Music industry to musicbloggers: there's no point in obeying the law

Last week, several high-profile, much-loved music blogs disappeared from Google's Blogspot service, after they were targetted by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI -- the international version of the RIAA). IFPI defended its action by saying "Our top priority is to prevent the continued availability of the IFPI Represented Companies' content on the internet."

But IFPI didn't target pirate websites here. Among the sites it took down was I Rock Cleveland, a site whose author, Bill Lipold, painstakingly sought and received explicit permission to post every single track and excerpt he put up (though in many cases, he could have relied on fair use rather than going to the effort).

By using the law to annihilate labors of love like I Rock Cleveland, sites that obeyed all the rules and sought permission from the copyright holders at every turn, IFPI's message is simple: "Don't bother getting permission. Just take stuff. You're wasting your time trying to obey the law. It all comes out the same in the end -- we don't care whether you obey our rules or not."

IFPI will argue that it was just trying to help artists, that everyone makes mistakes, that copyright is complicated. But these are exactly the same arguments that the musicbloggers whose sites were vanished by IFPI's abusive lawyering would have made, if they'd been given a chance.

And the artists, the human shields in whose name IFPI is doing all of this? They don't want it, don't need it, and don't understand it. As one band's publicist wrote, "Just so you know, this is none of our doing...apparently, DMCA operate on their own set of odd rules, as they even requested that the (band's) official blog remove the song....What a headache..."

Targeted bloggers need to know these details, not only so that they can remove the file if it's indeed infringing, but so that they can file a DMCA counter-notice in the event that the file is not infringing.

Ordinarily, the party issueing the takedown notice would be required by US copyright law to specify which content is being accused. But, as an international organization headquartered in London, IFPI is arguing that it doesn't even need to play by the USA's rules. "We neither admit nor accept," they write, "...that Google is entitled to be served a notice in compliance with the DMCA." Translation: IFPI is essentially threatening to sue Google under some unspecified foreign law -- presumably one which lacks even the modest safe-harbor provisions available in the USA. It's no wonder Google felt the need to take drastic action to avoid liability, even at the expense of the resulting headaches and bad press.

Music Journalism is the New Piracy


  1. Well done IFPI. I’ve always paid for all of my music – every track in my iTunes is paid for – but it’s this continued abuse of its own customers that makes me wonder why I bother.

    I want to compensate the artists & those around them that add value to their art, not these idiots ruining their own industry

  2. Makes me glad that I have hardly ever paid for music since discovering napster back when it was the first available.

    F*** you music industry.

    1. I am not sure what your issue is with the quote, and paraphrase is, however I have followed each link and haven’t found the source of the quote (if indeed it isn’t just him quoting himself).

      1. The problem with putting quotation marks (and also bolding it) around something that’s paraphrased is that you’re attributing it as fact, when in fact it’s editorialization. The best term I can think of is “putting words in their mouth”. Boing Boing is known for sensationalizing things for readers/ad impressions, but I’m not sure they cleared presenting a paraphrase as a direct quote from the IFPI with their lawyers first; they might be liable for libel (aside to BB: I’d love to see what your lawyers have to say about that, out of curiosity). Boing Boing does get picked up by Google News on occasion so libel might be a legal grey area if they were to get sued.

        1. You did read the sentence running on to that bit, didn’t you? Where Cory basically says “By doing x, y and z, the IFPI’s message is ‘abc‘”.

          See what happened there? I paraphrased Cory, and used quotation marks to signify the imaginary speech of his position, rather than signifying the utter, recorded truth of his delivered words.

          He isn’t misquoting or passing it off as a quote, he is describing the message sent, by IFPI’s actions. The quote obviously represents the consequential message, not any actual speech.

  3. What’s the problem?

    Stated goal of the IFPI:

    “Our top priority is to prevent the continued availability of the IFPI Represented Companies’ content on the internet.”

    Job well done!

    1. I think you misquoted them, try this:

      “Our top priority is to ensure the continued profit margin of the IFPI Represented Companies’ content.”

  4. Ah yes, the imaginary legal grey area in which dwells the imaginary violation of the imaginary libel law that would kick in when the imaginary naive reader who can’t parse out the meaning of the quote-marks comes along, and whose case is made on the basis of the imaginary reputation for sensationalization.

    Thanks, concern troll, for your concern! Your incapacity to grasp the most obvious, basic compositional rhetorical techniques is an inspiration to us all! Bravo for a truly ham-fisted attempt at pedantic, po-faced threadjacking!

  5. I think what irritates me most of all about these organisations is that few of the artists who are being completely misrepresented by them speak out about it. Certainly, I wouldn’t want to have my name associated with a bunch of bumbling buffoons like this lot.

