Until recently, Soundcloud has had a pretty good rep for artist support. As of late, the music streaming platform has been fielding criticism over its copyright infringement takedown system, in particular, its decision to allow major labels like Universal to remove content from the website. Many users have raised concerns over the fact that Universal now has the freedom to extract music with no notice or explanation. An article posted on the music website Do Asteroids Dance? proclaimed that Soundcloud is handing Universal Music group the “keys to the car” in terms of copyright takedowns. This isn’t the first time that Soundcloud has been under pressure for copyright controls, but is the first encounter with widespread public scrutiny over its partnerships. Soundcloud released a statement to Mixmag yesterday afternoon, stating that:
“As a responsible hosting platform, we work hard to ensure everyone’s rights are respected. In the case of rights holders, that means having processes in place to ensure that any content posted without authorization is removed quickly and efficiently.”
And goes on to address user concerns with:
“If any user believes that content has been removed in error – for example, because they had the necessary permissions from Universal Music and/or any other rights holder – then they are free to dispute the takedown.”
In one case, SubFM’s DJ Mr. Brainz had his mixes flagged by Universal after posting a radio set containing copyrighted tracks. Mr Brainz raises significant questions regarding the ambiguity of copyright law, and the tendency for major labels to ignore infringements from more popular, heavy traffic accounts. He poses the question: “at what point does popularity allow you to circumvent your rules?”. See his email response to Soundcloud and Universal below. (View the entire email exchange here.)
Courtesy of techdirt.com
The dispute also highlights a paradoxical problem in the music industry. What happens when legal departments of record labels send takedown notices to music blogs and platforms for posting promo MP3s, sent by the label’s very own promotional teams? The online model for DJ mixes and radio shows grows increasingly complicated with each takedown. On a similar note, Soundcloud has previously had issues with publishers and labels because the platform does not pay royalties. Applications such as Mixcloud have managed to host radio shows and pay royalties by utilizing blanket licensing as opposed to direct deals- so the task is not impossible. Still, most artists on Soundcloud embrace the value of promotional buzz and analytics enough to accept a lack of revenues. The platform has some tough decisions to make concerning transparency in 2014. Either way, this dispute has sparked some valuable dialogue on current problems with digital media rights.