Thursday, June 05, 2008

All your promo CDs are belong to us

BBC News online has a considered piece on the court case brought by Universal against an eBay trader who sells promo copies of albums - old ones, like, not unreleased records:

In legal documents filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, UMG's lawyers allege that "[Mr] Augusto's unauthorised distribution of the UMG promo CDs violated UMG's exclusive right to distribute its copyrighted works".

Among the promotional items listed as sold by Mr Augusto, according to the legal brief, are titles of CD singles by Nelly Furtado and rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

We're alarmed by this case - not merely because the only reason music journalists eat is because they flog their unwanted promos down the second hand store, and the suggestion that promotional copies remain the property of record labels threatens that.

No, our concern is the wording of that complaint: Universal aren't objecting to the sale of promo CDs, they're objecting to the violation of its exclusive right to distribute its copyrighted works at all.

In other words, this case looks like something of a stalking horse to try and outlaw the sale of second hand records altogether - after all, if those little stickers saying "Promo copy only - not for resale" are upheld in court, then what about the small print on the CD case that forbids unauthorised sale? Wouldn't someone flogging their own copy of an album on eBay also be "violating UMG's exclusive right to distribute its copyrighted works"?

As large artists choose to seek contracts elsewhere, and new artists increasingly bypass the majors, the big four are going to come to rely more and more on catalogue. They've already moaned in the past about how second-hand sales stops them making any money - sorry, the artists, it's always the artists, making any money. Could they be gearing up for a wider action?

[Thanks to MC Glammer for the link]


Francis said...

objecting to the violation of its exclusive right to distribute its copyrighted works

Will be interesting to see how this goes in the UK - as under current UK Tax law, selling your old CD's is seem as "chattells" and therefore does not attract income tax (based on the fact that you already paid tax on them when you bought them- and will probably be selling them at a loss anyway so you could ask for a tax rebate?)

Still - nice try UMG. Cluthing at straws or what?

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