Universal using copyright law to remove bad reviews?
How many artists have read a really negative online review and thought to themselves, "I wish the internet had a 'delete' button." Well, it seems, Universal Music Group has allegedly found such a button, the button isn't a button at all though, instead it is a US law called DMCA. DMCA protects copyright holders by allowing them to remove any infringing material from the internet, something which it would appear Universal are abusing.
According to Henry 'Rizoh' Adaso, the founder of hip hop blog The Rap Up, his review of Drake's Take Care for the online magazine About.com last year has been removed from the site. The review itself wasn't offensive, just brutally honest about a record that experienced an equal number of highs as it did lows, awarding the record two and half stars out of a possible five.
Although Drake is signed to Young Money / Cash Money Records the labels parent company is Universal and according to this document, the link to Rozoh’s review was filed by Universal, among many other links for alleged copyright infringement. Admittedly some of those links lead to site hosting illegal copies of the album for download but including a review in that list is odd. One can only assume that the label felt the review had been based on an illegally obtained copy of the album perhaps, not sure that is reason alone to remove a review though, in fact it would be interesting to know how many five star reviews were derived from illegal downloads that are still available online to read.
To make things worse, this isn't the first time Universal has used the DMCA to get their own way. Last year Interscope (again owned by Universal) reported Skepta's single to YouTube for Copyright infringement despite it not containing any Universal owned material. Jimmy Iovine the head of Interscope then contacted UK based Skepta to explain why it had been taken down and that he wanted to buy the track for Eminem, at the time Skepta took to twitter to voice his concerns over the matter: "Just got a f*%king CRAZY email. I don't know if I should be angry or privileged. This explains why the f*%k YouTube took 'Dare To Dream' off."
Despite declaring his love for the tune, the producer/rapper conceded that Eminem would benefit from the track and eventually sold the track to Interscope.
It would seem to us that the authorities have set a precedent of act first, ask questions later meaning that content suspected of infringing copyright is removed before any wrong doing has been ascertained and thus leading to Universal being able to abuse that precedent. In other words it looks like just a new way for big labels to bully the little guy, yet again.
BPI have released a statement regarding the takedown affair, which takes the heat of Universal. [via Music Week]
"BPI uses the DMCA process to request the removal of millions of links in search results to infringing sound recordings every year. We have no intention of ever trying to remove links to reviews or writing about music.
"In this case, we regret that an isolated error occurred with the effect that we mistakenly asked for a few links to reviews to be removed. Immediately on learning of the mistake, we asked Google to reinstate the links concerned and are undertaking a review of our processes to ensure this does not happen again. We apologise to all concerned for our mistake."
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