    1. I’m sure it’s tricky to criticize the hand that feeds. They write the checks that pay the artist’s bills, so the artists are afraid to raise a ruckus about what the organization is doing.

  6. I love the 21st century. We have file sharing, cheap domain hosting, paypal, CD-Rs, etc. Anyone with a song and an internet connection can share it with the world without ever having to deal with the music execs and their lawyers who think they’re still living in the 50s. The best thing we could do to help the music industry is to help these corporations commit financial suicide by cutting out the unnecessary middle man. Steal the music from the corporation and find other ways to compensate the artists directly for services rendered. It’s for the best really. We can liberate the music. They can shout “We told you so” with righteous indignation as they file for bankruptcy. It seems to me that all they really want is to prove that file sharing will be the death of them. We should help.

  7. Say I want to publicize one of my albums. I want to get the name out there, get people to listen to my music, and most likely boost sales. The industry itself won’t let me do so with a third party? Nice. Waste the money you’re withholding for “distributing and promoting” the music for legal fees and deny yourself free advertising.

    I hope they file counter-suits for every single track they have permission to use, artists included.

  8. Well of course the record labels maintain that through the magic of “works made for hire,” language in the recording contracts, THEY are the authors of the works in question, not the musicians who wrote them. Of course this assertion flies in the face of both logic and law*, but they will cling to it with their dying breath.

    *Since record albums are not in the list of works that can be turned into WMFH by contract terms.

  9. You know what, though– f**k those artists. They could have done it all DIY, and just paid to have their own stuff pressed, hired studio time, done promotion, etc… but they don’t. They’re playing a halfway game with the labels, and acting like we should ignore it. Every time one of these chumps speaks up to say “well, I’m not part of the problem, it’s the suits making trouble,” I’m thinking– “you signed with those suits. Too bad!”

    If fewer artists bother with these chumps in the first place, that will erode their power more quickly than anything.

    1. Too bad it’s not that simple. For a lot of artists, it’s either sign up with these goons, or spend the rest of your life flipping burgers and playing bars on weekends (and getting gigs in bars isn’t even that easy anymore).

      Granted, the internet makes self promotion much easier than it ever has been, but even the internet success stories haven’t made anywhere near the money that an act signed with a major label can pull in.

      The entire system is rigged in such a way that if you want to play the game, you gotta get in bed with the enemy.

        1. Unless the “new game” can put food on the table in under two weeks, it’s never going to happen.

          I’m not defending artists signing with these labels. But when the choice comes down to giving up your dream, selling out, or starving, selling out is probably going to win every time.

          Go watch the Anvil documentary if you want a thorough examination of what it costs to have a successful music career without the aid of a major label.

          1. But you ARE defending them. There’s a lot of ways to put food on your table without signing up to be part of an exploitative system.

  10. This is the best line in the article: “Our top priority is to prevent the continued availability of the IFPI Represented Companies’ content on the internet.”

    I wonder if that’s what their corporate mission statement says. Might their mission actually be to promote the phonograph industry?

    Oh, wait, they killed the phonograph industry 25 years ago by introducing the CD. Never mind.

    So what *is* their mission, anyway?

    1. Yes, “Our top priority is to prevent the continued availability of the IFPI Represented Companies’ content on the internet,” sounds like one helluva Freudian Slip.

      The internet threatens their absolute control over the distribution of their monopolised product. Of course they’re ag’in it.

  11. xzzy – “the internet success stories haven’t made anywhere near the money that an act signed with a major label can pull in”

    ahh, but
    a. do the success stories (e.g. spice girls) deserve the cash they get?
    b. how many artists get shafted by labels (proportion of sales going to them)?
    As Day Vexx says: you signed with those suits
    The way I see it, signing with them, unless you’ve won xfactor recently, is the biggest 419 scam the world has known to date.

  12. Can anyone find a link to what companies belong to this lovely organization? I’d like to avoid sending any more money in their “represented companies” direction.

    If a private international organization wants to participate in a legal process in the US, it does not have to abide by the law it is abusing? Since when?

  13. Actually, the sole party at fault in the loss of IRockCleveland is Google. Google’s own stated policy on dealing with DMCA notices includes provisions that the complainant must certify that they are the copyright holder. In fact, IFPI is not the copyright holder, so they should not have acted on their complaints period. Secondly, their policy for these blogs states that they will take problematic blog postings out of public view and put them into draft status while the issue is investigated. They did not do that in this case, they just took down blogs, deleted archives of non-complained-about postings with no notice to the bloggers. Google is the heavy-handed party here, no matter how obnoxious you may find IFPI.

