Did Streaming Really Kill Piracy?
With the risk of being accused of having a Lars Ulrich-moment in a 2022 version, we feel compelled to share some concerns about how tough it is to protect the rights of the recording artists and songwriters behind tracks going somewhat viral on TikTok, YouTube etc. And to be clear from the start. This is by no means a bashing of how music is used on these platforms - on the contrary, we truly feel the excitement, sharing, and consumption of music created by these communities is one of the greatest things to happen for the music industry while we've been a part of it. Excuse us for getting technical in the post below - but it kinda comes with the territory.
Almost every week, we discover illegal uploads of some of our recordings to streaming services like Spotify, Apple etc. The releases are using new artist names and song titles (mostly comprised of whatever hashtags people tend to use when doing tiktoks or reels with the track in mention as the audio) but it's our record coming out of the speakers when hitting play. More often than not these so-called artists have also released tracks from other artists, getting millions of plays and thus thousands of dollars without having created the music and without sharing the wealth with those who have - WTF!
And hey - if small labels and artists like ours are hit by this the full scope must be huge.
Labels can get services to do swift takedowns (ie. get the infringing release removed) and ask the distributors spreading these uploads to reimburse us. But it strikes us that there are some big questions about responsibility going on here:
- Shouldn't services be obliged to use the audio recognition tech already widely available (think of Shazam, audio fingerprints etc.) to monitor new releases for music already on the platform and check with the original rights holders that a new release is authorised?
- And/or shouldn’t the distributors strike down hard on people using their service for illegal activities?
When we order a takedown, it’s often the case that while the upload we've reported gets removed, remaining illegal uploads by the same profile of other folks’ music stay up. Why on earth are the streaming service not checking the remaining discography of a profile when it discovers that some of the content are infringing the rights of other artists and labels?
Also, once removed the music sometimes even surfaces again as podcast episodes with no talk, just the song. One has to admire the dedication of these folks if not anything else...
To us, it looks like much of the tech industry (aggregators and streaming services alike) is still looking at things from the safe harbour perspective (ie. saying that 'we just create the tools and take no responsibility about what our users do with them') despite profiting from the illegal activities. Or perhaps the passiveness is because of just that - profit?!
Huge labels have legal departments to deal with these things on a daily basis - we sure as h*** can't afford that. So it's a never-ending battle for the smaller independents like us. It should never have been a label, publisher and/or artist problem in the first place. If you're building a digital distribution or streaming service in 2022, with the technology available already, it's about time you also accept the responsibility of monitoring the releases flowing through your service in stead of hiding behind terms and conditions that are passing on that responsibility to the users of your service.