Rhapsody For iPhone?

Is the music-on-demand service coming to the iPhone? Owner RealNetworks has prepped an app and now it’s all up to Apple.

In a blog posting on RealNetworks’ Web site, Lacy Kemp writes that the company has submitted a Rhapsody application to Apple for review. But getting an official stamp of approval from Steve Jobs & company may be more difficult than writing the actual app.

While no one is doubting the coding capabilities of RealNetworks’ programmers, the sought-after approval by Apple may rely on more than just technical specs. That’s because Rhapsody, which streams music on demand, also sells downloads, putting it in direct competition with Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

Sure, there are other music applications in Apple’s much-celebrated Apps Store, but most are for Internet radio outlets like Pandora, Last.fm and AOL Radio as well as artist-centric apps, tools for musicians and, of course, games.

According to Kemp’s blog posting, the Rhapsody app functions pretty much like the service’s Web site and allows users to log in and listen to anything they want from more than 8 million tracks in the service’s inventory. Heck, with a Rhapsody app on your iPhone, who needs terrestrial radio? Or, for that matter, iTunes.

“There is nothing quite as satisfying as needing to hear a certain song RIGHT NOW and being able to scratch that itch,” Kemp wrote. “That’s what we aim to do, and now it’ll be easier than ever. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve wanted to hear a song on my iPhone and guiltily plopped down $.99 to iTunes to please my impatient self. When I first used the Rhapsody app it seriously felt like the sun shone a little brighter that day. Music matters that much.”

Kemp also reveals that RealNetworks is also working on an app for Android, the mobile operating system initially developed by Google. Anyone wanna bet you’ll see Rhapsody on an Android-powered mobile phone before you see it on the iPhone?

LAUNCHcast Triumphs Over Labels

The lawsuit had been going on for so long most everyone had forgotten about it. Everyone, that is, except the major labels and LAUNCHcast.

But the wheels of justice do turn, albeit sometimes at a snail’s pace, and the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has ruled in favor of Launch Media, saying its LAUNCHcast does not need to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing fees.

The major labels, led by Sony, sued Launch Media over its interactive music service dubbed LAUNCHcast back in 2001, claiming it gave users so much control that it discouraged anyone from buying the actual CDs. LAUNCHcast users could create individual stations based on how they rated songs, artists and albums.

Although users could not determine which songs LAUNCHcast would play, the labels claimed the service was too interactive to be covered by a compulsory license similar to what radio stations must acquire, but must negotiate with individual labels for the permission to stream the music to its listeners.

It was a different Internet when the recording industry sued Launch Media in 2001. Major label content was noticeably absent from an online world where Shawn Fanning’s Napster was getting sued into oblivion and the major labels’ answer to illicit file-sharing – Pressplay and MusicNet – had yet to launch.

This isn’t the first decision on the matter. In 2007 a federal jury in Manhattan decided in Launch’s favor and refused to award the labels $100 million in damages. The labels appealed, resulting in the recent decision reaffirming the original ruling.

“In short, to the degree that LAUNCHcast’s playlists are uniquely created for each user, that feature does not ensure predictability,” the appeals court said. “Indeed, the unique nature of the playlist helps Launch ensure that it does not provide a service so specially created for the user that the user ceases to purchase music.”

The court also said at least 20 percent of the songs created on a LAUNCHcast playlist are songs the user has never expressed an interest in, noting that 60 percent or more of the 10,000 songs from which playlists were chosen were generated by factors beyond users’ control.

“LAUNCHcast listeners do not even enjoy the limited predictability that once graced the AM airwaves on weekends in America when ‘special requests’ represented love-struck adolescents’ attempts to communicate their feelings to ‘that special friend,’” the appeals court said.

Yahoo! Acquired Launch Media, including LAUNCHcast, in 2001 less than two months after the labels filed the lawsuit and integrated the service into its Yahoo! Music department. LAUNCHcast re-launched in February, powered by AOL Radio.

Mininova’s 3-Month Deadline

A civil court in the Netherlands has given torrent site Mininova three months to remove all files from its servers.

Mininova is one of the biggest torrent sites in Europe, and hosts files containing code that enables users to download files from torrent-enabled, peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

In a ruling issued on Aug. 26, the Utrecht District Court sided with Dutch-based intellectual property rights organization Stichting Brein, saying it agreed with the organization’s argument that Mininova was infringing copyrights and profiting from the infringing activities through advertising on the site.

“The court didn’t agree with Mininova’s argument that it was impossible for it to find and remove torrents that point to copyrighted materials,” the ruling said.

Although Mininova’s practice is to remove torrents leading users to copyrighted material if and when the copyright owners complained, the court said such actions weren’t good enough and that the site’s operators should assume that commercial media content is copyrighted.

“The court believes it’s generally known that commercially made films, games, music and TV series are copyrighted and that these works are only copyright-free in exceptional cases,” the court said.

Saying he would appeal the decision, Mininova founder Erik Dubbelboer said the court’s ruling would mean “Changing the way we do business.”

“What that would mean in concrete terms, we can’t say at this point,” Dubbelboer said.