On Posting Music Samples

More than once, I’ve felt the urge to post a song here for people to download. This is obviously illegal, and so far this has stopped me from doing so. In the interest of exploring available options, I’ll ask you, esteemed reader:

  • When would it be technically legal, i.e. is there a specific bitrate at which it becomes okay?
  • When would it be “legal enough” that it wouldn’t stop you from doing it, i.e. is it morally okay when also posting an iTunes or Amazon link?

I’m pondering writing a small neat Flash app that’s easy to embed, and plays an external mp3 when clicked. It would be nice to know when the use of it is legal and when it’s not. Let me know your thoughts.

21 thoughts on “On Posting Music Samples”

  1. You’ve probably already seen it, but nonetheless, I wrote an entry about it half a year ago, voicing my opinion on it. I called it The Binary Bonsai Approach to Copyright

    There’s nothing particularly legal about it, but it follows my ‘don’t be an asshole’ policy, which I hope is good enough.

    Here are a few of my rough guidelines:

    • I try not to post copyrighted music too often; like every week for instance.
    • I don’t post ‘popular’ music. I think there’s a large difference between posting a song currently on the top 10 now and in 5 years.
    • I usually don’t post more than one song from an album at a time. I don’t want to become a download central, I just want to share my love of music.

    A flash player would be great, and if you’re going to do one I’d love to beta test it. I know Keith Robinson had one a while ago, which he used for this exact purpose.

  2. Anders Rask says:

    I personally feel that Michael’s guidelines are morally OK. But there is no way at all that you can make it legal.

  3. “But there is no way at all that you can make it legal.”

    Not unless you move noscope to Russia anyway 😛

  4. Joen says:

    Ah, some great responses here.

    I did read your entry, Michael, and I completely agree with it, and your bulletpoints here. I imagine following the same rules myself.

    That is, if there wasn’t some simple tweak like dumping the bitrate to 96 kpbs making it legal.

    But apparently not, thanks Anders.

    This won’t stop me from writing that Flash app though, I just need to sketch out how I want it to look and what features it needs.

  5. Could you make it skinnable? 😛

  6. Joen says:

    I could make it skinnable, I could add a trackbar, I could add stop, play, volume, etc. etc.

    The question is more of what should be there, what shouldn’t, and whether someone already wrote one that does what I/we need.

    For starters though, i.e. very first version, I imagine something simple. It has a single line of text that says “Play Music Sample” or something. Once clicked, it turns into “Stop Music Sample”. It would, until someone picks it up and writes a WP plugin, be embedded like this:

    < script>playMusic("/files/music.mp3")</script>

    Once that’s in the barn, I’ll take it from there.

    Ideally though, I’d pick up the work of someone else, simplify it and wp’ify it.

  7. Levi says:

    Interesting post, I post music on my blog ocassionally just to let friend hear some of the things I like.

    There are a few projects out already:

    Jeroen’s Flash MP3 Player – My favourite, though the way the playlist works could be re-worked.


  8. Joen says:


    Nice MP3 player there. I’m looking for something simpler and more specialized, though, but if it’s open sourced, I might be able to fix it up.

  9. dave says:

    As far as legality goes, you can’t post anything copyrighted by someone else (images, text, whatever). Things get a little bit dicey when you start talking about offering opinons (ie movie reviews, djs, etc). That’s a grey area that a lot of mp3 blogs take advantage of… most of the ones I’ve seen around tend to only offer the track for a couple weeks at most and tend to suggest live and free music.

    As far as flash players go, I found XSPF Web Music Player, it has a slim mode, badge sized and a tiny-button mode (not sure if it works though). Open-source too. You need to use XSPF playlists but that can be useful for playing other people’s music. There appears to be a WordPress plugin as well. I haven’t actually tried any of it but it looks interesting.

  10. Joen says:

    I would mainly be offering the music next to a review, I would think.

    As for the web music player, perfect! It’s exactly what I need! Thanks for posting it.

    And since it’s open source, I’ll be picking it up and doing some changes. I don’t particularly want it to look like winamp, and I want to be able to insert it in a simple way. But that’s all doable.

  11. AkaXakA says:

    Thing is with XSPF, it’s quite easy (for a web dev) to see where a file can be downloaded…works great otherwise tough 🙂

  12. Joen says:


    I wouldn’t really mind people were able to download the song.

    The thing is, as long as it’s POSSIBLE to download the song, there’s, in my opinion, no reason to make it unnecessarily difficult for them to do it. It’ll just waste my and their time.

  13. AkaXakA says:

    No, don’t think you would mind, it’s just that it makes it more of a target for trigger happy lawyers, sadly enough.

  14. Joen says:

    I guess you’re right.

  15. Sujay says:

    Is the FLA file for the extended XSPF player working for anyone? I get a unrecognized file format when opening in Flash.

  16. Joen says:

    Unrecognized File Format usually means it was built in a newer version of Flash than the one you currently have. For instance, if you try to open an MX 2004 Flash file with Flash MX.

    Doublecheck ?

  17. Sujay says:

    Yep, that’s it. I need MX 2004.

  18. chrisalom says:

    you obviously just want to post some music – stop feeling bad about it, and just do it until you get caught.


  19. Joen says:

    Chris, you always gave the best advice.

    Of course I wan’t to, and I’m going to, and I was going to do it anyway. But if there was a loophole, I wanted to know about it.

  20. Joen says:

    I see a few people are still subscribed here.

    I found this … delicious … solution:



    Play Tagger allows you to easily play mp3 files directly on your website or blog. Simply include a tiny javascript, and your mp3 links will automatically become playable right on the page. In addition, your visitors will have the opportunity to easily tag and post the mp3 link to del.icio.us. This script is extremely lightweight, as is the flash movie that plays on demand.

    In short: Simply click the play button (not the link).

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