Music industry stops mass law suits, but …

Posted: January 4, 2009 in society
Tags: , , ,


Leo Laporte writes “after years of suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet, the recording industry is set to drop its legal assault as it searches for more effective ways to combat online music piracy. The decision represents an abrupt shift of strategy for the industry, which has opened legal proceedings against about 35,000 people since 2003. Critics say the legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl. ”

The problem though is that the recording industry is not going to give up on stopping downloaders. They already have reached an agreement with some ISPs to crack down on individual users, while in other cases they’ve enlisted the help of ever compliant governments (like in Australia of course, the eternal US boot lickers) to enact legislation that force ISPs to act. Sometimes you might get a warning that your tap will be turned off while in other cases it’ll be instant – no questions asked.

If you’re a record company executive you’d call that leverage, and you must be wondering (with a boost to your own ego) why your predecessor hadn’t thought of it before. After all: the lawsuits weren’t denting the progressive leakage of music through downloads, legally it became more and more difficult for the record industry to make its case and the suits cost a lot money. Now the industry has got others to do the dirty work for them – at no cost. It’ll be interesting to see where we’ll be going now.

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  1. penez says:

    Downloaders may be guilty as hell but A&R people are often worse than demons. For far too long artists have been ripping off material from small-time wannabes.
    What about a bit more self-policing instead? Too many musicians are encouraged or pressured to steal ideas from others; what is the industry doing about that, huh?

    What I am about to tell you sounds whacko however the truth sometimes just sounds that incredible. Between 1983 and 1986, I lived on 256 Vanderbilt Ave (#4L), Brooklyn, NY. I’d just graduated from Pratt Institute with a Master’s in Communications Design. Experimental music demos I made while I lived on Vanderbilt were copied by unidentified persons. Somehow, these persons contacted Sony Music and other big labels and they got hold of my material.

    I later heard, after my return in 1986 to Ghana, in hit songs from the U.S., lots of melodies I’d written–note-for-note. Guilty the most was LaFace Records and quite a few artists with Sony Music (Babyface, Boyz II Men – “End of the Road”, TLC – “Waterfalls”, Mariah Carey – “One Sweet Day”, Tony Rich, etc). I’d sung most of my material in nonsense lyrics and ad-lib; I was experimenting and didn’t worry to much about lyrical content. I even experimented with criss-cross drumbeat rhythms (from the Frafra and Dagare tribes), which found its way into and became mainstream R&B rhythmic material, courtesy of LaFace Records/Sony Music and others. There were silly, “radio drama” intros to songs that I concocted that Tony Rich used extensively as did several other guys. By sheer volume, I don’t think it is pure coincidence.

    A Ghanaian (now a U.S. citizen), currently working at Brandywine Assets Management (NJ) may know how my demos got to Sony Music. It is rumoured he worked there briefly. He was at Pratt Institute with me and often remarked that my songs had the potential to be blockbuster hits. I’ve been unable to contact him for an explanation. He wouldn’t reply my e-mail.

    Much later I heard other bits of my work, also note-for-note, in songs by Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, R. Kelly and Kirk Franklin’s work (“You’re Not Alone”; the van Passels lied; “My Heart Will Go On”; “I Believe I Can Fly”;”Lean On Me”, etc). I really don’t know how all those guys got hold of my stuff?

    Nobody believes me when I tell them this story. It’s simply unbelievable. But I have proof. I have over 40 hours of music I composed on old TDK and Sony cassettes. Technically, the magnetic tape recordings can easily be assessed as having been made in the mid-’80s. Further, any musicologist can listen to the tracks and tell from my musical signature (a kind of compositional fingerprinting) that their compositions even with the re-arrangements are a direct rip off. (My ideas may seem eclectic but that’s where my ideas were pushing me at the time).

    I’ve tried for over 15 years to get just anybody to listen to this fantastic story. I’ve hesitated pushing it too far because this all sounds a bit too kooky I guess. I’d always wanted a good investigative journalist and some brilliant lawyers to uncover the truth but couldn’t get anyone interested…and I don’t have the money either. Whatever it is, I don’t think all those ideas of mine being duplicated elsewhere is pure coincidence.

    Disregard the fact that I’m an African. I grew up listening to the best music of the ’60s and ’70s. I played in several bands as keyboard player and later as a bass player/ guitarist. And though self-taught I know I was pretty creative and original.

    Is anyone listening? The music industry should also focus on how to maintain the creative integrity of artists. That’s going to be difficult but it must be encouraged. Sure there’s tons of pressure and contracts and deals and all that and artists have to come up with something fantastic every now and then. But ripping off other people’s material is low, cheap, wrong and downright evil. Money drives the whole thing as I can see and that’s all right. But there’s the need for some fundamental change to how we get that money. Values may not mean much to business people but to me as an artist, hey, it’s important!

    When your creative juices stop flowing, what is fair is shifting gear, moving on to new partnerships or abandoning ship. Plagiarising other people’s material cannot credibly sustain any ‘talented’ artists’ career.

    The music industry giants should watch how sincere the artists they’ve signed up are and what their A&R guys are doing with all the solicited and unsolicited material. ‘And,’ as Shakespeare said, ‘there’s the rub,’

  2. penez says:

    In sum what I said about music downloaders is that music industry guys are getting what they deserve. Downloaders may cost them money but that’s what’s supposed to happen. They have no moral authority to ask downloaders to desist from what they do.

    Thieving music industry guys have been lifting ideas for years from small-time wannabes; they’ve been stealing loads of ideas from struggling artists and passing it off as their own. So, what if the downloads are hurting them. Serves ’em right. That’s pure karma guys! It’s punishment for all the small guys they’ve smacked down and ground to dust underfoot.

  3. penez says:

    Who’s making sure A & R guys and other fellas don’t plagiarise stuff from demos they get hold of? Is someone out there bothered? I DON’T THINK SO!

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