Will I get in trouble for posting mp3s to my blog?
November 27, 2009 9:33 PM   Subscribe

i am (surprise surprise) into blogs. and before i was into blogs, i was into music. now i like to post mp3s to my blog. is it a bad idea to label which song/artist it is -- as in, are there really crazy music coppers who will show up on my doorstep to arrest me?

my blog's host is tumblr, which makes it easy to share an mp3 a day. should i just forgo labelling which songs i post? or is it pointless to even worry about this at all? i have no idea how intense lawyers are these days about persuing folks who share tunes online, and i don't want to get sued just 'cause i want to spread my love for joe meek.
posted by hagelslaag to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
yes. Post youtube clips instead.
posted by 2legit2quit at 9:39 PM on November 27, 2009

It's very unlikely you'd be sued, and to be honest most artists - and many labels - understand the value of a well-considered post about a band or song. Ethically, I think it's wrong to post entire albums when they're still commercially available. A lot of blogs do nothing *but* that. An MP3 a day, of something as 'historic' as Joe Meek? I wouldn't worry about it too much, but as 2legit2quit mentions, YouTube clips are better.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:42 PM on November 27, 2009

Response by poster: thanks! i only post individual songs, but not all of my clips are historical or obscure in nature. i love all kinds of music. i really hate cluttering my blog with youtube clips though, you know? i think i'd rather post songs without labels than go that route... not sure.
posted by hagelslaag at 9:53 PM on November 27, 2009

IANAL but maybe look into the concept of Fair Use (and look in better sources than Wikipedia, probably, heh). I don't think you're ever going to be able to feel all clear on this one unless a judge decrees as much after you're already sued, unfortunately; but depending on the context in which you're providing the music, you might be able to get some peace of mind if you feel strongly enough that your use should be deemed to fall into this category.

Of course YouTube would save you worrying at all. FWIW, if I was reading a music blog I'd be happier to watch a clip on YouTube and not commit to saving a file to my computer if I didn't know whether I was going to like the song or not. :)
posted by springbound at 10:03 PM on November 27, 2009

All the music blogs I read post mp3s to download. A lot of them are fairly legit, with paying advertisers and etc. Most of them just post a disclaimer like, "if you are the copyright holder and don't want this posted, email me and I'll take it down."

As a serious music fan, I wouldn't read any blog that posted only youtube clips. I don't want to be exposed to music in a form that is

a) low quality
b) often a live or alternate version I don't want and
c) annoyingly difficult to download
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:09 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: it's not a file to download, but rather a streaming mp3. what i've done thus far is to post the song and then in a new entry immediately after, post a quote and credit. that way, people can listen to the song and make the connect, but search engines won't pull the tracks.
posted by hagelslaag at 10:12 PM on November 27, 2009

If you did use YouTube, you could instruct people to use a bookmarklet like this to then download the content from YouTube.. and perhaps even tell them how to use QuickTime to extract the audio content ;-)

That said, from my purely anecdotal experience, one of two things will generally happen if you attract particularly bad attention. Either your Web host will get a note to cut you off (and they often will) or you'll get a cease and desist of some form. I've not heard of MP3 bloggers ending up with being served a summons without any advance warning, but I can't say it hasn't happened.
posted by wackybrit at 11:29 PM on November 27, 2009

Besides u2b, you can also try embedding songs from sites like imeem or grooveshark.
posted by querty at 12:34 AM on November 28, 2009

Some of the MP3 blogs I've seen take down tracks after a certain time on the site (a month, maybe). Legally, it probably makes very little difference whether or not you do that, but it does show that you're using your blog as an area for review and comment, rather than just sticking an archive up for people to yoink your music collection. That might count for something when the lawyers are deciding on the enforcing-copyright/bad-publicity cost-benefit analysis.

I'll second the Youtube suggestion too, and if you're a Spotify user, try adding Spotify links - then any other users can click them and stream the songs immediately, and the track never touches your webhost.
posted by ZsigE at 1:31 AM on November 28, 2009

There are tons of blogs out there that post MP3s, I wouldn't worry about it. A lot of sites let you listen, but not download.

If you post an Mp3 a day, rather then whole albums, you'll likely never run into a problem.

Music companies want people to post music on their blogs, if it makes people run out and buy the music. Put Amazon Mp3 store links with your songs as well, and that way you and the record companies can both make some money.
posted by delmoi at 1:55 AM on November 28, 2009

You're streaming them? So there's no free downloads? You'll be fine, that's either 100% legal or so close to it nobody will bother you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:14 AM on November 28, 2009

Read up on the legality of fair use.

I recommend you contact the artist or copyright holder and request permission to post the clip with the review, they generally appreciate you asking permission and also like a positive free promotion and will grant permission quickly. Asking shows them you are willing and doing everything you can to follow their rules to obtain the proper rights.

I have a gallery site with high resolution unrestricted photos that myself, my family, and friends post to and I was contacted by a filmmaker to use one of the photos in his documentary and I was delighted to have someone actually request permission! My friend (who shot that particular photo) granted permission without hesitation.
posted by rwheindl at 6:50 AM on November 28, 2009

One thing the legal folk may tell you, as springbound alludes to, is that there is no such thing as fair use. That is to say, fair use is a spongy, blurry concept -- and it is also an affirmative defense. Meaning you get to raise it after you've been sued. So nobody here can tell you "Hey! It's cool! That's fair use!" All they can say is "Hey! It's probably cool. But you may not find out for sure until after you've paid a bunch of legal fees."

