Sunday, January 25, 2009

Warner Music takes down video on own band's web site; did it have a point?

Mashable carries an amusing little item of the sort that will surely set the copyleft to crowing. Seems that Warner Music Group sent a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube, demanding removal of a Death Cab for Cutie. Only problem was, Death Cab had embedded the video on its own official site:
So WMG looks stupid, doesn't understand the Internet, hates its fans, treats its bands like crap, is trying to kill its own business, yada, yada, yada. Hold on. Before condemning WMG, keep a few things in mind:

1) As I've previously noted, when copyright owners find out that their works are posted on YouTube without authorization, they have no idea where those videos are embedded (other than on the basic YouTube watch page). So when WMG (or its agent) sent a takedown notice, it had no way of knowing that the video was embedded on its own band's site.

2) Though it might seem nuts at first glance that Death Cab can't use "its own" music, it's really not so strange at all. Keep in mind that most songwriters, composers, and recording artists part with "their" works, assigning them to music publishers and record labels, usually in exchange for an advance and a share of future royalties. After such assignment, the song and recording are no longer "theirs." (I don't know Death Cab's particular situation; I'm just describing how things are generally done.) So, its even possible that a band can get sued for infringing "its own" song. (That's what happened to John Fogerty, who sold his song "Run Through the Jungle" to a music publisher -- whose successor later sued Fogerty, claiming that his later song "The Old Man Down the Road" was a rip-off of "Jungle." A jury disagreed with the publisher on the issue of infringement, but legal theory on which the suit was grounded was sound.)

Still sound weird? Think of it this way: say you build a house, live in it for a while, and then sell it. You can't then continue to hang out in the living room; try that, and the new owners will call 911 and sue you for trespass. They will win.

Bottom line: we don't yet know the whole story, and it may well turn out that WMG made a mistake or did something dumb. But before we start heaping invective on the label, keep in mind that Death Cab may not have had the "right" to have the video on its site in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments here are moderated. I appreciate substantive comments, whether or not they agree with what I've written. Stay on topic, and be civil. Comments that contain name-calling, personal attacks, or the like will be rejected. If you want to rant about how evil the RIAA and MPAA are, and how entertainment companies' employees and attorneys are bad people, there are plenty of other places for you to go.