Edwyn Collins Can't Give Away His Music Thanks To MySpace, Warner Music

from the thanks-guys dept

Mesanna alerts us to a blog post from the wife/manager of pop singer Edwyn Collins discussing the hellish experience she’s gone through trying to offer up Collins’ most famous song, A Girl Like You, on MySpace. Collins owns the copyright and wants the music to be freely downloadable by anyone, but Warner Music claimed that it owns the copyright, even though it does not:

At the beginning of this year I noticed that Edwyn’s myspace had gone bit wonky and I tried to upload the tracks back on to the music player. His most famous track, which he owns the copyright in, as he does for most of the music he’s recorded in his life (preferring to go it alone than have his music trapped “in perpetuity” to use the contract language of the major record company) is called A Girl Like You. It’s quite famous. Lo and behold, it would not upload, I was told Edwyn was attempting to breach a copyright and he was sent to the Orwellian myspace copyright re-education page. Quite chilling, actually. I naturally blew my stack and wrote to myspace on his behalf demanding to know who the hell was claiming copyright of Edwyn’s track? Which, incidentally, he always made freely available for download on myspace, something which amazed his followers. Eventually, after HUGE difficulty, I was told Warner Music Group were claiming it. I found a nice lawyer guy at Warners, very apologetic, promised to get it sorted, but all these months later it isn’t. That is because Myspace are not equipped to deal with the notion that anyone other than a major can claim a copyright. Warner’s were one of the lead petitioners in the attempt to put those three stoner lads in Sweden in prison recently, remember.

Meanwhile, the song which Collins wants to give away, but cannot, is being sold all over the internet… but not by Collins. Instead, it’s by major labels who have no right to do so, according to Collins’ manager:

A Girl Like You is available FOR SALE all over the internet. Not by Edwyn, by all sorts of respectable major labels whose licence to sell it ran out years ago and who do not account to him. Attempting to make them cease and desist would use up the rest of my life. Because this is what they do and what they’ve always done.

Wait… major labels… selling a song they don’t have the right to, and not giving any of the money back to the artist? That seems a hell of a lot worse than just sharing a song for non-commercial reasons, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, Collins has no problem with the sharing of bootlegs:

Andrew Loog Oldham said that getting ripped off (by the industry) was your entrance fee to the music business of the sixties, so get over it. He’s right and things have not changed. We are very over it, but nonetheless aware of who the biggest bootleggers around are. It’s not the filesharers. Personally, we’ve always loved bootlegs. Even when Edwyn was really skint at the fag end of the eighties, I remember being in Camden market and seeing some tapes of a couple of his shows on sale. I tried to buy them but the stallholder somehow knew who I was and said “free to the management.” I failed to see how that guy selling tapes of Edwyn or even U2 or anybody on the list of signatories above could harm their career.

And… then at the end, she’s got a nice little message for the Featured Artist Coalition and its silly petition to try to stop file sharing:

The gig’s up. You might as well take a position about when you want the sun to come up in the morning. It’s over. Now let’s get on with working out a wonderful new way for music lovers to enjoy music for free or for a small subscription that makes it legal and easy to hear ANYTHING and allows the artist to reap the rewards of such freedom of access. Viva la revolucion!

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Companies: myspace, warner music group

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Comments on “Edwyn Collins Can't Give Away His Music Thanks To MySpace, Warner Music”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Take some heart ... or ... whats good for the goose is ...

“Wait… major labels… selling a song they don’t have the right to, and not giving any of the money back to the artist?”

Under certain circumstances, the infringement may also constitute a criminal misdemeanor or felony, which would be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

My advice contact the FBI use the laws put in place by the Recording Industry against them …..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Take some heart ... or ... whats good for the goose is ...

They’re a corporation, they can hide behind the corporate veil. Kinda like how a state can hide under sovereign immunity. If you’re big and rich and powerful and have a lot of resources you can hide under some shield law that protects you. Corporations and non human entities have more rights than individuals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Take some heart ... or ... whats good for the goose is ...

