After suing media-hosting and social networking site iMeem for copyright infringement, Warner Music has now dropped its claims and licensed free streaming of its catalog in exchange for a cut of ad revenue. Though several other labels had already granted such licenses, Warner is the first major label to do so. We don't know the specifics of the deal, but it appears that users of the site can now keep sharing, playlisting, and listening to Warner songs, iMeem gets to keep providing innovative ways for them to do so, artists get paid -- and no one gets sued in the process.
Considering how the majors have tried to stamp out sharing tools from Napster onward, this deal represents a pretty novel tactic, though the underlying idea isn't so new at all. The deal's basic concept is similar to the sort of blanket licensing that we've been pushing as a broader solution to get artists paid without innovators or fans being sued. Rather than fighting against file sharing, record labels and artists could allow P2P users to keep on sharing in exchange for a nominal fee.
Major labels still aren't on board with this better way forward for file sharing. In fact, Warner had cut a similar deal streaming-only deal with Lala, yet the site shut the system down because of other major label holdouts. Nevertheless, like the licensing arrangements the majors have cut with YouTube, this iMeem deal may be one step in the right direction.