Feedback on the CDDB
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I found it [CDDB] a ripoff, and am trying to
convince a company that I'm investing in to dump it for an alternative
that doesn't apply proprietary terms to the work done by tens of
thousands of volunteers. In particular, commercial use of the
database requires that you swear not to use any of their competitors.
And charges fees for use. And won't let you have the entire database
yourself. Personally I'm advocating the use of freedb.org, which is
the same thing, re-collected from the consumers who typed it in the
first time, but released under the GNU Public License so it can't be
stolen from those consumers a second time. I would hope that
MusicDish would advocate alternatives like freedb rather than CDDB; if
more people used it, it would fill up faster, and the proprietary CDDB
would be history.
www.Freedb.org is a much better option than CDDB. It's already used
by default in six or eight applications, and many others can be
reconfigured to use it. It uses the same protocol as the original
CDDB servers, and puts no restrictions on what you can do with the
data, how to build your applications, or anything else (except that
like all information under the GNU General Public License, if you make
improved versions available, they must come without restrictions on
who can further use and distribute them). The information in the
database is owned by the people who submitted the entries -- not by
the central collecting site. FreeDB has 148,000 albums today, rather
than the 580,000 in CDDB. It will catch up quickly, if people simply
switch to contributing to IT rather than to CDDB.
What's happened here is that the vast collection of CDDB contributions
by well-meaning individuals has been taken proprietary by greedheads,
who are now using those contributions to become the monopoly provider
of automated information about CD's. So they can sell consumers'
private information to advertisers.
The original CDDB database was released under the GNU General Public
License, which allows anyone to use it for any non-proprietary
purpose, without control or royalties to the originator. Somehow the
people at the center, collecting the data, stopped releasing it under
free terms. My guess is that they claimed ownership of the data,
offered a second license on which it could be accessed, and then
stopped publishing the GNU licensed version themselves. Any new
contributions became proprietary to CDDB.
CDDB requires people to sign licenses in order to build applications
that can access the database. These licenses exert massive control
over the user experience and over the competitive options available to
the application developer.
I just checked the CDDB web site (www.cddb.com) and looked at their
license agreement and "checklist" for applications that use it. They
have stopped issuing licenses for use of the existing "CDDB 1"
database. All new applications are required to access the "CDDB 2"
database, using a proprietary protocol, so that free replacements are
harder to build. And the only platform supported by CDDB 2 is Windows.
Clearly the CDDB has been taken over by marketing types. The new
license requires that EVERY end-user "register" with the database so
that CDDB can track their accesses, sell the info to marketing
companies, supply targeted ads, and send them email. ("The
registration data collected is only used to improve the user
experience with the service." Then why isn't it the user's option to
pick what level of "servicing" they desire?)
The license requires that the CDDB logo or name be displayed for two
seconds (or more) every time the database is accessed. It has three
pages of "checklist" that CDDB personnel will validate before they
permit your application to access the database -- and everything on
the list is the marketing and licensing crap that applications are
required to do in order to be granted access to the database. And of
course it prohibits any such application from accessing *any other* CD
information database, or via any other intermediate service like what
Real was doing.
They've learned from the Real Networks player-privacy debacle: that
information about which CD everyone is playing right now is VALUABLE
and they're grabbing for it with every legal lever and every market
edge they've got.
As their FAQ says: "Lastly, the new service will offer a number of
revenue-generating opportunities for developers of CDDB-enabled
applications. The new service accommodates the delivery of links,
promotions, and content related to CD music. Marketers and retailers
wishing to interact with music consumers can do so via the CDDB2
network when authorized by an application. CDDB will offer
participation to developers in revenues created within the CDDB
A week ago they announced that "Link Delivery Services" are "fully
available to the marketplace". The deal is that people can pay CDDB
to show ads that can be targeted to people who are currently playing
specific CD's or songs.
And it's always "free to end users", to encourage those contributions
to keep rolling in, to cement their monopoly.
Developers can break this monopoly by using a different service by
default, allowing the end-user to change what service the application
uses, and refusing to sign CDDB's license agreement. End-users can
break this monopoly by reconfiguring or patching their applications to
access a different service than CDDB.
FAQ on CDDB licensing:
Checklist of marketing requirements for new applications:
The license agreement itself isn't publicly visible -- you have to enter
your own identification in order to see it -- but you can type
gibberish at it, and it takes you to the second URL below, where
the license and the Windows interface description are available:
John Gilmore (EFF)
I especially found it interesting that Gilmore calls CDDB a monopoly,
considering that a.) it is free and b.) he points out it has been reverse
engineered and a "free-er" alternative is available. I suspect Gilmore's
real problem with CDDB is that they attempt to collect user data, but come
on, who ever enters their real name/email address into those types of
registration forms? And there are lots of web (and non-web) companies based
on the premise of a monetarily free service in exchange for personal
information. Those who are paranoid about privacy can always enter their
own CD info on their own computer, or develop and support their own system
(like freedb) that is run however they want.
Here is perhaps a more tangible analogy. P&G takes thousands of phone calls
a day from consumers accepting comments/suggestions/etc (free submissions
to P&G involving some effort on the part of the consumer). P&G turns around
and turns that information into products that we sell. We don't say to our
competitors, "hey, here is this great stuff we just learned from our
consumers. Why don't you have it too". We make them at least reverse
engineer it or collect the info themselves. Thats just the way the system
works. The information is out there for the taking, but the company that
goes to the effort of running the collecting of that information shouldn't
be prevented from profiting.
just my thoughts,
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