Thursday, August 31, 2006


Fresh from taking on the might of MySpace and Bebo, Billy Bragg has now turned his attention to the terms & conditions for MTV Flux, the channel set to replace MTV2 and hoping to cut its costs by inviting "users" to upload their stuff to be shown to the viewing dozens.

Bragg is unimpressed:

It seems that MTV Flux will be a TV channel comprising solely user-generated content, the commercial exploitation rights of which are owned by MTV. Just so no one should be in any confusion about what such an agreement might involve, MTV's content submission conditions states: 'In particular, you agree to waive all moral rights to the Material.'

Such terms are unprecedented in the music industry and could have serious long-term implications. It may be that any artist who breaks via the MTV Flux set-up might find that, years later, MTV has some claim to residual rights in their material or else have the use of it for life of copyright, without any payment to the artist, "in perpetuity and gratis".

The demand that users waive all moral rights to their material in order to join a service brings into question the role of social networking sites.

Bragg's point, of course, is that Viacom is saying "we'll put your stuff on the TV, but in so doing, it'll become our stuff too."

Nayeem Syed of MTV has responded with all the convincing hurt of a child caught with his hands in the cookie jar:

Although Mr Bragg says that most artists are "unlikely to read the terms and conditions with which they are required to agree before joining the service" we would actively encourage them to do so because they would come across an important passage which he chose not to mention. Namely, "By uploading or sending any material to us ... you continue to retain ownership of such material and may continue to use the content outside the website".

Syed insists that the contract is simply designed to allow MTV to edit where neccesary, and so on. And, yes, MTV Flux does allow people to keep rights to use things outside the website, which is generous of them. But if all MTV wants to do is retain the right to make the music fit their website, why not say that? Why not draft a simpler contract, with less of a gray area in it?

After all, Mr. Syed is an honourable man. But who's to say his bosses are? Or a future owner of MTV? And since without the goodwill of musicians there's nothing for MTV Flux to show, shouldn't they be bending over backwards to take only what they need from the artists, rather than coming up with catch-all contracts?