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SoundCloud responds to takedown frustrations

By | Published on Thursday 3 July 2014


SoundCloud has issued a statement following accusations that it has given Universal Music “direct” access to its database in order to remove unlicensed content.

This follows the publication of an email between DJ Mr Brainz, real name Greg Morris, and SoundCloud’s copyright team on the Do Androids Dance? blog. In the email exchange, in which Morris questioned why some of his mixes had been axed from the digital audio sharing platform, a rep explained that they had been “removed directly by Universal”, adding that “SoundCloud had no control over it”.

In a statement to Mixmag, SoundCloud said: “As a responsible hosting platform, we work hard to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected. In the case of rights holders, that means having processes in place to ensure that any content posted without authorisation is removed quickly and efficiently”.

It continued: “In the case of users, that means having separate processes in place to ensure that any content removed in error can be reinstated equally quickly. If any user believes that content has been removed in error – for example, because they had the necessary permissions from Universal Music and/or any other rightsholder – then they are free to dispute the takedown”.

What isn’t clear is whether the removal of Morris’s tracks from SoundCloud was the result of a standard takedown notice issued by Universal – as is the norm on the audio-sharing platform and many other similar sites – or whether the mega-major has some sort of privileged access to directly remove infringing tracks from the site’s database.

It’s not unprecedented for some user-upload sites to give bigger rights owners, or agencies which help labels with the takedown process, tools that enable them to directly block infringing content, saving time for both rights owner and upload site. Talk of Universal “directly” removing content outside of SoundCloud’s control implies such access, but the email isn’t particularly specific.

Morris’s frustration with takedowns on SoundCloud follows the announcement last month from US producer Kaskade that he was leaving the audio-sharing site because of the frequency with which his uploads were blocked by other rights owners. Though takedowns on the site are hardly new; the big labels have been pretty proactive in policing the presence of their content on SoundCloud for a while now, and likewise the digital company has been pretty efficient at enacting takedowns for sometime as well.

People like Morris and Kaskade sometimes get more frustrated with takedowns on SoundCloud (than, say, YouTube) because they are paying the digital company to host their mixes on the site. Though, of course, SoundCloud subs cover bandwidth not any licensing that may or may not be required for any one track (in the UK that’s where Mixcloud has the edge).

In his email, Morris also expresses frustration that SoundCloud can’t specifically tell him which tracks have triggered the takedowns, plus he’s pretty certain that the offending works are being used elsewhere on the SoundCloud platform, likely without licence, by higher profile users like Mixmag and Skrillex. Though, of course, copyright law doesn’t compel rights owners to be consistent in their takedown issuing, in that labels can choose to turn a blind eye if they recognise there is a promotional value to an unauthorised usage.