Why do you think that all of a sudden, with blogs being more prominent, the FTC is interested in taking away safe harbors for advertisers and the government is suddenly interested in taking away shield laws for “amateur” journalists not to reveal their sources (but wants to keep them for corporations). Because big corporations have more rights than individuals. It’s sad how non human entities have more rights than individuals these days. They exercise just about all of the rights that human entities have (ie: freedom of speech, they spend billions of dollars on lobbying efforts) but they also exercise rights that individuals don’t have.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Time to sue?

Tell me how this isn’t a violation of copyright for these labels to sell copies of a song they don’t own?

Wouldn’t a fast track to court be a way to cease the selling as well as recoup $80,000 per infringement and possibly wake this industry up?

Damn, at $80k per infringement, they’d retire peacefully. I could see billions made from this lawsuit, possibly putting these offenders out of business.

Go, Collins! Sue these idiots into non-existence!

thomas (profile) says:

Re: Time to sue?

Unfortunately individuals or artists don’t have the deep pockets to get laws passed and bribe judges to get what they want. Any record label knows perfectly well that they can claim anything they want as being copyrighted by them and no one can really challenge them. The laws are passed to protect labels, not artists. Even if you get an attorney, you’ll get screwed since the labels will match your attorney with a dozen attorneys and slip money or drugs or hookers to the judges so you get screwed anyway.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Ouch For the Record Companies

What’s the going rate for illegally offering for download music you don’t actually own the copyright for? $9,000 a download?

Plus, I’m sure the record companies keep exact data about how many times each song has been sold. And it’s not like they can claim ignorance of copyright laws in court, or that such a judgement per song is way too high to be reasonable . . .

“10,000 downloads, you say? That’ll be $90,000,000 please. Would you like to pay by check?”

wheatus (user link) says:

Re: Don't loose hope

Some of us have managed to pry our revenue streams from the white knuckled hands of the titans in the towers. Your taste not withstanding, at wheatus.com we are doing exactly what you would love to see your favorite artists doing (donwnload free or donate). It’s not hard it’s not expensive, and it IS equitable.

Hang in there…these Majors will be gone soon and when they finally give up the ghost new musical and youth culture movements will be born.


Trails says:

Work = right to money

Pfft, she’s wrong. You see, if music became free, people who work to produce and distribute cds would lose their jobs.

That would be horrible.

Aside, I’ve designed a new automobile, and am expecting millions. It consumes 12L of gas to go 5 meters (I think that’s like 1.5 hogheads to the furlong, for you non-metric types), the wheels are square so the ride’s a little jerky, and the seats are made of jagged rusty metal, so when you sit on them you get cuts and ass-tetanus. Now where’s my money?!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sue them all, sue them all to hell!!

well, what might end up happening is that the record industry will initially lose a lot of money just to silence the masses. When the case dies off the record industry will appeal and the reward would be substantially lowered. Of course in the case of individuals who have been fined astronomical sums of money for file sharing a single song and causing no where near this much damage, they still have to pay because the laws weren’t meant to be fair

Cyanid Pontifex (profile) says:

While he probably doesnt’t have the money needed to win, I think suing them would still be the right thing to do. The coverage of the legal case would certainly increase his name recognition, the story would almost certainly hurt the reputation of the Recording Industry, and he would have a (small) chance of winning and recuperating his costs (plus a few decades of profit). And I’m sure that there are several advocacy groups such as the EFF that would sponsor him.

Paul (profile) says:

I will have to watch this one....

Time Warner makes 2 million a year on “Happy Birthday” despite the many, many problems with their claims to the single most famous song in the world. The problem is that the public domain has no way of suing to protect its rights.

But in this case, a clear owner exists. One willing to give their content to their fans for free. And Time Warner is attempting to steal this content? In this case, they are not stealing from the public domain, but from a person.

We should do Whatever we can do to encourage Collins to fight at least Time Warner. They should pay their own established rate (however many thousands) to an ACTUAL Person!

And I absolutely agree with Ragnar Krempel that this is a no lose scenario. A loss would be a strike against copyright, or a win would require establish Time Warner as just another “Pirate Bay”.

I would only beg Collins not to settle. No matter what, I think legal action would swiftly result in an attempt by Time Warner to settle.

