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Myspace Allegedly Hosting Unlicensed Indie Music, Merlin Prepares Legal Response

Merlin-logoIndie music rights licensor Merlin says they have discovered unlicensed music by labels they represent on the new Myspace. Myspace says users must have posted it and they're happy to take down such songs when requested. Merlin says they're planning a legal response. But a closer look reveals oddities that raise some questions not only about Myspace but about Merlin and their relationship to acts they represent.

So there's an old Myspace, which now symbolizes death and destruction for many, and a new Myspace, which now reads as a launch platform for Justin Timberlake projects. At least that's what all the old tech and music industry bloggers are saying. I have no idea what young people are saying about Myspace but maybe they're just not talking about it all that much.

Be that as it may, indie licensing service Merlin says their deal with Myspace ended over a year ago but they're still finding unlicensed music on Myspace from labels they represent such as Beggars Group, Domino and Merge Records.

A Myspace spokesperson said that if Merlin was finding such music on Myspace, then users must have uploaded it and they would honor label requests to remove the music. This response seems in keeping with the typical Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown procedure as we know it.

Merlin CEO Charles Caldas told Mashable:

"What we've taken issue with is the service launched without a license from us, yet with our music all over the service...It's launching with hundreds of tracks and offering them free, on demand to consumers without the permission of the people who own the material, and certainly without remunerating them for it."

He also didn't appreciate the response from Myspace saying:

"I don't see ignorance as a justification for piracy...If you're offering music, without permission, that belongs to a copyright holder in a commercial environment, the onus is on you, the business, to make sure those rights are cleared."

Merlin is preparing a legal response which should be interesting for a number of reasons.

Since Mashable's Pete Paschal mentions Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend as examples, I searched for them on both the old and new Myspace sites. Yes, I found user uploads of both bands on both sites. But I also found what appears to be the official Arcade Fire account still up on the old Myspace and that's where the majority of their music is coming from on both the old and new Myspace.

The contrast between Vampire Weekend, with uploaders dominating search results, and Arcade Fire, with what seems to be the content the band or label uploaded and left up dominating their results, is pretty interesting in terms of arguments for having a presence on such a site.

But given that Myspace seems protected by the DMCA for the illegal uploads and some of the music that Merlin represents was uploaded by the bands and/or labels, I'm very curious to see what kind of legal action will result. For example, who should take down Arcade Fire's music if they uploaded it themselves?

But I also have to wonder what's up with Merlin. Arcade Fire's music has apparently been up the whole time. Does Merlin only check in annually or when new services launch? If they were representing me, that's a question I'd want answered right away.

It's unfortunate that Myspace seems likely to hide behind the lowest common denominator protections offered by the DMCA. Currently the takedown procedures on all major services are unwieldy, time consuming and therefore costly. It looks like Myspace is missing the fact that they have an opportunity to be proactive about copyright issues.

Even YouTube, which has long been a key destination for accessing pirated music without fear of ending up in court, has come up with an approach that's working for some by running ads and adding buy links to unlicensed examples of participating labels' music. That hasn't satisfied everybody but it is an innovative example of attempting to address the needs of all participants. If Myspace really wants to rebrand with a focus on music, they need to step up and respond a bit more intelligently to this situation.

More: Unpaid DIY Music Is 'Competitive Advantage' As MySpace Shops For $50M To Take On Spotify

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net) also blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM) and All World Dance: Videos. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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