Monday, May 21, 2012

Rise of the Digital Music Database Bootlegger scam & Copyright Troll legal scammers.

Question:  Have you read the news about Nuclear Blast suing 80 illegal down-loaders of All Shall Perish tracks in the courts for $150,000 each, without the band's permission. I know Earache gives away some albums for free, so what is your take on this?
From: Dave Buckingham

Answer: Yes this story has been breaking on news sites  for a while and is actually quite shocking to me, something very sinister is going on, because this so-called © owner, the one bringing the case against the 80 fans, is a  company called World Digital Rights, Inc  -based out of Panama of all places. My guess is it's a new breed of opportunistic digital rights troll company operating a shakedown of fans on a grand scale. Nuclear Blast claims to have not given any rights to this company, which I believe, but some of these copyright troll type companies make heavyweight legal claims using the most threadbare of rights. Either way, its shady and murky and stinks.

Quick history lesson. The rise of digital music being consumed as files was popularised around the turn of the millennium by Napster,  - a site which operated without permission from the labels and was closed down for it. It's fair to say the whole paradigm shift  from CD to downloaded files, which Napster pioneered, caught the record labels- both Major and Indie - off guard. Luckily, within a few years some of the world's biggest tech companies had filled the void with legit music services and these do actually pay all parties- artist,  label, © owner etc properly. was first to offer fans a legitimate download site, it only carries Indie labels catalog, including Earache's, then in 2003 Apple launched the first comprehensive legal music download site iTunes Music Store -this boasted the entire catalog of all the major and Indie labels,  fans flocked to it in their millions driven by the must-have gadget of the era, the ubiquitous iPod. By 2010 iTunes had become the world's biggest grossing record store, it dwarfs any bricks and mortar chain you care to mention. Serious money is now earned by record labels both major and Indie from the sales of such legit files. In the UK digital revenues clocked in at over 50% of label revenue for 2011, overtaking physical sales revenues, all this happened in an 8 year span.

In 2009 Spotify joined the fray with a radical free & premium music streaming model, now  boasting 3 Million paying subscribers, Spotify is also earning labels significant income, but nothing like iTunes yet. Plus, many of the world's biggest tech firms such as Nokia, Google and Microsoft launched legitimate music services with millions of tracks available to buy. In recent months the Google-owned YouTube finally -after years of denial- acknowledged and legitimised the several tens of million music files it was streaming to  fans on a daily basis, monetising them with paid-for pre-roll advertising. This has generated a windfall of  unexpected income for the  Labels  from their catalogs of recordings and video clips, which is long overdue if you ask me!

There is one snag in this scenario - which is the matter of sorting out who gets paid the money earned from all these new audio  streams, views and downloads which are occuring in their billions. Labels claim their catalogue by supplying each platform a meta-data file which is basically a database list confirming it's ownership of tracks as well as relevant information like artist, song name, and info like the ISRC code for each track.
This is separate from the actual music audio files. It simply contains the information about
the music, in our case the meta-data file weighs in at a mere 100k in size. In the digital sales era, this tiny .xml file has become our most prized asset of all, because its how we get paid.
Back when physical CD's dominated, payments from distributors would be based on each album's barcode or catalogue number, in Earache's case that's around 450 albums, a large but not un-manageable number of products. With the rise of iTunes, individual tracks can be purchased aswell,  so if you assume 10 tracks per album, and 50-odd  iTunes stores reporting monthly, this results in a possible quarter of a million product lines incoming every month.

When you add in millions of Spotify streams as well as sales from other platforms, even a medium-sized label can be flooded with tens of millions of lines of sales data per month. Database management is a prime concern of labels these days, many Indies don't posses the tech skills to manage this flood of  incoming sales data. Booming digital music sales has created the need for a new type of middleman service, these legit services - like C.I. or Ingrooves carefully store and control database warehouses of music meta-data on behalf of labels, with their permission.

There's also a dark underbelly of shady companies wielding meta-data, either with no rights whatsover, or with threadbare licenses achieved by ill-gotten means. Earache has recently been victim of  companies who we have never even heard of  trying to exploit the loopholes in  YouTube's fact-checking system by falsely scamming and claiming ownership of Earache's own © material.

On the right are examples of Decapitated and Deicide songs being claimed by  'Music Publishing Rights Collection Society' and  'Internet Anti-Piracy APCM Mexico' - both grandiosely named entities, no doubt designed to instill an air of authenticity to the claim. Both are blatantly false digital scammers who quietly withdrew the claims when challenged by us.

Music Publishing Rights Collection Society is a blatant scam operation, it even has a Facebook page (right) where it gleefully states they take pleasure from monetising other people's music videos. Videos they have no business in, in the first place.

This is the new face of rampant piracy in the YouTube era.  Pirates are so audacious nowadays, as well as uoploading, they actually try to claim the income from other people's works aswell. 

Earache does still give away a few selected albums away for free. Fans should  head to for full 320 Mp3 albums by Wormrot (grind) Savage Messiah (modern-day Heavy Metal) and Gama Bomb (thrash).

1 comment:

Max Rotvel said...

What's your take on Bandcamp in all this? I believe this is a relevant question since Earache killed the Heavy Artillery Records Bandcamp page when they acquired the label.

Off course a dream scenario would be Earache setting up shop on Bandcamp, alongside Relapse and Season of Mist, and many other metal labels.