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MP3.com founder opens net music archive, play service

Oboe not again

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MP3.com and Lindows/Linspire founder Michael Robertson has re-launched the service that got him into so much hot water with the music industry back in the late 1990s.

His new operation, MP3tunes.com, yesterday launched its Oboe service, which allows users to upload their digital music collections to a secure "locker" and then access it for playback from any web-connected computer anywhere else in the world.

This time round, there's an explicit link between what a user owns - or, rather, what he or she has on his or her hard drive - and what they can listen to. MP3.com's MyMP3.com service offered the same functionality. However, it used a database of 80,000-odd CDs MP3.com had ripped to stream songs to users. Since the service's users were already supposed to own the music they were streaming, surely it wouldn't hurt if they listen to our copies, MP3.com argued.

The music industry didn't see it that way, and neither did the US District of Southern New York Judge Jed Rakoff, who ruled MP3.com had infringed the rights of the copied music's copyright holders.

Now, users have to upload songs first - using Oboe's iTunes plug-in, for example. Again, though, there's a crucial presumption: that what they're uploading, they own.

Oboe supports not only MP3 files, but WMA, OGG and AAC formats, and runs on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux systems. DRM-protected WMA and AAC files, from licensed digital music services, are not supported, at least not for playback, though they can be archived.

MP3tunes.com is offering both free and premium accounts - the latter cost $40 a year and enable music lockers of unlimited size, "no bandwidth charges", the ability to automatically sync your music collection and the locker, and listen to 128Kbps streams. The free version limits streaming to 56Kbps, allows uploading only through the Oboe Firefox plug-in and doesn't do syncing.

Oboe is available to users in the US and overseas. Like MP3.com, MP3tunes.com also operates a music store to sell you songs you can store in your locker. ®

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