Myspace Relaunches, Encounters Copyright Issue
Remember MySpace? Well, it’s back – this time, as Myspace. Maybe the newly private, scaled-down business couldn’t afford the capital “S.” The site relaunched last week and immediately ran into a copyright infringement issue.
In 2005, the independent MySpace was purchased by News Corporation for $580 million. The social networking site was promptly eclipsed by Facebook, among others, and was taken private in 2011 for $35 million. The current investor group counts multimedia superstar Justin Timberlake as a minority owner.
Myspace made a big splash with its January 13, 2013 relaunch, which centered around an announcement of Timberlake’s upcoming new album. His single, “Suit & Tie,” was made available through the service. Myspace’s focus will be on making music available to its users.
Unfortunately, a company named Merlin Network claims that not all the music on the new Myspace has been properly licensed. Merlin represents a collective of independent labels featuring such popular acts as Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend. Merlin and MySpace had an agreement for digital distribution of music, but that deal apparently expired a year ago.
Myspace’s spokeswoman Neda Azarfar told the New York Times that “[T]he company had decided not to renew its contract with Merlin, and that if songs from its member labels were still on the site, ‘they were likely uploaded by users’ and would be removed if requested by the label.”
That explanation is plausible, and may be accurate – we’ll see if and when all the facts come out. But this case is an illustration of the continuing challenges of launching online music services. After over a decade of launches, failures, successes, and litigation, there is still not a clear, simple way for a new company (or a relaunched one) to enter the online space and provide music to consumers.
Internet entrepreneurs, beware of the perils of online music licensing. Your big launch may be soured by claims of copyright infringement if you don’t have rock-solid agreements with every stakeholder in the music industry. Even if you think you’re in the right, the publicity from these types of claims can send your marketing and PR plan astray.