Published Nov 25, 2009Just days after we reported that Winnipeg, MB noise rockers KEN Mode were denied the right to upload their songs by MySpace, who cited ownership rights by Warner Music Group, the songs on the band's MySpace page have been reinstated.
In an interview with KEN Mode singer/guitarist Jesse Matthewson, he said he received the good news from MySpace on Sunday (November 20), two days after Exclaim! first contacted the social-networking site with a press query about the situation.
The message to Matthewson said the previously blocked songs were "currently active on your profile and your privileges are currently active." The message gave no explanation as to why the band were initially denied access to their songs, for which they hold exclusive copyright, nor did it offer any kind of apology. "If you have further issues regarding blocked media, please let us know," concluded the message.
While Matthewson is relieved to have control over his band's songs again, he is still fuming at MySpace for taking down the songs in the first place and the website's frustrating dispute forms, which he tried to fill out no less than 25 times over the course of a few days. He finally was able to contact MySpace, but believes their swift action was due to the negative press the website drew from the situation.
"I'm glad that MySpace fixed the problem as quickly as they did, but I question what would have happened had Exclaim! not gotten involved," says Matthewson. "The fact that MySpace has a dispute form that doesn't work - and I've read accounts of other bands going through the same thing and just gave up because of it - is very frustrating. I'm not sure whether that was a MySpace Canada issue or what... but to have the dispute form indefinitely offline? Weak."
When Exclaim! contacted MySpace about KEN Mode's situation on Friday (November 18), we received only an email from an unnamed "MySpace Copyright Agent," saying that the band should contact them directly and provide their MySpace info, something Matthewson had already repeatedly done.
"Unfortunately we cannot offer assistance to any third parties on behalf of a MySpace member. Please have the band you're referring to contact us directly for any assistance they might need with their profile," the copyright agent emailed to Exclaim!
Matthewson speculates that the copyright issue may have something to do with the band's former label, Escape Artist Records. In fact, that label's MySpace, as well as those of Escape Artist bands such as Collapsar, In Pieces, Blunderbuss and Theory of Ruin, has recently had songs removed from its MySpace profile. Matthewson spoke to Escape Artist co-owner Gordon Conrad, also a publicist at Relapse Records, about the possibility of the link to bankruptcy proceedings of the label's former distributor, Lumberjack Mordam Music Group, which Warner seems to have had some sort of stake in, perhaps in a creditor situation. However, the direct link to Warner is still unknown.
"Neither KEN Mode, nor Escape Artist Records, gave away any rights to WMG in any way, so we don't understand why this would be happening," says Matthewson.
Steve Waxman, director of publicity at Warner Music Canada is not familiar with KEN Mode, nor Escape Artist Records and its other bands, but he did say that the problem seemed to be from the MySpace ends of things and he doesn't believe Warner needs to take any action at this point.
"It could be a glitch in MySpace with regards to how they have publishing set up. And you don't know and I don't know, and none of us know, if this is the Warner record company that MySpace is talking about [when they send out the copyright notices], or if this is the publishing arm that they are talking about," says Waxman. "I don't think anyone here [at Warner] would be inclined to contact MySpace, just because it's not an issue for a company, and that company in this case is Warner; if it's not an issue for them, they're not going to get in touch with MySpace to find out what is going on."
But the Warner Music Group copyright notice is not an isolated incident. Besides the many independent labels and bands previously associated with Lumberjack Mordam that are experiencing trouble, some unrelated artists are also being affected by the same copyright errors. Last month, we told you about how British singer Edwyn Collins was battling with MySpace and Warner over user rights for his hit song "A Girl Like You." And the now-defunct '90s alt-rock band Pure, based in Vancouver, also recently had their songs blocked by a Warner copyright issue and posted about it on their MySpace page.
In a blog post, Pure's former keyboard player, Mark Henning, wrote: "Starting last year, I noticed certain songs were no longer streamable on the MySpace player. Pretty much all the music that was recorded while we were signed to Warner Bros has been removed. Then, earlier this year, I attempted to post a song from the Extra Purestrial EP, which was later amalgamated by Mammoth Records as part of the USA release of Generation Six Pack. I figured it shouldn't be a problem as it wasn't part of the Warner Music period, yet it triggered some copyright software which blocked us from uploading any more songs to this page."
As far as offsetting any bad PR is concerned, Waxman believes it's not Warner who should be doing damage control. "I think it's a PR issue for MySpace, frankly," he says. "Until you just told me we were getting bad PR, we didn't know about it."
Matthewson does agree that MySpace needs to step it up in the customer service department and monitor their form emails and copyright notices so smaller artists like KEN Mode don't get criminalized for merely trying to upload their songs.
"If they're going to allow majors to do massive sweeps like the one they apparently did with their copyright filters, they need to be able to handle the myriad disputes that will occur, not just lead them to a page that crashes," says Matthewson. "They could also spare everyone the accusatory language when things are so automated. It's pretty awesome being treated like a criminal when you've done absolutely nothing wrong. This might sound like I'm whining, but the language they used only made me furious; and then to have them remove a blog I did about the situation unfolding... I was ready for war."
Matthewson also has some strong advice for any other bands that run into the same kind of troubles while trying to upload their songs to MySpace.
"I encourage any other bands or labels that have their copyrights being claimed to draw attention to it with as many people as possible. Get in touch with MySpace immediately via e-mail/fax/phone, and get in touch with any media links you have. Let people know you're pissed off. I think that's the quickest way to resolve these ridiculous occurrences."