The copyright cartel is absolutely evil, but they are not stupid.

Grace Maxwell (profile) says:

Good evening folks, I’m the author of this post. It’s true we could sue and it may have to come to that. I wouldn’t spend a penny on it. Edwyn (who had a stroke in 2005 and has some speech and language issues) could authorise me to bring a case on his behalf as litigant in person in the British courts. The last time I had to threaten a major with this, in 1994, after six fruitless years of correspondence exchange/stalling, they admitted liability and settled in full. In that case, as I believe in this, the company was not malicious, just rubbish at knowing what it does and doesn’t own. They own so much, you see, they assume they own everything and attach ISRC codes will nilly. This particular infringement comes from our having licensed the track on a non exclusive basis to be used on a Charlie’s Angels soundtrack. Even the business affairs guy at Warner UK whom I have been dealing with seems powerless to wrest the track from the system. Like I say, not evil, just slack and hidebound. We’re not bitter or furious, we know our industry well. Edwyn’s career spans thirty years. It simply amuses me to hear them wail about copyright theft. I think the word is hubris.
Edwyn is hail and hearty and after four years hard graft, performing and recording again. These days we don’t much sweat the small stuff. And small stuff is an increasingly accurate description of the old behemoth record companies as they flail around desperately trying to protect their “property.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

and besides, them ripping off the public domain with their lobbying efforts (ie: to keep extending copyright) and nor releasing things to the public domain that, given how long they were in copyright, rightfully belong in the public domain, is not accidental but it’s selfish. They deserve to suffer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…the company was not malicious, just rubbish at knowing what it does and doesn’t own. They own so much, you see, they assume they own everything and attach ISRC codes will nilly.

I believe that they could keep track these things but they don’t really want to. That’s the kind of thing US courts call “willful blindness” and it’s no excuse. In this case, as described so far, they have even been informed and yet they still persist so they have even less of an excuse.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Grace, I can’t imagine that there are not attorneys that would be salivating to take your case on a strictly contingency basis. Find yourself a shark, offer him 30% of the take, then stand back (and maybe shield your eyes). Just be sure that the agreement is clear that if you don’t win, the shark doesn’t get paid.

I am not normally pro-lawsuit, but this issue should absolutely be brought to court, the labels are maniacal copyright fanaticists when it ‘works’ in their favor, they need to be shown the other side of the sword.

Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Grace Maxwell,

I have to say you are a kind and generous soul. Many of us, even myself, are of the mind that making Time Warner feel the pain is worth the cost. But it is also true that one can take the high road consistently, rather than only with one’s friends.

I applaud the understanding and forgiving tone of your reply, and only regret that Time Warner cannot possibly understand the contrast between your position and theirs.

Some Guy says:


A Girl like you is by far the finest guitar work I have ever heard. A pat on the back for Mr. Collins.

As for your legal situation, I would be more than happy to donate a large amount of money for you to fight this on principal alone. I dare say there are millions of people who would like to see the “music industry” get a taste of their own medicine. If you start a website explaining your situation and soliciting donations, I am sure that within a week you will have your fighting fund.

I would even be willing to help out in non financial ways.

I wish you and Edwyn all the best and a truely hope you will consider legal action against these theiving bastards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well this is odd

He apparently only recorded one album for a major label, and that was Epic–which is owned by Sony. The Epic album didn’t even have that track on it.

What did have that track on it was the soundtrack to the film Empire Records, but that was released on A&M, which is owned by Universal.

Now, even if Collins didn’t own all the copyrights to his songs by some contract magic or other, where does Warner enter the discussion?

