Although our look back at the year 2014 talked about much, one story we missed out was how much of the year was spent punctuated by the complaints of the users of SoundCloud, be it for the design changes that were accused of being style over substance, or the massive shift in copyright policing that has been steadily creeping in. As the rabble rousing has grown throughout the userbase, and people have been shifting to alternatives, SoundCloud have had to do some PR firefighting to claw back some reputation.
Even though the SoundCloud blog was updated mid-December, this story slipped through the cracks a bit over the Holiday period, with various corners of the web taking notice after the hangovers have cleared. The gist is that the company are stuck between a proverbial rock and hard place. As they’ve grown, the big labels have taken notice and started exercising their legal right to block what they see as copyrighted material being used without consent. So they wrote up a lengthy post reminding users about their stance and what the system is for infringing works.
Mixmag received an official statement from the company:
“As a responsible hosting platform, we work hard to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected. In the case of rights holders, that means having processes in place to ensure that any content posted without authorisation is removed quickly and efficiently.
“In the case of users, that means having separate processes in place to ensure that any content removed in error can be reinstated equally quickly. If any user believes that content has been removed in error – for example, because they had the necessary permissions from Universal Music and/or any other rights holder – then they are free to dispute the takedown.”
Really, there’s two parts to my reaction. The first is that, regardless of the legalities, the major labels are still living in the dark ages, burying their heads in the sand about how the modern internet user works. We want to create and share music and mixes. We’ve done it since forever. Hell, the term ‘mixtape’ got those same labels’ knickers in a twist when the audio cassette tape arrived. In many places, buyers ended up paying off the labels to keep them happy. Now, with the DMCA, we’ve got our very own example of using a sledgehammer to hit a nail, and even in 2015, they still don’t want to move into the internet age and modernise their business models. And this isn’t even the real issue… it’s more the fact that the DMCA is so weighted towards the large corporations with the resources to defend/monitor the system.
The second part is that the internet routes around damage. By this, I mean that the flow of information is inherent to not only the internet itself, but the people that use it. The cat’s out of the bag, people want to use the web in the way they have been with SoundCloud in the past, and they’ll always find a way. Whether it’s moving to new startups like hearthis.at, or doing things in less scrupulous ways, it’s going to happen. The more the labels squeeze SoundCloud the more it’ll shrivel up and die. And that’s exactly what they want, because they know the way things are is unsustainable for SoundCloud, since they aren’t even pulling a profit as it is. We’re stuck in this endless loop of whack-a-mole, which costs everyone a phenomenal amount of money, and, in the end, it’s us, the music fans and producers that lose out. Basically, we don’t need this bullshit.