Monday, December 07, 2009

O delicious irony!

We have all watched aghast as the big music companies go after file-sharing pirates and hammer them for utterly unrealistic damages—anyone who has thought that the music companies deserve some comeuppance are going to love this story from Ars Technica.

Because, you see, it seems that the music companies have been quite blatantly breaching copyright, and now artists are planning to take them to the cleaners.
The lawsuit in question goes back to October 2008, but continues to be dragged up in the news because new plaintiffs keep joining the case. Most recently, jazz musician Chet Baker's estate has joined the growing list of musicians and artists who are getting on the music industry's case for their abuse of a certain aspect of Canadian copyright practices—something that the labels themselves don't even deny doing.

As University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist pointed out on his blog, the issue stems from a change to the law in the 1980s that eventually produced something known as the "pending list." Essentially, record companies no longer had to get a compulsory license every time they wanted to use a song for, say, a compilation album. Instead, they went ahead and used the song without waiting for authorization or making payment, adding the song to a list of music that is pending authorization and payment. If you're questioning whether you read that right, that basically means the record industries could use songs as long as they pinky swore they would get authorization and pay the artist for it eventually.

As you can imagine, the business didn't quite work that way. Instead of keeping up with its tab on the pending list, the recording industry just kept adding songs—without obtaining any rights. The pending list among the lawsuit's defendants has topped 300,000 songs from both large and small artists alike—300,000 songs that the labels are openly admitting that they have not secured the rights for. In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that the record companies have been unjustly enriched by the use of their unauthorized music (they have, after all, been selling the music without permission and not paying out).

Aaaaaaahahahahaha! Take that, you thieving, exploitative cunts!

And don't, for a second, think that the artists are playing softball with the music companies. In a wonderful double irony, they are using the music companies' own assessment of damages—used against individual filesharers—as a measure of how much said companies owe in damages.
The recording companies targeted in the suit acknowledge that the pending list reflects unpaid royalties "in excess of $50 million," but the real extent of the damage could go far higher—possibly to the tune of $60 billion. This is because the class is asking for both statutory and punitive damages for the labels' behavior (as Geist points out, the same standards being used to go after individual file sharers), meaning that the labels could be asked to pay up to $20,000 per infringement.

This could be extremely interesting and most certainly it should be highly amusing to watch. Mind you, I would recommend buying your albums as soon as possible: if the music companies lose, they'll be trying to recoup their losses from you and me...


cabalamat said...

"if the music companies lose, they'll be trying to recoup their losses from you and me..."

Not if they're bankrupt they won't! $60 billion is in the same ballpark as their combined market capitalisations.

BTW, what's the Libertarian Party's position on the Digital Economy Bill? The Pirate Party, as you might guess, is against it.

steveshark said...

Excellent news - although tapping out the record companies is a long way off.

Old news, maybe, but this is still an interesting story:

microdave said...

I wonder what percentage of the fees the MCPS/PRS charge, have been levied illegally?

Perhaps all the small businesses who have been hounded by them, will start asking for a refund!

Costello said...


Blue Eyes said...

Yes, and rather shows up those fools who say that IP should be a criminal matter.

Jayce Kay said...

Sauce for the goose ....

Outstanding stuff, lets see these motherfuckers knocked off there ivory towers by the artists they've been royally shafting for years.

Good luck to the musicians I say!

Brilliant post DK.

Dave said...

Just one of the many scams perpetrated by the biz against the artist.
1. Huge advance? yes but you pay all the recording costs. You have no choice.
2. Nice music video? Yes but you pay the cost even if its squillions. Does the video then belong to the artist seeing as how he paid for it. No. it belongs to the record company.
3. The small print in the contract charges the cost of any damages back to the artist. This is a hangover from shellac 78s and has never been rescinded.
4. The artist also pays for R&D costs- 25 years after CDs were introduced.
5. Copyright for the written word applies for 75 years after the author's death. Copyright on recorded music lasts for 50 years from the date of the recording, and no the record companies are not about to change that any time soon. Vera Lynn made number 1 this year. She has no rights to her music. She was paid a session fee back in the 1940s and that's it. She may get a few thousand ex-gratia payment but there's no legal obligation on the part of the record company.

The record business is about making money and screwing people over. Full stop.

Dave said...

And another thing. If the record company negotiates a super discount with Tesco, the artist's royalty is cut. An artist might sell a million records but still end up broke.

oh, and if the company puts your song on a compilation album, you don't get paid. Also if they release it as an extended edit, you don't get paid, etc etc etc

Henry Crun said...

Wahey, it could be a dream come true and David Geffen becomes the first record company owner to be found sleeping rough in Central Park.

David Davis (Libertarian Alliance) said...

The "Recording companies" will get round it.

Remember, people who run these are either members of the Enemy Class, or else they become that - vide: Richard Branson.

If they were in favour of real property rights for all, and free markets, they would not have become what they did in the first place.

johnny nunsuch said...

Bet they get away with it

Shtuff said...

I think $60bn should actually read $6bn. A lot of thieving non the less.

Anonymous said...

The whole point of the "intellectual property" farce (IP) is to provide the rich and powerful with an easy route to becoming more rich, more powerful, more dominant and more monopolistic.
IP is about having the best and most expensive law firms on your side, and not about the rights and wrongs of the issue. For why? Because in essence there can be no rights or wrongs about something as fatally shot through with flaws as the whole concept of IP is. Because you cannot own something which has no tangible existence and, being ubiquitous, is not scarce in any way, i.e. ideas, concepts, tunes, etc.
So if you think that the little guy is going to get back at the big bully for once, I'd hate to spoil your day, but it ain't gonna be.
It's not simply that the big bully will always have the law on his side because of his wealth and power. No, it's because IP laws were made to suit him in the first place and it will continue to be that way as long as IP rules.

smartalek said...

One of my Dad's favorite sayings was, "The good thing about being a pessimist is, if you live long enough, you'll eventually be proven right. The good thing about being a cynic is, you don't even have to live very long." (Real bundle o' light & joy, that one.)
I wish I could say I was surprised.
I've made it a point never to download anything "pirated," partly because I'm the creator of a good deal of lesson content for my firm, and I don't take the theft thereof lightly. So it would be hugely hypocritical of me to just take w/o compensation the work of others.
This kind of nonsense makes it a lot harder to hold to such a position.
Thank you so much for this post; I had heard absolutely nothing about this before.