Stop moaning you are being removed from Soundcloud and learn the law

Social media is alight with reports of Soundcloud removing mixes and music due to copyright infringements at the request of major labels. It is not an issue that is not going to go away anytime soon, with Soundcloud now the second largest music distributor in the world (second only to Youtube) with over 250 million users that uploads 12 million seconds of  music every 10 minutes, it was only a matter of time before the major labels knocked on the door.

Copyright in the music world is an interesting and very complex set of laws, regulations and quite irregular across countries. Soundcloud makes it quite clear in its Terms of Use that

Without prejudice to the conditions set forth in Your Use of the Platform you must not upload, store, distribute, send, transmit, display, perform, make available or otherwise communicate to the public any Content to which you do not hold the necessary rights. In particular, any unauthorized use of copyright protected material within Your Content (including by way of reproduction, distribution, modification, adaptation, public display, public performance, preparation of derivative works, making available or otherwise communicating to the public via the Platform) may constitute an infringement of third party rights and is strictly prohibited. Any such infringements may result in termination of your access to the Platform as described in the Repeat Infringers section below, and may also result in civil litigation or criminal prosecution by or on behalf of the relevant rightsholder.

Which in laymen terms, you do not have the right to upload copyrighted music. So what does this mean if you have legally purchased music from Beatport and want to make a mix to upload? Well, legally no you can’t!

Most countries have strict laws for copyrighted material and DJs seem to be the flavour of the month with restrictions and licenses. The need for a license, the details of it and the costs vary from country to country. The license is usually issued by national organisations which protect the intellectual properties of composerslyricistsarrangers and performers; or by other organisations which are licensed to sell such licenses on their behalf. ie: PPCA, APRA, GEMA and so forth.

In the UK, a license must be obtained from the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), or one of its dubbing operators, and from the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS).  In 2006, The PPL created a license that allowed a DJ to use up to 20 000 songs and keep backup copies of these on a separate hard drive.  The license did not allow the recording of live DJ mixes or burning music on to a CD. Furthermore, editing or altering of the original recording was not permitted. The PPL license had to be renewed yearly and cost £200 plus (VAT) per year. PPL did not announce how the use of the digital DJ licensing was going to be enforced or supervised, other than by advertising the need for the license and discouraging venues from hiring unlicensed DJs, under threat of “trouble with the law”. In addition to this, the DJ also needed to acquire a separate license from the MCPS.

In 2008, PPL and MCPS created a joined license, named ProDub license, which covers the licensing for both organizations. The new licensing scheme is tiered, tier 1 costing £250 including VAT, and allowing the copying of up to 5000 songs, up to tier 4 which costs £400 including VAT and allows the copying of up to 20,000 songs. This licensing system differs from the previous one in that it’s not a form of leasing, and the songs copied under this license may be kept indefinitely. Furthermore, if the whole quota is not used, the remaining amount may be transferred to the next year, provided the license is renewed. This license also allows a backup to be kept, but does not permit the copying of music on to a CDR, only allowing copies to hard drives of computers or other digital audio players. Also, it is required for the DJ to own the original media, and copies made from CDs borrowed from a library or another source are not allowed. The licensors keep a database searchable by surname to allow venues and other organizers to verify that their performers comply with the appropriate copyright laws. It should however be noted that DJs playing original CDs and vinyl are legally allowed to do so without any licenses on their part and are not listed in the database. MCPS does not require the licensees to report the songs used, but they are required to keep some form of a record of the copies made, that may be requested by the MCPS to be sent to them and/or allow them to verify the records. This form of licensing is similar to the previous model in the sense that it does not allow live DJ mixes to be recorded.

In a nut shell, the law states that if you are in the UK, you must have a DJ license, you cannot record it live and you must not make recordings and distribute. Not in the UK? well, don’t think you get out of this lightly. Germany, Australia, US, Egypt all have similar, if not stricter controls on DJs with talk of the EU and others to follow suit soon. All the moaning, jumping up and down and slagging off Soundcloud as the big devil will not change that they have to comply with laws in the countries they are based in or operate (which is pretty much everywhere) Currently there is no real alternative in service, distribution or features that Soundcloud provides, but how do you keep your Soundcloud and avoid being removed or worse still, your account shut down?

US creator of and music lover, Morgan Crozier has has compiled a list of over 2500 artists on major labels that actively pursue any improper use of original works. Currently the majority artists on his list are in the Hip Hop community, however there is a few noticeable names from the Dance Music world, such as Fatboy Slim and Eric Prydz. What does this mean to you? Well as the list grows, you will be able to search for artists that have flagged a take down notice of their work before you wish to place them in your mix, thus saving you all that work you put into it, only to find it is not allowed (or you could just play more underground music) either way, we think it is a great tool for those that rely heavily on Soundcloud for their works and in the mean time we don’t see Soundcloud going away anytime soon, so moaning about them complying with the law is not going to solve anything.


About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.