Music search engine Seeqpod has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of California, according to TechCrunch. The move by the Emeryville, CA-based startup closely follows the decision to sell its source code in hopes of spawning numerous similar sites. Last month the company was sued by EMI.

Seeqpod was sued by Warner Music Group in January 2008. It claimed the search engine trawled only for a particular type of content - music - that Seeqpod "knows is overwhelmingly copyrighted." WMG also took issue with Seeqpod's strategy of gaining a user base in the fastest and cheapest way possible. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a copy of the complaint here(.PDF file) and commentary on the complaint here.

On its Web site, Seeqpod claims it is within the law. "Our technology is legal," it insists, "and we diligently observe industry-standard DMCA regulations for search engines, otherwise known as .information location tools. We do not support, nor facilitate, illegal downloading, and we do not host files."

Since it scours the Internet for links to MP3s and videos, Seeqpod does not have the breadth of a standard music service with licensing deals. Queries for currently popular artists or music favorites will return decent results. A search for something out favor with today's youth, like country legend Roy Acuff, will return disappointing results. But the service does have value, and much of it is derived from content outside of the major label system. Since the content is not licensed, Seeqpod is more current and underground than licensed services. A search at Seeqpod can find items not available at iTunes: illegal DJ mixes, user-generated videos and tracks leaked ahead of street date.

While provisions within the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allow for the indexing of links to music files - files which may or may not be legal - they may not cover Seeqpod's entire business model. Seeqpod not only searches and indexes music links, it also allows for users to stream those songs. The company does not pay performance royalties to either owners of sound recorders or composers. WMG's complaint was specific in arguing that Seeqpod created "unauthorized digital public performances." For a debate on that issue and Seeqpod's business model, read this post by the LA Times' Jon Healy and continue through to the comments where Healy and the EFF's Fred von Lohmann have a good debate.

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