The Beatles "White Album" Just Means They Were Too Busy To Do It
September 27, 2006 11:32 AM   Subscribe

So I'd like to start a site where people can submit/dl alternative album art for music. More inside? Yes, please.

I've always hated the album art on Trip Shakespeare's Lulu and now that iTunes had that snazzy album-art viewer thing it began to drive me nuts. So, I created a different cover, one that I thought better represented the album. (All my own work - no copyright infringment, natch. But it had the band name and album name on it.)

That got me to thinking: "Wouldn't it be great if there was a site where people could share homemade album covers?" My very next thought was "Man, the RIAA would sue them into the ground." But would they?

So here's the question: "Would a homemade album art ul/dl site be legal?"
posted by unixrat to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
I'm fairly certain this is fair use, protected both as parody and by the small amount of material taken.

There are plenty of artistic pieces inspired by music and vice-versa, so I really don't think it would be a problem. I can't find the link now, but I think metafilter even had a post once about muscians ripping eachother off for album cover ideas.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 11:48 AM on September 27, 2006

Metafilter didn't link my link for "small amount of material taken."

here it is:
posted by JeremiahBritt at 11:49 AM on September 27, 2006

No legal advice here, but a general idea. You could frame the idea behind the site as a non profit online gallery of artwork inspired by specific albums. The RIAA could probably find a way to come after you, or at least try, if you're making money using a database of their albums, so host a gallery of artwork where each image just happens to be tagged with an album.
posted by Science! at 11:52 AM on September 27, 2006

This is based only on my personal knowledge of copyright and whatnot.

Yes, copyright is an issue. You know that your own album art is not infringing, but how can you be sure about other people's album covers? If you are providing the hosting location, you could be liable in a lawsuit.

Another issue is profit. I believe that if you were making money through the site, anyone suing you would have a strong arguement on their side. AdWords might count. I'd chat with a lawyer for a bit on this one.

However, in all honesty, you could simply make a general photo gallery website which convieniantly only hosts album cover art. If it's truely original art, the RIAA could huff and puff (like they usually do); and while they couldn't win in court they'd still take you there, and that might be long and time consuming. I'd say it's feasible to start the site, but you'd really have to be careful about the copyright material issue (people might get into collages which feature a person's face - trouble!).
posted by Meagan at 11:55 AM on September 27, 2006

I don't think the RIAA would want to sue you, and I don't think they could sue you.

You're not infringing any copyrights at all. You might run afoul of trademark law, but I think if you're careful to indicate that a) you are not affiliated with the band and they still own their band name, and b) this is not the official album art, click this link (amg, amazon, whatever) to see it, you'll be fine. You could concievably make some money even by linking to amazon with a referral id. (if you're doing that, the trademark holder would have to want to sue you for effectively advertising their product for it to cause problems)

Given that art is relatively time consuming to make you'll probably be able to manually review everything until you have a crapload of users. If anyone representing a band asks you to remove their fake-covers, be cooperative.
posted by aubilenon at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2006

This post on Drawn! mentions how this online gallery actually just pulls images from a Flickr account through a Photofront page. Maybe Flickr could be your get out. Tell people how to upload and tag images on Flickr and just set up a web site which features images tagged in a particular way.
posted by Glum at 12:44 PM on September 27, 2006

Somewhat related: something I did.
posted by davebush at 1:44 PM on September 27, 2006

Well, it should be said, while YOU might not have trespassed over any copyrights, you can't guarantee that others won't.

What happens when people upload the newest Britney Spears album cover with a moustache drawn over top?

(and I like Glum's idea the best! let people be responsible themselves, and you just make a tool to get at their information.)
posted by hatsix at 3:42 PM on September 30, 2006

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