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MySpace Accused Of Stealing Artists’ Music Following Recent Launch

Date of News: 2013-01-22
Source: bigpondmusic


With celebrity popstar Justin Timberlake and investor group Specific Media at the helm, the slick new MySpace re-launched last week, and following years in the social media wilderness gathering digital dust, the revamped, redesigned site officially opened to the public with is concerted focus on music discovery, sharing, and streaming.

Garnering modest attention in internet traffic, drawing approximately 26 million US users on launch, with thanks to the well-timed launch of Timberlake’s new Jay-Z featuring single ‘Suit & Tie’, marking JT’s return to music after nearly seven years.

With its slick new interface and a proprietary 27 million song strong library that’s pegged as a ‘Spotify killer’, the new MySpace had positive beginnings towards its goal of doing for music fans for Facebook and Twitter does for social networking.

But it’s reached it’s first major bump in what could well be an uphill struggle, with accusations already flying that music featured on the social network site is being used without permission from the artists.

News Ltd reports that Merlin, a UK agency that owns music labels that represent the likes of Canadian art rock elite Arcade Fire and New York boho-popsters Vampire Weekend, is claiming that their negotiated digital deal with MySpace, licensing from indie majors like Domino, Beggars Group, and Merge, expired over a year ago but i still being used to access and stream music without their consent.

“What we’ve taken issue with is the service launched without a license from us, yet with our music all over the service,” complains Merlin CEO Charles Caldas. “It’s launching with hundreds of tracks and offering them free, on demand to consumers without the permission of the people who own the material, and certainly without remunerating them for it.”

Neda Azarfar, a spokeswoman for Myspace, told The New York Times that the company decided not to renew its contract with Merlin, adding that if any songs had appeared on the newly relaunched site from its member labels, “they were likely uploaded by users” and would be removed if requested by the label.

Mr Caldas replied, saying that he didn’t “see ignorance as a justification for piracy… If you’re offering music, without permission, that belongs to a copyright holder in a commercial environment, the onus is on you, the business, to make sure those rights are cleared,” he said.

Either way, it proves a sticky situation for MySpace and its investors, if they are indeed exploiting their old contracts and agreements, they’re in murky legal waters with labels and agencies, and even if it is in fact users uploading copyrighted material, they’re still going to have to go back through their music library and ‘clean shop’ with a fine tooth comb and remove any offending material.

Worse, if they throw their hands up and blame the users, they’re not much better than controversial streaming services like Grooveshark, putting the blame on users, and potentially putting them in the firing line of incensed record companies looking for reimbursement

The dispute follows hot on the heels of the site’s relaunch at the hands of Specific Media, who originally bought Myspace, alongside minority partner Justin Timberlake, for a paltry $35 million, six years after News Corporation dropped a whopping $580 million for the business.

The new owners had been drip-feeding details about the redesign since last September, along with the shock announcement they’d be deleting all old profiles and data in the refresh, and now that it’s officially in the hands of the public, the new look MySpace has had 27.4 million unique vistors in the US since December.

Though that’s a far cry from 2008, where it netted a peak of 76 million visits – and pales in comparison to Facebook’s 148.5 million visitors – it’s still encouraging news for a music service in an industry that appears to be struggling to get any major share of attention.

MySpace could be considered the underdog in the social media race, but its not aiming to topple the major footholds that Facebook and Twitter have in the internet realm, but is instead aiming to be another large part in the chain. If anything MySpace is gunning for a slice of the music streaming service pie, an industry which has contributed a $1 billion revenue to the music industry in 2012, with the likes of Deezer, Pandora, and market leader Spotify positively booming.

MySpace, like those digital music brethren, is looking to use ease of convenience (and a healthy dollop of style) to take a bite out of music piracy by providing convenient, legal alternatives, but if Merlin’s allegations are the first of many against MySpace, and it’s boasted 27 million song strong catalogue, it could very quickly find itself coming undone at the hands of the artists and musicians it’s trying to promote.

Copyright scuffles have already reached a crisis point in the last six months in America, where artists are looking at the increasing popularity and financial success of digital music services and wondering why their coffers aren’t better lined in correlation, with indie darlings Grizzly Bear making a fine case study, including their complaints levelled at Spotify’s poor royalty schemes.

The friction between artist, label, and music providers also reached bloody new heights when musicians rallied against internet radio streaming service Pandora for their war on songwriters in their lawsuit against US royalties body ASCAP, with the internet service claiming that the sliding scales for royalties are giving artists too much, and leaving too little for them to function.

At the other end of the spectrum is MegaBox, the soon-to-be launched service from batty Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who launched his latest internet service, Mega, in a wacky media launch over the weekend. The internet mogul claims that MegaBox will cut out labels entirely, offering musicians the chance to upload their music and get the “lion’s share” – 90% of the revenue from their music played on the service.

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