Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The real pirates are in the music industry

                               It's our damned song now, matey!  We stole it fair and square.

One of the many amusing features of the otherwise serious disputes about so-called "online piracy" and of proposed legislation to stop it -- SOPA/PIPA -- for example, is the use of the term "piracy" by organizations that have been stealing artists and consumers blind for decades.  Thus, to cite just one category of abuse, it was long standard practice within record companies to trick songwriters into signing over the long term rights to their songs, the "publishing" rights.  That meant that the corporation, not the artist, received royalties for any further recordings of the song. Several generations of musicians were led to believe that "publishing" was something like printing the sheet music copy of the song and since they didn't want to be involved in the printing business, of course they wouldn't mind signing that "little" feature of a contract waved in their faces.

Today's puffing and spouting by large corporations about "piracy" of songs and movies has much the same character.  It turns out that those most concerned about the "theft" of music online are still busy stealing songs themselves.  This article from The Hollywood Reporter tells the story of the voracious Universal Music Group (UMG) and its war against some rap musicians.

The contract between UMG and YouTube over use of a "Content Management System" remains secret, but the ability to remove videos from YouTube could become controversial quickly. Just witness what happened to one rap group who found it impossible to put up one of its own songs on YouTube.
The rap group known as After the Smoke had created a song entitled, "One in a Million."
The song included a dancing keyboard rhythm and a scattered beat that was catchy enough that it became the underlying music to a track, "Far From A Bitch" by another rap group artist known as Yelawolf, signed to a UMG label.
When Yelawolf's song was leaked without authorization, UMG allegedly stepped in and had the song removed.
But in the aftermath, YouTube's filtering technology, perhaps on the lookout for any reposted copies, took down "One in a Million," angering  group member Whuzi. "We were like, 'Wait a minute? What's going on?'"Whuzi told Vice Magazine. "When I looked into it deeper and tried to contact YouTube and went through the all the correct procedures, they told me the entity that owns the copyright to our song was Universal."
After the Smoke is not signed to any Universal label.



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