Why Are Police Going After Mixtapes... And Why Are They Bringing Along RIAA Reps?

from the are-they-really-that-stupid? dept

You may recall the story from about four years ago of the RIAA getting a SWAT team to raid a popular DJ for making mixtapes. Of course, mixtapes are pretty common -- especially in (but not limited to) the hiphop world. Hell, remember Lily Allen was distributing her own mixtapes off of her own website, which she later claimed was controlled by EMI. Mixtapes tend to be considered a "murky" area of copyright law. In most cases, they do involve some level of infringement, mixed with some authorized works. They're often used to promote a new artist, by mixing his or her work with more established artists. Record labels and producers regularly send out pre-release tracks to top DJs hoping to get them into a hot mixtape, knowing that it will be a boon to those artists.

Of course, when they do so, it's never with an explicit license that this is okay. I've seen directly how these things work, and it usually involves an email -- from a label or a "promoter" hired by the label -- sent to a DJ or to a popular music blog, highlighting some new song that they want to push. Everyone involved knows what's happening. The labels want the song out there. But there's no explicit license, and the whole thing works on the assumption that the labels won't ever go after the people promoting their work.

But, it doesn't always work that way. We've seen it in some of the domain seizures by Homeland Security, some of which included music blogs that were a part of the blogging side of this promotional equation. And, just like the mixtape arrests a few years back, the same thing appears to be happening again. Emily Kaiser, from Washington City Paper, points us to an article that WCP recently put out describing a police raid of a popular studio because its owner, a popular DJ, was selling some mixtapes.

From the article, it seems pretty clear that, like most mixtapes, this one included a mix of authorized and unauthorized works. While the guy who owns the studio, Jeremy Beaver (or DJ Boom), claims to have the rights to all the music, and claims to have worked with all the artists on the mixtape, it appears, again, that this may be only partially accurate. Beaver, for a time, worked at XM Radio as "director of hip hop programming," and it sounds, from the article, that he may have taken some liberties in using recordings from his time there. Other songs, however, definitely do involve some big name hip hop artists, like KRS-One, who not only used Beaver's studio, but created some songs with shoutouts to the studio and Beaver himself.

From a technical standpoint, it seems likely that at least some of the mixtapes were infringing. But, if you end your analysis there, you're missing the point. These mixtapes are everywhere, and the major record labels quite directly support them all the time. These somewhat random arrests of DJs that the labels themselves rely on seems incredibly short-sighted. From Beaver's standpoint, while he insists that he has the rights to release all the music as a mixtape, the reality is that he probably views the mixtape as something of a portfolio of work that he's had some hand in, whether producing at his studio or via his former work at XM.

Both things make sense. Mixtapes as a promotional vehicle have been fantastic and tremendously valuable to the industry and to many, many artists -- which is why all of the major record labels support them quite a bit. On top of that, the ability for a producer DJ to be able to show off his or her skills in a portfolio also makes sense. The problem, of course, is that due to the way copyright laws are set up today, it can likely be against the law. That's a problem with the law -- not with the makers of mixtapes.

The second big problem here, however, is the role (of course) of the RIAA in all of this. It likes to put its head in the sand concerning the popularity and value of mixtapes, but the really troubling part is that it appears to have actively taken part in this particular raid:
Beaver says he caught sight of a man in a dark suit standing in the background who resembled the late comedian W.C. Fields. Fields, he recalls, seemed to ooze authority and contempt. He eventually told Beaver who he was, or at least what he represented: the Recording Industry Association of America.
This raises all sorts of questions. Why would the police allow an RIAA representative to come along on a "bust"? Bringing a private corporate interest along on a raid does not seem reasonable. Of course, the flipside remains an important question as well: what are the police doing busting down mixtape creators anyway? The whole thing seems like a typical boondoggle of epic proportions involving clueless law enforcement officials and hamfisted RIAA reps, seeking to "make a statement," by going after the very people they rely on to promote their work.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    MrWilson, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:08am

    "Why would the police allow an RIAA representative to come along on a 'bust'?"