  14. Decades ago the term “music business” should have evolved into “business/music”. It’ll all go away when the real DRM, the Digital Renaissance Musician, emerges where we all make our own music, and share it like food at a banquet…

  15. The only part of the equation that is playing fair these days is the consumer. That’s why I gave up playing far 10 years ago.

    Can’t the dumb fucks at the top realise that they’re alienating their customers? After you piss off the customers you will have no one left.

  16. I went to IFPI’s page and emailed their general and legal contacts to let them know that I condemned them all to hell. I received my first german-language “email not found” from the legal email’s postmaster.

    further proof that ifpi needs to lrn2internet….

  17. Look, the industry is going change with the new way people make, find, buy, share and enjoy music. That means either new businesses/models will appear, or big changes must come to existing ones. And it requires everyone acknowledge what the other brings to the table, and wherever possible, learn how to do it themselves or find reasonable services to help them do it.

    Music stores aren’t going away, people need places to go and find and buy music–and people WILL buy music. I know it for a fact, there’s more than a song PER SECOND from the TuneCore catalog selling on iTunes alone. TuneCore made this possible for hundreds of thousands of people, and that’s part of the change.

    Labels, or the functions labels have provided, aren’t going away either. You still have to work to get yourself known–that’s a valuable service, requiring knowledge, money and experience, and it’s worth paying for, and labels have been doing it for decades.

    What’s happened is that the democratization of this industry made possible by TuneCore and other digital distributors is bumping up against a century of old law, outdated law, unscalable law that can’t keep up with new “juristictionless” worldwide markets, legitimate or otherwise (what is “legitimate” under these old laws anyway?–that’s the problem!).

    Until the industry AND those laws move, the best place to effect de-facto change is the individual: the agent is you, the artist, the consumer, the superfan, the site admin, the blogger. The more you know, the more you can reduplicate what all artists need, from music production to marketing to managing, or know what makes for quality production, marketing and managing so when you give money to someone for these services, you know what they are and won’t get ripped off.

    And what does the individual do when entities bring legal pressures to make gatekeepers (Google, owners of infrastructure, etc.) do unfortunate things, like knocking down sites wholesale, legitimate or not? You arm yourself with knowledge, you bypass gatekeepers wherever possible, you do it yourself where you can, and you post about it on BoingBong. ;)

    You do all these things and new businesses will arise to meet the new demand. Honestly, that’s why we created TuneCore. Now artists can do for themselves what they used to rely upon labels for-or rather, it turns the artist INTO a label, letting them learn about and have the ability to do (cheaply, easily) one of labels’ primary functions.

    This goes for the law too, and across all countries: new successes (digital market place) and new businesses (TuneCore) and new, empowered artists will mean new laws and new attitudes.

    And it’s working. Don’t let this IFPI or any other organization’s efforts get you down. Change isn’t just coming, it’s here. Think back to just a few years ago, when majors and stores alike were clinging to DRM for dear life. Remember back to when there was an atmosphere that made you wonder if you’d be the next average guy/gal sued by the RIAA. How much have those pressures already relaxed? I’m struck by how much this IFPI story stands out!

    What’s done this more than anything is the rise (nay, dominance) of a legitimate music market over the Internet for digital files: iTunes, AmazonMP3, eMusic, on and on. “Look, we’re making money off this!” say labels who’ve seen digital revenues climb and individual artists with actual paychecks. TuneCore alone payed out more than $40 million to independent artists in just 2009. That’s what the law will come to protect, that’s what will (and is) providing real positive pressure. Consumers, artists, labels, and the shifting definitions of all three, are making this happen.


  18. Ok so yeah, Google has just gone out and wiped out the blogger sites even for those that have probably had the artists agree to let them use their music or for artists that have actually sent the music to the bloggers for promotion. Maybe the solution is certified drop boxes where the artists submit their music to the blogger through a certified format. We have drop boxes that we offer for bloggers and for other people in the industry and it clearly states the terms and even allows the artist to have a say on whether or not the music can be downloaded for free, if they do not allow a download of the music or if they want to provide a code to the person wanting to download the music.

    The DMCA and the EFF should get with it and either setup some process or allow platforms like ours to help facilitate this process. Ours is free unless the blogger wants to charge a fee for submissions. And the artists can decide who they want to share their music with instead of having just anyone grab their track.

    And before anyone bashes me for self promotion ReverbNation also has a Grab Box so this could just as easily be facilitated through them. All I am suggesting is that sources like these become legitimate hall monitors. Let the system begin to find ways to policy itself. The large companies helped get us into this mess!

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