, either, it could well be. I'd like to know.

Good point about the story timing of Friday evening before a weekend. The first hit piece was on a Friday afternoon, too.
posted by Nelson at 2:38 PM on May 23, 2009


Well, this is pretty embarassing. Not just because I've been an avid last user, but because I'd suggested to Matt, et. al. that Last.FM would be a great way to have a metafilter streaming station. Not anymore.
posted by boo_radley at 2:52 PM on May 23, 2009


One of the last.fm denials says that sending IP address & user data from the UK to the US would violate data protection laws... that is interesting, I wonder if that is accurate?
posted by synaesthetichaze at 3:40 PM on May 23, 2009


By "real journalist" I don't necessarily mean a TV network or newspaper. A blog is just fine by me. But one that believes in journalistic standards and ethics.

Like what? What "Real Journalist" would actually care much about this story at all? The AP is out there threatening to sue bloggers for excerpting more then a couple sentences from their stories. These guys are hardly copyright radicals. I don't know how many journalists actually support strong-arm tactics like that, but it must be some. And add to that a huge number of journalists who wouldn't even understand the story.

Furthermore, on the other side other then sites like slashdot, boingboing, this kind of story isn't even intresting. Those sites have large audiences, but they aren't exactly known for high journalistic standards.

So I think that even if the story were true, it's not something you'd expect to get covered in the "MSM"
posted by delmoi at 5:04 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and of course "real journalists" use anonymous sources all the time
posted by delmoi at 5:06 PM on May 23, 2009


I think I'll watch this. If the rumor pans out, I'm outta there, and I will feel pretty stupid for spending even a few months feeding info to the RIAA. I pay for the vast majority of the music I own, and am not a big user of Limewire or torrent sites (I'll mainly use them to hunt down music that's totally out-of-print, after I've exhausted a search for a legit copy) but I've gotten some music the old fashioned way -- via a friend who said "Here -- you'll like this," and either sent me files, or handed me a burnt CD. You know, home taping. It's killing music. When I've liked it well enough I've gone ahead and bought it to support the band, or I did until I decided to boycott RIAA labels about 6 years ago, and now I'll buy CDs used, or support independent RIAA-free artists.

If they're pretending to be my friend with their hip, cool social networking site, while all the time, it's really the eye of Sauron casting about the land for victims, then I have been duped, and that, regardless of any actual complicity, won't sit well with me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:18 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


last.fm's audio scrobbler will make a hash or fingerprint of a mp3 file to identify it in cases of misspelling, misattribution or no ID3 tags.

Thanks for the correction.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:37 PM on May 23, 2009


I know it's wrong, but as someone who has an inexplicable dislike for the web/blog practice of broadcasting lists of the media one has recently consumed, I felt a little sinister twitch of glee that people who broadcast their media consumption are about to get slapped hard for their oversharing.

jayder, some of those people like any sort of attention. as with other attention-grabbing activities of youth, lessons will be learned.
posted by the aloha at 5:55 PM on May 23, 2009


Richard Jones and Michael Arrington on Twitter:

metabrew busy sending data to the RIAA... Oh wait, no, that's still nonsense.

arrington @metabrew I think we deserve a more complete and honest description of what really happened than more attacks on TechCrunch

metabrew @arrington hard to respond because we know absolutely nothing about it, neither do CBS. Your source must be lying, find out why.

arrington @metabrew that's not what you guys are telling people privately.

metabrew @arrington nope, that's not true in the slightest. would love to know why someone is feeding you this garbage.

arrington @metabrew then we have nothing more to say to each other.
posted by danb at 6:04 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I can't believe we've had a bean derail on what constitutes a "real journalist" -- I think the point that was made was "Can somebody, anybody else report on this story besides TechCrunch, because they're the only ones making this claim at the moment?"
posted by cavalier at 6:11 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Classic, danb, thanks.
posted by cavalier at 6:12 PM on May 23, 2009


I suppose not stealing things so as to not have to give a moments thought about this kind of thing is out of the question. <- ducking head
posted by jcworth at 7:51 PM on May 23, 2009


