I have had an account with last.fm for a while now and have always liked the service.
I just said goodbye to them.
Last.fm is a music tracking service. After you create an account, you can install a scrobbler. This is a small program that tells their site what music you are listening to as you listen to it. They keep track of what you like, and can recommend music that you may like based on what you have already listened to. They also have streaming radio stations of music that you may like, or that your friends are listening to. In short, they let you find stuff to listen to that you otherwise might not have heard of.
In February, TechCrunch ran an article claiming that last.fm handed over scrobbled data to the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA is a conglomeration of music labels that try to find people who are pirating music and sue them. In theory. In practice, they have sued people who don’t own computers, children, and people exercising what copyright laws consider fair use, claiming that each downloaded song costs the industry several thousand dollars each. The article claims that the RIAA wanted to know who had listened to the unreleased U2 album that had been leaked, and last.fm gave information to them. last.fm denied these allegations.
A couple of days ago, TechCrunch claimed to have a new source, saying that while last.fm didn’t know about the leak, CBS — their parent company — was responsible. last.fm denied this too. I am not quite sure who to believe — honestly, until TechCrunch reveals their sources, I would be more inclined to think that last.fm was telling the truth. Just the fact that there is doubt in my mind, however, and that I don’t trust large corporations such as CBS, is enough that I am no longer comfortable having my listening data their servers.
I have closed my account and moved to libre.fm, which is an open source effort, run by volunteers, that supports openly licensed music. They are to last.fm what identi.ca is to Twitter. While my music player, Rhythmbox, doesn’t support scrobbling to anyone but last.fm, Michael Gratton has written a plugin (download) that lets you scrobble to wherever you want.
Related article that I like: Piracy Sucks (from a free culture perspective)