That being said, who's gonna sue you? I agree it's probably unlikely. But I am not a lawyer.

I am, though, a Googler, and I just found a link for a WordPress plugin that basically chops off everything but the control bar from the YouTube embed, so it appears essentially like an audio link. Maybe you can modify it or find something similar to suit your needs.
posted by thejoshu at 7:29 AM on November 28, 2009

Having looked into it a bit I think this article is a pretty good general outlook on the legal prosecution of MP3 blogs. I would highlight the statement fair use is an ad-hoc and highly-fact specific defense and therefore almost impossible to apply to abstract cases. This reality is almost always ignored when people invoke fair use. Something is fair use when a court says it is fair use. Some scenarios have been pretty solidly established in legal precedent as fair use. MP3 blogging is definitely not one of them. You cannot presume yourself to be legally in the clear here.

This article aggregating a bunch of news articles that consider the subject is food for thought as well.

So far I've found no evidence of the music industry going after MP3 blogs. The scenario you're questioning - authorities showing up at the door to arrest you - isn't happening. File sharing networks are more attractive targets for a lot of obvious reasons, and even there it's pretty clear that the industry isn't very happy with the return they've gotten on their legal actions, which is why they're a lot more interested in trying to get some sort of statutory law on the books that would allow them to do something like shake down the ISPs for a kickback off the legal traffic. Chances seem good if they change this policy, and if you pay attention to the news of the MP3 blogging world, there would be significant advance notice in the form of higher-traffic, higher-profile blogs getting popped first, with the accompanying tearing of clothes and gnashing of teeth online.

If you're really worried about the absolute legality of it and the possibility of the industry taking an action that would really be totally unprecedented in response to this level of infringement - i.e. sending the cops after a casual infringer - obscuring your MP3 data is not really good enough - the industry has been working on defeating these sorts of simple tactics and if they decided to go after MP3 bloggers in a general way they would have plenty of tools in their arsenal to track you down.
posted by nanojath at 8:15 AM on November 28, 2009

Oh, I meant to say that all my looking into this has been from the perspective of laws and actions in the U.S.A., the applicability to other countries I don't know a thing about.
posted by nanojath at 8:19 AM on November 28, 2009

1. Noncommercial copyright infringement in the US is not a criminal offense, but a civil matter. So no, the cops will not show up and arrest you, because you have not broken any aspect of the penal code. You could potentially get sued (the sheriff or another process server will show up and hand you an envelope, but they won't drag you away). Getting sued can cost you money, but it will not result in arrest or detainment.

2. When reading up on fair use, also read up on Safe Harbor provisions -- neither one applies 100%, but both are relevant. Then make sure your blog has an easy way for a copyright-holder to get in touch with you... and if they ask you to remove a song, then remove it immediately.

In many cases, the rights holder would contact tumblr directly.

3. There are thousands of blogs on the internet that post MP3 files, of all states of copyright protection. None of them have been shut down through legal action. Not one.

Of course, that may change in the future -- but at the moment, it appears that the music industry tolerates the MP3 blogs and/or doesn't want to risk losing in court (and establishing case law protecting noncommercial bloggers). The P2P users are a much better target for the RIAA and their ilk.

4. If you want your posts to show up on the mp3 blog aggregators (like the hype machine), then you should make sure to include a link directly to the MP3 file. None of this YouTube, Rapidshare, or streaming-only B.S... that doesn't offer you any more protection, and it just irritates your listeners.
posted by toxic at 11:02 AM on November 28, 2009

If you posted leaks of forthcoming album tracks, you might get in trouble, but even hosting single track downloads is generally not a big thing. (Ripping tracks from embedded MP3 playing flash things generally isn't that hard, there are lots of Firefox extensions and other programs to help with that.) Streaming or downloadable, make sure you have a convenient way for labels and artists to ask you to take down material, if you don't ask for permission from the beginning.

I'm into electronic music, and I've seen a number of well-known blogs get sent tracks and exclusive mixes directly from artists or labels, because some folks realize that blogs are free publicity. But if you're looking to promote older music, you might not get the same kind of support. If it's a forgotten or overlooked artist, you could really benefit from contacting the artist, as they might be really happy to get some free support, especially if their music is years (or decades) old. You might even get something spiffy like an interview or other exclusive soundbites.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:44 PM on November 28, 2009

Response by poster: i really appreciate all the feedback, everyone. still reading through all these comments! cheers.
posted by hagelslaag at 7:22 AM on November 29, 2009

I am the guy at the major record label who would, uh, be the "crazy music copper" and I certainly wouldn't be at all interested in taking legal action against a blog like you describe. However, I am not the crazy music copper who will sue you. They exist.

However, as far as we seem to be concerned it's great for promotion. And most of my counterparts at other labels seem to be of the same mind. Your likelihood of getting sued is really low. In fact, you're more likely simply to get a cease & desist letter if you get anything at all. You're more likely to get that if you get an advanced leak posted on your site.
posted by Captaintripps at 6:53 AM on January 24, 2010

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