Revolutionary Technology: Legitmix Finds A Legal Way To Sell Remixes?
What is Legitmix?The purpose of “Legitmix” is to give DJ’s a way to legally sell their remixes without having to pay for any licensing for the original song. Legitmix might be one of the most revolutionary technologies in the music industry. And I was able to get a chance to talk to Omid McDonald, the CEO of Legitmix and ask him about the new platform.
Normally, when a DJ or producer samples a song, they have to get permission from the artist they’re sampling (click for more info on “sampling”). The problem is that this can be really difficult. Sometimes it’s really difficult or nearly impossible to get a hold of the copyright owner of a song. Other times the original artist wants a fee that the DJ can’t afford. And other times an artist might completely refuse to give out any sort of license for a remix of their song. These difficulties have moved many artists into the “copyleft,” protesting that being an artist has gotten too technical (more on “copyleft” here).
On one hand, artists often put incredible amounts of time and energy into their songs. They pour their souls out into their music, and is also how they might make a living, so it’s important that we recognize that. On the other hand, once an artist releases a song, that song can become as important, if not more important to us: the fans. Often a DJ will sample a song that means a lot to him or her, and transform it into a new piece that adds to the overall meaning of the song.
As I was talking to Mr. McDonald, he began to tell me a bit about his history as a software developer. And he made an interesting point about how technology is a result of accumulated work. Through people building upon works that had already been made, technology has been able to grow into what it is today. That made me think— music has evolved tremendously over history, and now in this age of technology, who knows where it could go. If you know me, you know I’m all about two things when it comes to law in the arts: (1) protect art, and (2) promote creativity. But it’s a delicate balance.
I read once, that Aristotle said that the virtue of “courage” is not so much a concrete thing, but rather a balance between the vices of “cowardice” and “recklessness.” And I genuinely think that this is true of all virtues: they are a balance between two vices. So too, I think that protecting art alone, stifles creativity, while merely promoting creativity might hurt artists. It’s a delicate balance, and in the coming years, Legitmix and other revolutionary technologies may change the way we think about music and the arts and may lead the way for changes in copyright laws.
In order to see how Legitmix is attempting to reach a balance between the two, it’s important to understand how Legitmix actually works.
How Does Legitmix Work?
Let’s say a DJ creates a remix using Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” He or she can then load the remix into the Legitmix software and let the program know that the remix uses “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Once the DJ has identified the sampled work, Legitmix extracts the sampled music out of the remix on a binary level (i.e. the ones and zeros) leaving a “Legitmix file” that has no remnant of the copyrighted song. This file can’t be used to play any sort of music.
This Legitmix file is the file the DJ can now distribute or sell without violating any copyrights. Once a user buys this remix file, they can only listen to it if they have a copy of “Thriller” on their computer. If they don’t already own a copy, Legitmix conveniently directs the user to iTunes to purchase the song. Once the user has a copy of the song, the Legitmix software essentially “plugs” it into the Legitmix file and creates a copy of the remix that the user can now listen to. Here’s a short video explaining the process:[vimeo 80577353 w=500 h=281] So how does this work at striking a balance between protecting art and promoting creativity? Well, at the end of the day, DJ’s get paid via users buying their Legitmix remixes, and the sampled artists get paid when users buy their song from iTunes. As Legitmix’s website states, “[y]ou get a legit way to support remixers and the artists they sample.” In fact, Mr. McDonald informed me that Legitmix is responsible for more iTunes sales than remixes.
How Legit Is Legitmix?
Do I think Legitmix is perfect? Well, no. There are still a few issues that I think need to be addressed in making sure we protect artists, and I plan to write up an article delving a little more into the legal issues of Legitmix. But, I do think it’s a great step in the right direction, and I think that it invites the right type of discourse and discussion about how the music world should do things. As music continues to grow and evolve, I think it’s important to remember that artists work long and hard to create great music, and that should be valued and protected. But we should also remember that music is also about the fans and how we make those songs ours. Just my thoughts.
Check out Legitmix @ http://www.legitmix.com/
 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics