Strapped for cash and fighting for relevance, the relaunched Myspace already has enough problems. But it looks like the company and its music-focused revamp have another, potentially bigger issue: credibility.
The site recently came under fire from digital rights management group Merlin because the service is allegedly using many of the songs without permission, as VentureBeat previously reported. Merlin negotiates digital music contracts with thousands of indie labels around the world, and it boasts a library of about 3 million tracks, including those by Ani Difranco, Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Wilco, and several others. (See a longer list pasted below.)
“This is not bedroom artists hoping to get their music onto the Internet. Merlin’s [song library] is real, commercially significant [music] that’s playing on other services in a way that’s equivalent to the major labels” Merlin CEO Charles Caldas said in an interview with VentureBeat yesterday. He added that, at one point, music from Merlin’s record label clients accounted for about 10 percent of Spotify’s total business — meaning it’s definitely a crop of songs that people want to listen via a streaming music service.
So, how is Myspace able to use music it doesn’t have permissions for? Well, the music-minded social network permits its users to upload their own songs to the service, essentially allowing them to promote their work to a broader audience that otherwise would only receive attention if it signed a contract with a record label. This is both Myspace’s most valuable and deadly feature, as many of its users have created dummy accounts to upload their favorite artists’ music. Searching the site for Arcade Fire brings up over a dozen results for artists claiming to be Arcade Fire — including one that sports “ArcadeFireOfficial” in its customized URL.
“The disappointing thing [about Myspace] is that you have a service that’s come in supposedly geared toward enabling and empowering music artists, and its first act is to offer a whole range of songs without the permission of those artists,” Caldas told me.
Having investigated what a standard Myspace artist page is, I find it pretty hard to tell the difference between an illegitimate account and an official page. Artist pages all look professional, and Myspace doesn’t give out a stamp that verifies official artists pages.
Myspace declined to comment about its relationship with Merlin, but its new terms of service indicates that users are ultimately responsible for what they upload. Additionally, Myspace’s terms state that will remove any content that it does not have permission to use under the rules of DMCA. YouTube also ran into trouble years ago because of its users illegally uploading videos that contained copyrighted tracks.
However, unlike YouTube, Myspace doesn’t have a ridiculously large user base that makes it difficult to filter out songs that the site doesn’t have permission to use. Each artist listed below has less than 15 “dummy” Myspace artist accounts.