October 24, 2014
 
 
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The StartX Files: A Strong Lack of Grace - page 2

A soothing new name to go with your hijacking?

  • March 20, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

It gets better, of course. Assuming you have figured out a way to create software and distribute it without garnering any source of revenue at all, something I don't think even the staunchest FSF advocates could do, you can get permission to access the CDDB data free-of-charge. There just is one, tiny, little catch: you can't let your application access any other online music database, such as FreeDB or CDIndex.

This exclusivity clause, which is present in both the commercial and noncommercial licenses, is the salt rubbed in the wounds of anyone who ever contributed to the original CDDB database. You can figure out why the clause is there, of course: Gracenote does not want end-users to populate their local CD information databases with CDDB information, and then turn around and access something like FreeDB and upload the information there. And they want the end-user tied to their database so they can start delivering specialized content to those users on behalf of their partners.

Again, not bad for a formerly public database.

What Gracenote has done is hijacked public information, plain and simple. Ironically, it got that information from users who were essentially hijacking it from the CD labels and typing it into their computers. Now Gracenote has taken this information, claimed it as proprietary, and is only doling out the data to those who will pledge obedience to the keepers of the data.

In an even better twist, they are now partnering with record labels to deliver exclusive content to those who actually own the CD or an artist's music--as opposed to pulling it down from GNapster. Regardless of what you think about the legality of downloaded music, it strikes me as odd that a group of people who essentially are using information copied right off a CD's booklet can now pass themselves off as the "Official" keepers of all things music.

How bad does this get?

Try this little piece of news: to comply with the Federal Court's decision, Napster must now identify copyrighted music from its servers and get rid of it. This is no easy task, since Napster's primary means of identification is the filename. And we all owkna atwha appensha ota eretha. But guess who Napster's called in to help? None other than our good friends Gracenote, who will now use their (how was that acquired, again?) vast storehouse of knowledge to ID copyrighted music on Napster's servers.

Gracenote, regardless of what their spin-meisters may claim, has done a great injustice to developers and end-users alike. They are the very embodiment what's wrong with closed-source software and data. It is up to us to bolster truly open music data sites like FreeDB and CDIndex so we can keep our data for ourselves, not let someone run off and make money with our direct efforts.

Of course, this mission is already underway. If you look at Gracenote's list of approved applications by platform, only two free applications show up on the Linux/UNIX list: AcornCD and xmcd/cda. Everyone else seems to have shied away and started using public databases that will stay public.

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