Muxtape Founder Says The Internet Will Get Worse, Not Better

This week I had the opportunity to attend an interview with (and ask a question of) Justin Ouellette, the founder of Muxtape. The interview was hosted at a very cool space in Soho called "Meet @ The Apartment" which is run by Marc and Sara Schiller from the Wooster Collective. Justin talked mostly about what Muxtape had been: a simple, free, possibly illegal way for people to share a 12-track mix of songs with the world. Like its cheekier cousin, Mixwit, Muxtape was forced to shut down due to pressure from those bastions of innovation, the RIAA. He talked a little about what Muxtape has become: a platform for bands to market themselves and share their music, like a very stripped-down version of BandCamp.

Justin is primarily a photographer and designer, and his design sense comes through in the Muxtape aesthetic - streamlined, slick, simple. He gave us a peek at the backend of the site, and it's no more complicated to use than the front-end. I'm glad to see that Muxtape is still alive in some form, and it was interesting to hear that Justin had never really planned for any of this to happen - he just made a cool and useful tool for himself and his friends to share music online, and when confronted with the option of folding completely, he chose to try and make a business out of his great idea. Kudos to him.

What was less inspiring was his answer to my question, which was about the future. I think it's bizarre that on every site you go to nowadays, you see ubiquitous messaging urging you to "share" content - on Twitter, Facebook, email, whatever - just share. On the other hand, corporate interests are constantly suing people and organizations that try to share content the way they want to, often pretending there is no such thing as "fair use." Justin mentioned that he would have days where record label marketers would call him and ask that their music be posted to the site, right before lawyers from the same label would call and demand that the music be pulled. Meanwhile artists are increasingly speaking out in favor of file sharing and new distribution methods. I asked him how he thought this tension would resolve itself in the future, and his view was bleak: "The internet is only going to get more locked down." He talked about a recent German censorship law, new methods ISPs are using to do deep packet inspection on user's data streams, and his own experience getting mixed legal advice in the face of an implacable foe.

He ended on a slightly optimistic note, saying that "things will only change when kids who grew up on MySpace are senators." What do you think? Are things going to get worse before they get better? Or are we perhaps coming to the end of a surprisingly young age of ridiculously overbearing copyright law? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.


Lori said...

"things will only change when kids who grew up on MySpace are senators."

oh yeah, just like how all those politicians who smoked weed in the 60s made it legal once they came into positions of power.

*eye roll*

Jordan Hirsch said...

@lori I'm sorry to say, I think you're exactly right. "Well, I downloaded files in college, but I didn't listen to them" is going to be the new "I didn't inhale."

Molly Malone said...

okay, how about things will only change when kids who grew up on MySpace are lobbyists?