Goodbye Soundcloud

If this commentary is being reposted, you probably have no idea who I am, have never heard of me and probably don’t care that I’m deleting my Soundcloud account, but I’ve got a story and perspective that needs to be told.

I’m a DJ, producer, remixer and I run a ‘netlabel’. Consequently, I’ve had a personal Soundcloud account since it came out and used it because I felt it would be another free promotional tool in my arsenal; once it became a popular outlet, I created an account for my label too. I’ve always found it to have some promotional value, even if the quality of the music on there has dwindled over the years, so I didn’t mind the time wasted posting material there. That changed, however, when one of my original works was flagged as infringing upon someone else’s copyright and what would be required for me to prove I didn’t do anything wrong.

I posted a new, original work for people to listen to and give me feedback. It’s forthcoming on my label, so I figured I’d test the water a bit. However, today, I get an email which said the track was frozen because Soundcloud’s copyright algorithm determined my track was infringement:

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My first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I clicked the link and saw this:

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Before I started this process, I figured I’d Google the alleged song, since I had never heard of it. I found they contained little to no similarities, other than a looped piano; note, I did not sample this song, the pianos sound different, are different patterns and filtered efx. This isn’t a problem, right? I should just go to the dispute page and correct this misunderstanding:

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Well, that’s where things take a turn for the ugly and why I deleted my account.

First, I was required to give them-
• My full name
• My address
• My phone number

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The name isn’t a problem; that’s my performance name, so anyone with Google can find it there. But my address and phone number gave me pause, because they are not required to open/use a Soundcloud account. That seems benign… until I read the statements I must agree to before the dispute will be reviewed:

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At this point, it should be glaringly obvious what Soundcloud’s intent is. This process is to relinquish Soundcloud from any and all litigation, redirecting to the user. However, bullet point #5 a also hands their customer a pretty, pre-packaged copyright lawsuit. All it takes is their customer to say “hey, that sounds too similar to my work”, to file a lawsuit; I’m literally doing the work for them to start an erroneous/invalid infringement lawsuit against me.

Problem is, Soundcloud is protected as a ‘service provider’ under the DMCA, as long as they take certain steps to avoid infringement:

Title II 512(k)(1)(A)

“an entity offering the transmission, routing, or providing of connections for digital online communications, between or among points specified by a user, of material of the user’s choosing, without modification to the content of the material as sent or received.”

What’s required to limit liability?

“it must adopt and reasonably implement a policy of terminating in appropriate circumstances the accounts of subscribers who are repeat infringers; and (2) it must accommodate and not interfere with “standard technical measures.” (“Standard technical measures” are defined as measures that copyright owners use to identify or protect copyrighted works, that have been developed pursuant to a broad consensus of copyright owners and service providers)

This is what Google and every ISP in the USA do; they notify the user, take down the offending content and if the person is a repeat offender, they ban the person or terminate their account.

But an important caveat here is these takedowns and complaints are all generated by the content owners, not sniffing though metadata for offending content. Why? Because of the false positives and the waste of resources and simple redundancy when reactively dealing with takedown requests limits their liability.

OK, they’re overly cautious, is that a bad thing? I suppose not, but they’re still passing along my personal information to someone for an alleged copyright infringement that isn’t legitimate and the copyright owner never filed a complaint with Soundcloud!

You’re probably wondering: But Brandon, if your work is original and there is no infringement, why not just fill out the dispute?

  1. I shouldn’t have to. Soundcloud uses a method which has consistently done more harm to honest producers, than good. They employ the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ methodology and it’s not a necessary means to an end. Google ‘soundcloud false positives infringement’ for some more cases.
  2. I don’t need Soundcloud. The clout this site had 3-5 years ago is waning. I host my files on my own website and can get just as much exposure with Twitter and Facebook; Soundcloud offers little more than a space to host content.
  3. I don’t want my personal information stored or shared. This is a music/file posting website, so knowing that Soundcloud is going to willingly give my information to someone else because they think there was offending material, not because there was legitimate claim is wholly offensive.
  4. Principle. Soundcloud is protected under the DMCA, so this system for ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is redundant, unnecessary and offensive.

So because I feel like I am considered criminal to Soundcloud and have to prove I’m not, and that they’re setting me up for hassle and erroneous litigation from one of their customers, I pulled my label and personal account. Please know that I don’t want to open a debate about sampling and looping in EDM; all electronic music, unless you’re using 100% hardware (even those are technically samples), is sample-based, so the important notes here is how one uses samples and how much they alter them in their own work (which is a key factor in all infringement suits). The irony is I, and many others, have blatant remixes and bootlegs uploaded that Soundcloud doesn’t flag, but original works are flagged.

In this day of privacy concerns and overly-litigious corporations, I’m certainly not going to put myself at risk of either, even if there is no valid claim.

If you have similar stories, share them!

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