Wireless == great jukebox in the sky?

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Robert Kaye
Jan. 18, 2003 08:12 PM

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Its been over 5 years since the first MP3 Summit where the concept of the jukebox in the sky was hotly debated. The promise of the jukebox in the sky was to make all music available to users everywhere. Users could tap into the jukebox at home, at work, in their car or hiking up a mountain.

Five years later and the iPod is the closest thing to this jukebox we have -- not exactly what people talked about back then. With the current legal climate I'm not expecting the RIAA and its cronies to deliver this jukebox anytime soon.

Community wireless networks have a much better chance of delivering on this promise. Assume for a moment that wireless networks have come of age and in urban areas dense wireless networks blanket the neighborhoods.

Now lets assume that computer users make their music collections available via tools like iCommune. If you can aggregate the music collections of dozens/hundreds of people around you, you'll get a virtual music collection that approaches the jukebox in the sky.

This jukebox won't have everything under the sun (which physical jukebox does?), but it will have large amounts of music ready to be played, right now without waiting for it to download, which is not a bad start.

While aggregated wireless music collections won't provide everything to everyone everywhere, they do have some interesting qualities that are worth exploring.

If the community around you has the music, do you need to download all of the music to your machine? Better get another bigger harddrive, because the community will have more music than you have harddrive space. So, I hope that people will truely start sharing their collections instead of actually copying them as the current file sharing networks do. And if we're just sharing and not copying does that fall under fair use? (Never mind that fair use has been erradicated in the last few years).

And finally, if wireless networks don't rely on traditional ISPs, it conceivable to put firewalls/packet filters at locations where the wireless net connects to a traditional ISPs, so that the RIAA cannot even see these wireless jukeboxes?

Traditional ISPs unwittingly act as DMCA chokepoints, and if firewalls hide the activity of wireless networks, then how will the RIAA combat these jukeboxes in the sky?

Robert Kaye is the Mayhem & Chaos Coordinator and creator of MusicBrainz, the music metadata commons.