    Is it so unreasonable for the RIAA to want to verify that they're getting a good return on all the money they've spent to twist the laws and influence politicians and bureaucrats?

     

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  2.  
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    Planespotter (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:21am

    Mixtapes? like the ones Lily Allen created and then hosted on her corporate website all the while she was screaming about how infringement was theft and meant that upcoming artists couldn't break into the mainstream even though she built her career initially off covers hosted for free and free to watch/listen to on Youtube... those sort of mixtapes?

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:21am

    WTF?

    "Beaver says he caught sight of a man in a dark suit standing in the background who resembled the late comedian W.C. Fields. Fields, he recalls, seemed to ooze authority and contempt. He eventually told Beaver who he was, or at least what he represented: the Recording Industry Association of America."

    Why am I picturing the smoking man as the RIAA representative? And why do I not see that correlation as too much of a stretch?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:33am

    They bring along RIAA reps because the RIAA funds parts of our Government.

    Pay off law enforcement as they'll do as you please. Except it's not the actual officers raiding these places that are benefiting from the corruption. It's the district attorneys, police chiefs, senators & law makers.

    What's unbelievable to me is that in these raids where there is no reason to believe it's a dangerous situation that these guys are allowed to rush in with automatic weapons & shotguns drawn and point them in the face of whoever happens to be there at the time.

     

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  5.  
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    Squirrel Brains (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:33am

    The RIAA rep. probably talked some assistant US district attorney into pursuing criminal copyright infringement. This would allow investigation without tipping off the potential defendant (getting over the pesky apart of a civil suit which is that you have to actually tell a defendant that you are suing them before you do discovery).

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:42am

    Something here does not make sense. Copyright is a matter of federal law, and it is federal authories (e.g., FBI) who handle such matters. Thus, it is not at all clear on what basis local law enforment relied for its activities.

     

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  7.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:43am

    Why would the police allow an RIAA representative to come along on a "bust"?

    I agree. This seems very improper.

    But, I guess it's a half step better than BREIN in the Netherlands or FACT in the UK, where these obviously biased parties have actually collected the evidence against the accused, instead of law enforcement doing it themselves.

     

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  8.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:48am

    Selling Mixtapes...

    "...the reality is that he probably views the mixtape as something of a portfolio of work that he's had some hand in, whether producing at his studio or via his former work at XM."

    Ah. A portfolio of his work. All well and good.

    But I'm confused about how this applies, since, as stated in the article, the raid happened because "...its owner, a popular DJ, was selling some mixtapes."

    Selling. I understand SHOWING your portfolio, of course. But SELLING copies of it? For profit?

    I don't think so.

     

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  9.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:54am

    Re: WTF?

    Why am I picturing the smoking man as the RIAA representative? And why do I not see that correlation as too much of a stretch?

    No, not a stretch at all.

    The truth is out there - we just need a Mulder and Scully to find it for us.

     

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  10.  
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    Christopher (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 11:55am

    Interesting deployment of police.

    Why was "Vice" performing an assault raid? Did they think the owners were going to flush the mixtapes down the toilet? What happened to knocking, walking in, executing a search warrant, then leaving?

    Seriously, if they need practice kicking down doors, Newark NJ could certainly use the help.

    -C

     

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  11.  
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    Musthafa, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:04pm

    Police are Going after Mixtapes

    real point here is Copyright is a matter of federal law, and it is federal authories, who handle such matters.

     

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  12.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:07pm

    Re:

    While I agree with your statement in general. I feel different about the whole funds parts of our Government. They fund campaigns and jobs for those in the government once they are out of government. For that funding they get the government to use our own tax dollars to support laws abusively that well over half of our country disagrees with.

     

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  13.  
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    John Doe, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:08pm

    The really sad commentary here...

