There have been rumors for months that various elements of the legacy recording industry were gearing up to sue SoundCloud, the super popular and useful audio hosting site (we use it to host the Techdirt Podcast
). In the last year or so, SoundCloud has been ramping up its efforts to appear super responsive to takedown requests, leading to ridiculous situations
including the takedowns of public domain material, or of officially uploaded material
. The company has also been completely ridiculous about fair use
, telling users that it doesn't recognize it, since it's only a US concept.
As always, it appears that appeasing copyright extremists never gets you very far in the long run. The rumors for months are that, as with pretty much every other successful internet music-related service, the legacy players come asking for huge chunks of equity if you don't want to get sued. They basically demand companies bleed themselves dry, or be forced to be bled dry by a lawsuit. And now the lawsuits are starting. First up is not actually a record label, but PRS
, the rather infamous UK music collection society that just recently told its members that it was keeping more of the money it collected, in order to funnel it into lawsuits
. This is the same PRS that is so desperate to collect more money that it has gone after a woman who played music to her horses
, a woman who sang to herself
while stocking grocery store shelves and against a charity for daring to have children sing Christmas carols
without paying up.
That lovely organization is now suing SoundCloud
Our aim is always to license services when they use our members’ music. It has been a difficult decision to begin legal action against SoundCloud but one we firmly believe is in the best, long-term interests of our membership. This is because it is important we establish the principle that a licence is required when services make available music to users. We have asked SoundCloud numerous times to recognise their responsibilities to take a licence to stop the infringement of our members’ copyrights but so far our requests have not been met. Therefore we now have no choice but to pursue the issue through the courts.
PRS itself notes that SoundCloud is arguing that its service in the UK is protected by EU safe harbors
as a host of content, rather than the publisher, but PRS isn't buying it. SoundCloud, in its response, notes that this follows a pattern of the recording industry to sue internet services as a negotiating tactic. As noted over at Music Ally:
“It is regrettable that PRS appears to be following this course of action in the midst of an active commercial negotiation with SoundCloud. We believe this approach does not serve the best interests of any of the parties involved, in particular the members of the PRS, many of whom are active users of our platform and who rely on it to share their work and communicate with their fanbase,” said a spokesperson.
“SoundCloud is a platform by creators, for creators. No one in the world is doing more to enable creators to build and connect with their audience while protecting the rights of creators, including PRS members. We are working hard to create a platform where all creators can be paid for their work, and already have deals in place with thousands of copyright owners, including record labels, publishers and independent artists.”
This is one of those fights where it's unlikely that there will be any winners, other than the lawyers. SoundCloud will eventually probably just pay up, and continue to make its platform less and less useful. And PRS may get a little bit more money in the short term at the expense of long term support of the platforms musicians need to embrace in this modern internet era.