Ex-copyright troll now sends letters inviting "pirates" to join fan-clubs

Tommy Funderburk used to be a copyright troll whose company, Payartists, sent legal threats to people accused of copyright infringement, though they didn't represent any actual artists (the closest they came was in representing Frank Zappa's widow).

Funderburk's new startup, Muzit, uses the same Bittorrent surveillance software and DMCA process to send letters on behalf of musicians, but these letters don't demand money — instead, they invite fans to collaborate with musicians, offering them membership in fan clubs and asking them to sign up for mailing lists.

Funderburk says his company has "eliminated the word 'pirate' from our vocabulary" and that their watchword is Fans not Foes." Muzit's listed clients include "The Mavericks and the estates of James Brown and Isaac Hayes."

As Torrentfreak notes, this is certainly a preferable twist to sending invoices to fans, but it's not clear that this is legal under the DMCA, which makes no provision for advertising messages in legal notices.

"Recently The Mavericks used Muzit TRACE to encourage people to sign up for their fan club by offering a free giveaway of an autographed guitar. In this campaign, they were able to reach out to around 200,000 new fans," Funderburk tells TF.

The Mavericks are happy with the results of their campaigns so far and see them as an ideal tool to reach an audience which they haven't been able to connect with in the past.

"We were blown away. We had no idea we had this whole other world of fans sharing our music on P2P. It works and it sure beats the hell out of an email sign up sheet at the door," Raul Malo, leader of The Mavericks, says.