    The really sad part of this story is the willingness of today's government and police force to violate the constitution. This country would not be where it is without the constitution and to ignore it now will be our downfall.

     

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  14.  
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    Rich, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: WTF?

    The Smoking Man. Awesome.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Why is it legal in this country for law enforcement to perform scare tactics on it's citizens?

    No charges have been filed in this case (raid was last Nov. right?) and the property still has not been returned.

    Just like in the domain seizues, no charges made, domains still have not been returned.

    It allows law enforcement & Government to do whatever they want, without ever having to actually charge anyone.

     

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  16.  
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    Mr. LemurBoy (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Selling Mixtapes...

    Would it be fine if he was giving away the mix tapes?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:37pm

    USA is probably one of the most corrupt 1'st world countries. Bribes are everywhere right down to toll-booth collectors. It's clear that the RIAA is bribing the police for preferential treatment.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    NO respect

    It took me several years to get here but I can say without a shadow of a doubt in my mind that "I have NO respect for the Law" in the US anymore.

    I am not a criminal in my mind but I am sure as hell I would be labeled one by various government agencies. I would argue most citizens of this country would be as well. You can't walk outside you're front door in this country without breaking some kind of law it seems.

    First step to becoming a police state: Make so many laws that every citizen is, by default, a criminal.

    How can I respect any government that attacks its own citizens for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many?

     

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  19.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Selling Mixtapes...

    Selling. I understand SHOWING your portfolio, of course. But SELLING copies of it? For profit? I don't think so.

    You might not 'think so', but I'm afraid your moral evaluation doesn't line up with reality. Selling mixtapes is *incredibly* common, and the labels regularly send songs to DJs with the fully knowledge that those DJs will be selling mixtapes. It still benefits the labels and the artists, and they are still always clamoring to get on hot mixtapes.

    The price is not the issue here. No matter what the DJs are doing, the fact is the promotional arms of the labels have been supporting them in their activity. So for the legal arm of those same labels to appear and attack those same DJs for a practice they have actively encouraged for years is not acceptable, and highlights a big problem with copyright law.

     

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  20.  
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    Ed C., Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Police are Going after Mixtapes

    No, the real here point is the case is a matter of civil law, and it is civil courts who handles such matters.


    Seriously, I tired of people assuming that "against the law" == "illegal" == "criminal". It's because of that sort of sham logic that this country is turning into a police state.

     

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  21.  
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    Ed C., Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:32pm

    Re: Re: Police are Going after Mixtapes

    Sorry for the typos...

     

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  22.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:37pm

    Re:

    Something here does not make sense. Copyright is a matter of federal law, and it is federal authories (e.g., FBI) who handle such matters. Thus, it is not at all clear on what basis local law enforment relied for its activities

    They used a local "anti-counterfeiting" law requiring you to put an address on any CDs.

     

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  23.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Selling Mixtapes...

    Mike appears to be manufacturing an excuse in that the music in question was for a "portfolio", which is a fairly clear case of fair use. Sending out a copy of your portfolio is done all the time, and also standard fair use.

    Now, we can argue back and forth about mixtapes themselves, and about how much fair use applies in sampling other people's music... but SELLING tapes for people to enjoy has nothing whatsoever to do with any consideration of fair use as applied to portfolios.

     

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  24.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: Selling Mixtapes...

    As I just said above, Mike appears to be manufacturing an excuse in that the music in question was for a "portfolio" of work, which is a fairly clear case of fair use. Sending out a copy of your portfolio is done all the time, and also standard fair use.

    Now, we can argue back and forth about mixtapes themselves, and about how much fair use applies in sampling other people's music, whether or not it's an accepted practice, and so... but SELLING tapes for people to enjoy has nothing whatsoever to do with any consideration of fair use as applied to portfolios.

    In short, the "reality" is that he probably views the mixtape as something of a portfolio of work has little to do with the situation at hand. After, neither you nor I are generally entitled to resell work produced while working for another company or organization.

