Monday, April 26, 2010

Caren Explains Tree Cenergy, Copyrights and Being a Blacklisted Blogger

Today I received notification that someone is out to get me. I cannot tell you who, exactly, but they are already on the attack.

It started when I got a very longwinded, vague email from Blogger that said I have apparently infringed on the copyrights of someone involved in a blog post I wrote nearly six months ago. The post proclaimed the awesomeness of a hip band from Philadelphia whose name rhymes with "Tree Cenergy." [This band is growing very popular, by the way].

The blog post in question refers readers to two mp3 downloads that were made "legally" available on other sites. I wasn't hosting the files myself, and I made sure -- before posting the links -- to read up on the referring sites' download agreements. In doing so, I was assured that the referring sites (SPIN and Stereogum) had permission to post the mp3s. I even listed a disclaimer that said something to the effect of, "These sites have proof that these downloads are allowed."

Blogger advises that I remove the offending content and repost. But to be honest, I have no idea what I did wrong. Knowing this detail would be helpful to "prevent future violations." Instead, I'm going to be blacklisted on the DMCA clearinghouse. Super.

So let me stand on my soapbox for a second and make two different but tangental arguments.

First, I applaud you copyright holders for fighting for your rights. No one values content anymore and that needs to be remedied. The proliferation of mp3 blogs and aggregators has only perpetuated the notion that content should be free. Consumers feel entitled to get it. And if you take a stand and say it isn't allowed to be free, there are still plenty of places to stream it (Grooveshark, for one). If you treat the symptom, you don't ever cure the disease. So maybe I deserved a slap on the wrist.

But, if a musician values his copyrights he should make sure his business team is on the same page. When I was at Paste, I used to get tons of emails from publicists and labels encouraging us to post mp3s for our readers to download. These businessmen were treating mp3s as loss leaders for other revenue streams, like touring dollars and commercial licensing fees. Not that artists are always okay with that strategy.... In 2007 Band of Horses pulled out of a Wal-Mart commercial after going back and forth about the implications for its image.

That there is no industry agreement on mp3 sharing on music blogs has only further muddled the perceived value of content. If the majors say "No!" but the indies say "Yes!" what happens to when an indie band is upstreamed to a major label? My guess is the major suddenly go looking through archives to yank down files that the artist published as an indie; heck, the indie might even look through the archives once a band gets somewhat popular... it is certainly suspicious that this notice was issued six months after the blog publication...

Perhaps I trusted too much in SPIN and Stereogum's policies; or perhaps it isn't the mp3s that are the problem, but a picture I posted instead? I guess only The Man knows for sure.

You can bite the hand that feeds you, Music Industry, but at least give an explanation after you sink your teeth in.

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