Matt Morello, a Yale senior, created Yale Record Exchange (YRX) to fill the void left by the crackdown on Kazaa, a popular music sharing website that has been challenged on copyright issues.
Unlike Kazaa, which allows members to download files off each other’s computers, YRX lists the titles of members’ songs to allow individuals to exchange and copy each other’s CDs.
By providing member-only contact information, it makes it possible for members to meet people with similar music tastes, and exchange albums. The site currently has 25 registered members.
“It’s a little more personal but also a little more inconvenient,” Morello said. “You have to get out of your house and meet the people.”
While members can use the website to swap and ultimately copy each other’s music, a one-sentence disclaimer on the site warns that Morello takes no official responsibility for copyright violations.
“It’s sort of like a sign, ‘You have to be 21 in order to drink’ at parties, ” he said.
Morello said he believes his website is on “fairly comfortable” legal grounds.
“I really don’t care if people burn stuff or not,” he said.
But Harvard students and officials aren’t so sure.
Aaron J. Greenspan ’05, who created houseSYSTEM, an exchange website at Harvard, said that the wesbite promotes illegal behavior.
“As soon as they burn a CD, assuming that they don’t already own it, it’s illegal,” he said.
While Greenspan said it would be hard to trace the copyright offenders through YRX—because it would require proof of actual CD burning—he thought that Morello’s website could still face copyright trouble.
“I’m sure they’ll find a way of coming after them,” Greenspan said.
Daniel D. Moriarty, Harvard’s Assistant Provost and Chief Information Officer, said that he did not want to judge the legality of YRX without knowing the specifics of how the website works.
He said that Harvard’s own copyright policy was the national one adopted by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
“The policy on copyright is that we obey the law,” he said.
And such a policy focused not on the type of the file being shared, but how it was obtained.
“It’s a question of the nature of the information that’s being shared and whether it’s legally obtained or not,” Moriarty said. “In any case of a website like this, the devil’s in the details.”