    And that's the point in the article I was addressing.

     

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  25.  
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    Ed C., Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    Re: NO respect

    Apathy and misinformation. Either instigate the populous into taking actions that are against their own best interest (not as hard as one might think) or lull them with a false sense of security. It's usually with statements like "They are out to destroy your way of life! You must do this to stop them!", or "You're not one of them, so you don't need to worry about this." Of course, what "them" and "this" are depends on the situation, but the general statements, and the motivation behind them, are usually the same. Manipulative arguments like these should instantly raise your skepticism towards anyone who makes them.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Stuart, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    Re: The really sad commentary here...

    Constitution?
    What is this constitution thing you speak of.
    Is that the new law that savior Obama is going to write.
    The one that guarantees me health care till I am told to die.
    The one that guarantees I will always have a job.
    The one that guarantees that the rich will suffer.
    The one that guarantees that the government will make sure all is right.
    Is that the thing you are talking about?

     

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  27.  
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    TPBer (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe she should just sell 2GB flash drives instead, no address required :)

     

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  28.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 5:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Selling Mixtapes...

    If you have the rights to give something away, do you not also have the rights to sell it? Price is not the only pillar of fair use. Besides, this post doesn't assert that it was fair use anyway - simply that the idea of this as a 'somewhat of a portfolio' is part of what makes the DJ feel justified (since he seems to assume he is completely in the right)

    It's not a manufactured excuse - it's highlighting another way in which copyright is out of sync with common sense and perception, increasingly so in an age where more and more art is based on overt appropriation, collaboration and sharing.

     

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  29.  
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    Michael, Apr 14th, 2011 @ 4:08am

    Re: Re:

    I case people don't know.

    CD's are those little plastic disks that they used to sell music on. They recorded 10-12 songs onto these big plastic things, put them in a bigger square case with a little booklet about the music, and sold them in the places called "record stores" (I can only assume 'record' is short for recording?).

    I guess if a giant piece of plastic comes with your music (which is in a format that you have to convert to an mp3 later), you may as well include an address on the thing. That way, after you copy the music off of it and onto your hard drive, you know where to return the plastic disk (optionally attached to a brick if you did not like the music you were not allowed to preview before you bought).

     

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  30.  
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    Julian, Apr 14th, 2011 @ 1:26pm

    Law is incompatible with creativity

    The more laws are introduced to control new media and digital music, the worse off content creators seem to be. Laws never solved any problems, but they are great at creating new ones.

     

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  31.  
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    Get Right Music, Apr 14th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    Mixtapes

    As the owner of a popular mixtape website, GetRightMusic.com, it gets me upset and a little scared that the government is involved with domain seizures and private property raids. The government doesn't have authority over what is a private business issue between record labels and users. That over-reaching hand of the feds is getting scary. Hide yo wife, hide yo kids, hide yo mixtapes! The government is watching us...

     

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  32.  
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    Short money long time, May 8th, 2011 @ 11:44pm

    Boomerang!

    When someone emailed me this article I could do nothing but smirk! I have read comments on this site and others! But most don't know the truth! From years of tax evasion to yes actual theft of others production,vocals,and songs! This guys time has come to the light! Wonder how and why he only spent two years at XM? This guy has raped the culture and spirit of dc and hip hop! Ask dj p cutta about his fiascos and phony contracts! His employees are come and go..dj boom I wonder how u sleep at nite knowing that u sell dreams to hard working artist in the DMV area! This guy is not self made...he represents nothing in hip hop..no hardwork or dedication no morals values or integrity! Name one artist he has gotten signed to a major label?? There are alot of people that know the real truth...sorry beaver this time your money is too short...no fast talking...phony contracts...or wolf ticket album deals! Being a native new yorker...I wonder would he ever tried this in his home state of new york? I'm not gonna dry snitch but thus ends a legacy of theft across the street from lovable Howard university!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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