Grace Maxwell (profile) says:

Re: Well this is odd

Hi there Coward…to satiate your curiosity, a little background. Edwyn was the main man in an eighties band called Orange Juice who never troubled the charts in the US but did rather well here in the UK. He nonetheless has some very loyal followers over your way, partly because in addition to being a rather glorious songwriter (biased) he was something of a trail blazer, forming an influential and truly independent label with others in 1979 called Postcard Records of Scotland. This spirit has informed his career throughout; unwilling to sign his life away, he now owns most of his copyrights. We’re not that territorial about them. Enthusiastic admirers spreading the word? We’re all for it. Grist to the mill.

stainless (user link) says:

Re: Re: Well this is odd

I congratulate you on your live and let live attitude Grace. If more people worked this way i’m sure the world would be a better place. However, the big labels don’t work this way and while i suspect you are right regarding their lack of intent in this case, the point remains that they appear to be running afoul of their own rules and ‘ethics’. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ is one of my dads favourite phrases and has a lot of merit but there is a lot of ‘small stuff’ happening in the world today that could benefit from a little sweat thrown at it… and a number of people that would happily provide said sweat. When does the weight of all the small stuff get too heavy for the backs of the little people and crush them like bugs under foot.

wheatus (user link) says:

copyright mythology

As an former major label artist, this fish flopping just gets more embarrassing with every cheese lip lame ass “statement”.

Dear Other Artists,

If you don’t want your music leaked then don’t give it to anyone you think might leak it. If your “record deal” stipulates you must then grow a pair and try to get out of it…you are in the life you chose and chastising the working people who made it all possible for you is some spoiled brat bullshit.

Home taping didn’t kill music in the late 70’early 80’s, it helped it. So does piracy help the cream rise to the top today. The artificial market place you were used to is being replaced by a real one.

Dear Techdirt Thinkers,

Making music and selling it for a REASONABLE profit on the internet are not as complicated as my defunct 78 page agreement with a certain Major Label or the RIAA would have you believe. Licensing IP to outlets who seek to profit from it is even easier. Any ML artists who talk down to you are trying to protect an unsustainable and corrupt system that has failed upward for decades and can no longer afford to hold up the weight at the top. The plan, as always, is to make you pay more for less. Resist!

Go True Indie Music Only,
brendan b brown

The idiot says:

This just shows how much abuse (and not necessarily from the lower staff) the RIAA does. My suggestionwould be to file and ACTA and WTO injunction to prohibit Time Warner from selling any more copie.

Furthermore, send a DMCA takedown to the Time Warner website, along with documentation so that the site can be shut down.

I will be forwarding this story on to the national newspapers for further investigation, if you wish.

www.eZee.se (profile) says:

Dear Mrs. Collins,

I ask you to take a minute to think about those poor souls who have been unfairly accused but still had to pay thousands of dollars rather than go up against that huuuuuuge monster that the RIAA had setup to stamp and crush the skulls of non-payers, please then take another minute to think of all the artists the majors have exploited over the decades… and finally take a moment to think about what they would have done if the positions were reversed even though you had no evil intent.

While I am not a person to go “you owe it to your X” where X would be country/fans/family/humankind/mankind/god etc I think you should consider the unique position you find yourself in and *maybe* go after the monster just the balance the scales of justice.

As stated above, we the fans, will try to support you as well with donations and organizations like the EFF too would most probably be willing to help – if you want to go ahead with it.

If you do go ahead with it, it can only be a win for everyone including your husband’s music due to the added exposure of nearly everyone (blogs,sites,news) picking this up. While before this i never really heard of your husbands music I have now sampled some of his stuff and… i like it.
Give others a chance to discover his music as well, better than paid advertising ever could and at the same time notch one up for justice.
You would have public opinion on your side, as well as the thousands of innocent people the RIAA has sued, tens or hundreds of millions like me who hate the industry, as well as a vast number of college students, single parents, the sick, the elderly, the dying… and i daresay even that person who was dead when the RIAA said he was infringing (and maybe even those printers that the RIAA’s ‘infringement engine’ pointed its fingers to for downloading ‘copyrighted’ material).

Please please please dont just discard this but if I may quote a cliche “think of the bigger picture”.


Antiqcool (profile) says:

Give it away

Keeping my opinions about the possible motives behind some major label acts giving their music away to myself for now.

Most of our tracks have been released under a creative commons license.

We are an independent record label not a big bad corporation out to sue you for file sharing, we WANT you to spread our music around.

With such an overcrowded market place giving away your music is essential in my opinion. The biggest problem for emerging indie artists today is obscurity, not piracy. To find out more listen to The Antiqcool Podcast


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