What I Learned From The Last.fm Rumor

by Christopher Paul on February 24, 2009

Over the weekend, I canceled my Last.fm account on the rumor that it had given the RIAA the logs of who listened to U2’s unreleased CD which was leaked onto the internet. The rumor, reported by TechCrunch, was denied by both the RIAA and (several) people from Last.fm.

Within minutes of me reading the article and canceling my account, dozens of people on Twitter cried foul of TC’s report and the debunking statements started to pour in. It seems, now, that TechCrunch may have been better off wording the article a little differently or not publishing it at all; it even provided several updates to the article explaining why it was published the justification for it (and the timing of it being published). But having already canceled my account – and having been chastised a bit by people on Twitter – I started to feel guilty. I even tried to sign up again with my user ID but it wouldn’t let me saying it was taken. But the more I thought of my canceled account, I felt less guilty. And now, I feel good about my decision. But I learned a few things about me and the way things are that I won’t soon forget.

First, I realized that, when it comes to things about the RIAA (and its related group, the MPAA) I take things seriously – too seriously, sometimes, but its easy to see why. I tend to think these organizations are relics in a changing business model who’s fear of technology (with all the empowerment it offers artists & fans) prevents them from seeing growth opportunities to fuel profits. I’m certainly not a fan of their extortion program of “pre-litigation letters” and their lawsuits which have destroyed the lives of so many (sometimes innocent) people. And I don’t like how they try to erode the rights we consumers have (first sale doctrine, fair use, etc). Everyday I come across a story of how the RIAA is suing another Doe (despite stating the contrary), arguing against the resale of purchased music, litigating against innovative startups, pressing for ISPs to block search engines, and lobbying to pass stricter copyright laws. I’m afraid that, one day, I won’t have any rights as a consumer. Don’t laugh. Let’s talk again in 20 years.

While I am worried about my rights being ruined or my family being wrongly targeted for a lawsuit, I know that I overreacted to the TechCrunch’s post on Last.fm. I certainly realize now, that had I waited a few hours or days, the story would have been proven false (or denied so much so) and be nothing more than a momentary panic. Plus, I don’t have a copy of the U2 CD so it wouldn’t have been sent to Last.fm or the RIAA even if they did provide usage logs. Moreover, I bought most of my music from iTunes and what I didn’t buy from iTunes, I mostly bought from Best Buy. And even if I had unpurchased music on my hard drive and scrobbled them on Last.fm, they would have already had the information assuming they did give it up; canceling the account wouldn’t have changed that. What’s done is done.

Another thing I learned is that my tweets are read globally and by everyone. I’ve always known this but its one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things where you think you’re only tweeting to your followers. Of course, anyone can search for a tag or key word no matter who you follow and where you are. I forgot that and because a few people (who live in the UK) called me out on my behavior, I got an embarrassing reminder that you are what you tweet. Thanks to @Cennydd and @kaichanvong for calling me out!

The next thing I learned is that, when you get upset at someone or something, its best to take five minutes to cool down before responding to the person or situation. After reading this tweet, I have to admit I was pretty pissed off. I thought, “Who the hell is this guy calling me impatient?” How dare he! I started to stew about it as a typed a nasty response without success. Thank goodness I couldn’t think of any words or I might have said something I’d definitely regret. Then, all of a sudden, I let go and simply acknowledged Kai Chan Vong’s true point about me being impatient (especially with the RIAA). I’m glad I did because his next tweet to me was honest, self depreciating, and understanding at the same time. He even explained the time difference lapse from when I replied to him; I knew he was from the UK and likely was in bed as it was close to 1AM GMT but it was nice that he explained that. While I never replied to his last message, it was clear to me he never meant is original tweet to be harmful and had I reacted badly at it, I would have looked like a fool.

Now in the “professional” world, when you get a nasty email or are upset at a given situation, you always take a walk (or sleep on it) before responding. And when I’m at work, I always follow that policy. I’ve learned to apply that at your tweets, too.

The last thing I learned from the Last.fm rumor is that I don’t need Last.fm, never really used it, and won’t miss having an account with the site. While I’ll admit that I tried to reinstate my account after feeling guilty about prematurely canceling it, I never got out of it what others do and it was pointless to have its scrobbling application run on my computer. I used the scrobbler application, built up a profile, and used the site find concert tickets but never new music; I’ve used Pandora for that. I don’t know why, really. I can’t say with any specific reason why I never used Last.fm for new music but I didn’t. I only signed up for it because it was listed as feeder system for Facebook’s Import feature.

So having an account was critical for me. If it were, perhaps I wouldn’t have canceled my account so fast. I do think that the Last.fm team has created something great. And I might regret (again) that I canceled my account. But for now, I’ve come to terms with the decision because I never used it the way it was supposed to be used and not because I admit my impatience.

And the last thing I learned from the Last.fm rumor… is to question TechCrunch a little more often. 😉

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