Billy Bragg in MySpace Row

Billy_bragg

Billy Bragg has kicked a stink up about MySpace, the site responsible for allowing unsigned musicians a platform to show off their music to the world’s ears, as well as attacking Bebo (a similar site). Bragg wondered ‘at what cost?’

Bragg previously said that media mogul and owner of MySpace (Rupert Murdoch) actually owned any music posted on the social networking site.

"Sorry there’s no music," he posted "Once an artist posts up any content (including songs) it then belongs to MySpace (aka Rupert Murdoch) and they can do what they want with it, throughout the world, without paying the artist." According to the small print on the site, posting your tunes means that artists agree to: "Hereby grant to Myspace.com
a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with
the rights to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to
use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly
display, store, reproduce, transmit and distribute such content on and
through the services." However, reform is afoot.

Bragg has seemingly  persuaded MySpace to change the rights granted to
musicians who post files on its website; now Billy Bragg has managed to
get the UK’s most popular social networking site, Bebo, to do the same. Bragg took Bebo founders Michael and Xochi Birch to task
over their firm’s proprietary rights clause during a
MediaGuardian.co.uk live webchat a fortnight ago.

The online
exchange led to a meeting between Bragg and Mr Birch, who assured the
singer it was not Bebo’s intention to claim ownership of musicians’
work. They subsequently thrashed out a new rights deal for
musicians who upload their tracks on to the Bebo website, and the
company’s lawyers were instructed to come up with a new version of its
proprietary rights clause to address Bragg’s concerns.

As a
result, Bebo has changed it terms of use to recognise that artists who
post content on the site retain ownership of their material. Bragg
said the change in the website’s position towards artists rights means
the company has "stayed true to the spirit of the internet, making it
possible for users to post content on their site without having to
consult a lawyer".

"Social networking sites are a revolutionary tool for new artists who utilise them in order to gain a following," said Bragg. "Any ambiguity about the ownership of rights could have serious implications not only for artists but for the sites themselves. If
this new medium is to attain its full potential, it is crucial that
artists are able to post content secure in the knowledge that doing so
will not hinder their future career and earning potential."

Before
Bragg’s intervention, Bebo’s proprietary rights clause claimed
perpetual and irrevocable rights in all content appearing on the site. "The implication," said Bragg, "was that even if material has been removed from the site, Bebo would still retain rights in it." Bebo’s propriety clause now opens with a clear declaration of artists’ rights. "Recognition of artist ownership of content should be an industry standard for the new media," said Bragg. "I believe that all sites which host member content should follow this lead by modifying their own terms of use. I also commend Bebo for taking the trouble to explain, in parenthesis, why they need the rights that they claim. "

Bragg’s
success in persuading Bebo to change its terms follows similar
negotiations with MySpace on the same issue and the singer may now turn
his attention to other leading content sharing websites. In May,
Bragg removed his music from his MySpace page, saying the terms and
conditions automatically gave the website ownership over any content
posted there, including music. MySpace changed its terms and
conditions to reflect Bragg’s concerns that music posted on the site
belonged to Rupert Murdoch’s company.

Myspace spokesperson Jeff Berman said: "Because the legalese has caused some confusion we are at work revising it to make it every clear that MySpace
is not seeking a license to do anything with an artist’s work other
than allow it to be shared in the manner the artist intends. Obviously,
we don’t own their music or do anything with it that they don’t want."

Bebo has become more popular than MySpace in the UK thanks in part to the launch of its music uploading site, Bebo Bands. Research
companies estimate Bebo has more than 3 million monthly unique users in
the UK, accounting for around 13.54% of UK visits to social networking
websites, slightly more than MySpace.

Mof Gimmers

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