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Mikey-San at 8:25 PM on May 23, 2009


well then, i guess i learned my lesson for jumping too quickly.
posted by the aloha at 9:07 PM on May 23, 2009


arrington @metabrew I think we deserve a more complete and honest description of what really happened than more attacks on TechCrunch
This is kind of an asshole response. If the "leak" was just a fake rumor, as Last.fm's folks are claiming, there is nothing to be honestly described. Taking that approach actually makes me far less inclined to believe that TechCrunch's lead is legit.
posted by verb at 9:46 PM on May 23, 2009


After thinking about this, it seems like TechCrunch have hit this hornets nest with the stick hard enough they should get stung if they are lying. I'd say that if they are mendacious, last.fm has almost no choice but to sue them to save face. If no lawsuit develops, maybe CBS is afraid discovery would prove them to be liars. I mean, if TechCrunch made the whole thing up, why wouldn't CBS want a pound of flesh, I would. Just a thought.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:32 AM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even if last.fm are above-board (and the people there seem decent) and CBS abide by the respective laws, the question of whether it is sensible to hand over forensic evidence of your possession of audio recordings (i.e., cryptographic fingerprints of the tracks) remains open. For one, you're assuming that last.fm are better at securing their information than, say, TK Maxx or Her Majesty's Government.
posted by acb at 5:40 AM on May 24, 2009


If no lawsuit develops, maybe CBS is afraid discovery would prove them to be liars. I mean, if TechCrunch made the whole thing up, why wouldn't CBS want a pound of flesh, I would. Just a thought.
My theory? A service that deals with streaming music on the Internet today is balancing between two very tricky groups. The RIAA wants them to die in a fire, and has the ability to make life difficult. The general Stuff Wants To Be Free crowd wants the RIAA to die in a fire, and views music sharing services as either 'Friends in the struggle' or 'Collaborators with the RIAA.'

Most services survive by dancing carefully between these two constituencies and NOT being drawn into a fight that pits them with one and against the other. Deny, deny, deny, and keep your head low whenever you can. That's the way you (hope to) survive long enough to develop a working business model.
posted by verb at 9:30 AM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


If no lawsuit develops, maybe CBS is afraid discovery would prove them to be liars. I mean, if TechCrunch made the whole thing up, why wouldn't CBS want a pound of flesh, I would
Want to be understanding you here. If some rumour weblog posts something about you that's false, the only way to prove your innocence is to file and win a lawsuit? Invest millions of dollars and several years calling attention to the false rumour? And if you don't, you're clearly hiding something?
posted by Nelson at 9:34 AM on May 24, 2009


Nelson, they don't have to do anything, but if their reputation has been damaged at all by the kerfuffle, it would seem they would want to clear their name. If TechCrunch is small enough potatoes that no damage has been done, then i'm sure they have no reason to sue. Perhaps my original statement wasn't as well thought out as it could have been.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 11:04 AM on May 24, 2009


A RIAA spokesperson denies having requested or received last.fm listening data. Make of that what you will.
posted by acb at 7:06 PM on May 24, 2009


Btw, if someone in the US had obtained a copy of an unreleased album and was listening to it, would that mean that a crime had been committed? Were there a US-based last.fm-like site, could the FBI (or some other law enforcement agency) obtain their records under subpoena to investigate?
posted by acb at 7:10 PM on May 24, 2009


There's a quote from CBS in an update to the Wall Street Journal's story:
“Both CBS and the RIAA have already stated quite clearly, for the record, that absolutely no individual user or listener information was supplied to the RIAA by Last.fm or any division of CBS Corporation in the past, nor do we plan to do so in the future. The story posted by the Web site was based on an unnamed tipster. No inquiry was made to CBS or Last.fm about the veracity of the anonymous source. Those who consult such blogs should be aware of the standard by which such postings are sourced and published.”
posted by garrett at 2:21 AM on May 27, 2009


Those who consult such blogs should be aware of the standard by which such postings are sourced and published.

Zing. Good thing digital pitchforks don't stay pointy very long.
posted by Nelson at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2009


The Guardian has done a very good investigative piece on this issue.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:40 PM on May 28, 2009


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