Published Oct 05, 2009It's another David vs. Goliath tale in the music industry, and this time it concerns British singer and former Orange Juice front-man Edwyn Collins.
When his wife and manager, Grace Maxwell, recently attempted to upload Collins's most commercially successful song, "A Girl Like You," to the artist's MySpace page, she received a message saying she didn't have authority to upload the track, even though Collins is the sole copyright owner.
After writing to the website and asking who was blocking the upload, MySpace informed her that she'd have to contact the Warner Music Group, who was claiming ownership of the song despite Collins buying the licensing from the company years ago.
Maxwell has detailed her running battle with MySpace and Warner at Collins's MySpace and here's her illuminating post in its entirety:
I am Edwyn Colllins manager. Let me tell you a story. At the beginning of this year I noticed that Edwyn's MySpace had gone bit wonky and I tried to upload the tracks back on to the music player. His most famous track, which he owns the copyright, as he does for most of the music he's recorded in his life (preferring to go it alone than have his music trapped "in perpetuity," to use the contract language of the major record company) is called 'A Girl Like You.' It's quite famous. Lo and behold, it would not upload, I was told Edwyn was attempting to breach a copyright and he was sent to the Orwellian MySpace copyright reeducation page. Quite chilling, actually.
I naturally blew my stack and wrote to MySpace on his behalf, demanding to know who the hell was claiming copyright of Edwyn's track? Which, incidentally, he always made freely available for download on MySpace, something that amazed his followers. Eventually, after HUGE difficulty, I was told Warner Music Group were claiming it. I found a nice lawyer guy at Warners, very apologetic, promised to get it sorted, but all these months later it isn't. That is because MySpace are not equipped to deal with the notion that anyone other than a major can claim a copyright.
Warners were one of the lead petitioners in the attempt to put those three stoner lads in Sweden in prison recently, remember. 'A Girl Like You' is available FOR SALE all over the internet. Not by Edwyn, by all sorts of respectable major labels whose licence to sell it ran out years ago and who do not account to him.
Attempting to make them cease and desist would use up the rest of my life. Because this is what they do and what they've always done. And it's not just majors. If I had a fiver for all the dodgy indie labels we've been involved with I'd have £35 or thereabouts. (Exceptions: Heavenly and Domino).
Andrew Loog Oldham said that getting ripped off (by the industry) was your entrance fee to the music business of the '60s, so get over it. He's right and things have not changed. We are very over it, but nonetheless aware of who the biggest bootleggers around are. It's not the filesharers. Personally, we've always loved bootlegs. Even when Edwyn was really skint at the fag end of the '80s, I remember being in Camden market and seeing some tapes of a couple of his shows on sale. I tried to buy them but the stallholder somehow knew who I was and said "free to the management." I failed to see how that guy selling tapes of Edwyn or even U2 or anybody on the list of signatories above could harm their career.
But anyway, as an earlier post said, this is not really an argument worth having. The gig's up. You might as well take a position about when you want the sun to come up in the morning. It's over. Now let's get on with working out a wonderful new way for music lovers to enjoy music for free or for a small subscription that makes it legal and easy to hear ANYTHING and allows the artist to reap the rewards of such freedom of access. Viva la revolucion!
It's only one example of artists getting royally screwed online by major labels due to licensing claims, and so far, Collins is only allowed to share a sample of his "A Girl Like You" for free on his MySpace.