MusicBrainz web service: Time to adopt a Tos?

I recently got word that at least one for-profit company (who shall remain nameless right now) is/was using the MusicBrainz web service in their paid commercial offering. Personally, I don’t think its OK for a for-profit company to be consuming the resources of a non-profit — we make all of our data and software available for companies to download and use for free (as in speech and beer). If someone wants to use our data for their product, they should do it with their own resources.

For the first set version of the Terms of Service, I would like to keep things simple and not add too many rules. Given that I would like to solicit feedback about adopting the following Terms of Service for the web service:

I’d like to get some feedback on this, so please leave a comment:

  • Does this make sense philosophically?
  • Do you spot any problems with this setup?
  • What else should we consider?

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6 thoughts on “MusicBrainz web service: Time to adopt a Tos?”

  1. You might want to consider a specific licensing fee (not just as a threshold percentage of registration) for commercial applications that use the web service (as I understand it, currently the only commercial licenses are for the replication database feed). Not every commercial entity will have the resources (or technical ability) to set up an MB database using the freely available replication feed, and not all commercial entities are going to be applications that charge registration or shareware fees as described – they might (hypothetically?) be web services of their own that are based on the MB web service rather than the replication feed, and charge some sort of subscription fee.

    The 10% rule works for standalone apps, but would have problems with bundling where the application provides additional services as well (maybe a service that uses MB lookups cross-correlated with AMG reviews or maybe links to a pay-to-download or mail-order site where you can get other songs by related artists).

    On that last subject, you should probably add specific terms relating to the link referral fees so that those are not siphoned away from MusicBrainz with URL games. Some of that may be implied by the Amazon ToS given our use of the icons, but it’s best to be explicit.


  2. Sounds like a good low-impact start.

    The one thing I would suggest is a requirement that a UserAgent field be set by calling applications so that usage can be monitored. It’s by no means a fool-proof method, but it’s a lightweight change, and at least gives you a fighting chance of a) understanding the impact on the server by different software, and b) blocking out bad neighbours if there’s a problem.

  3. I’m not sure that saying “Applications that charge a registration or shareware fee and that donate at least 10% of their fees to the MetaBrainz Foundation are considered non-commercial” makes any sense. I think it should be “This data is available to all under a CC Non commercial basis. It is also available to applications that donate 10% to Metabrainz can use the data under xxx license. Click here for full terms.” You might want to instead just say the 10% is typical, but you have to apply per app.

    Also, you miss the case of a non-osi “free as in beer” product. Do they have to give 10% of nothing to qualify?

  4. I don’t see how putting a particular license on the *data* solves the problem. Terms of *service* are something entirely different.

    I would prefer that the data be available to anyone for any purpose, much like all DFSG-free software is. Software being free or not has nothing to do with it being commercial or not!

    If you want to block other hosts from abusing the web services, or charge a fee to heavy users so you can add the required capacity, just do so. I don’t see what this has to do with the database, or whether these third parties are making money.

    I can’t tell you what to do with the rest of it (the database), but were I to have any sort of say about my contributions I would prefer a freer license than CC.

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