Fan sites in trouble with the law

Two stories this week about fan sites being sued. The first seems fairly clear cut. Fans who have been running an ABBA site in Australia for several years are being sued for selling ABBA bootlegs through their fan site. The argument of the guys running the site has its merits from a fan’s point of view:

Mr Read and Mr Whittingham deny distributes “pirated” music. There has been no suggestion that Abbamail has sold pirated versions of “official” commercial recordings.

“I’m sure that’s the view of most record companies, but the problem is that the kind of stuff that we’re selling is the stuff that they’ve refused to sell,” Mr Read said.

“Over the last 10-15 years Universal have just released the same kind of crap over and over and over again – Greatest Hits, Forever Gold, the Definitive Collection.”

Mr Read said Abbamail was trying to make available rare material that “hardcore” fans would willingly buy from Universal, if it was offered for sale.

They also claim on their site that their products are purchased by fans who have bought the official releases, that the site encourages rather than harming the sales of those releases, and that Universal Music itself has acknowledged their contribution to Abba’s enduring popularity. Ok. I can go along with all of that, but I have to go with the industry here:

“…these guys, no matter how fanatical they are about ABBA and the fan club, which I completely appreciate and understand, it still does not mean you can be selling pirate CDs or DVDs, in this case for commercial gain.”

On the other hand, I’d probably have a little trouble making this concession myself:

MIPI would consider the matter closed once all the bootleg recordings were removed, but only if Mr Read handed over his personal collection – which he has refused to do.

Meanwhile, in Ireland a webboard is being sued because of alleged defamatory statements made by its users:

MCD, Ireland’s biggest concert promoter, has discovered that controlling the internet is a lot harder than controlling live music events — and that’s tough enough. Just weeks after it tackled a website for publishing a comment criticising its Oxegen festival, another has been set up that will provide disgruntled fans with a dedicated forum for their grievances.MCD is taking legal action against the site for allegedly hosting a defamatory statement about Oxegen. The discussion forum was targeted by the Denis Desmond-owned music promotions company, after festival goers used it to complain about tent-burning and fighting at the festival in Kildare last month.

The article points out that:

Irish law covering defamation on the internet has not been tested in the courts. It is unclear if website owners can be held responsible for comments posted on their site by others. A source in MCD said it believed websites should be held as responsible as a newspaper.

If we’re gonna get all lawsuit happy, maybe the people running the James Bond franchise should think about suing this evil operation run by James Bond fans:

New James Bond reads Internet, discovers fans ‘hate me’
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, wants critics to give him a chance.

“If I went onto the Internet and started looking at what some people were saying about me — which, sadly, I have done — it would drive me insane,” the British actor says in an interview in Entertainment Weekly magazine, on newsstands Friday.

“They hate me. They don’t think I’m right for the role. It’s as simple as that. They’re passionate about it, which I understand, but I do wish they’d reserve judgment.”

A group of James Bond fans have launched a Web site,, to protest Craig replacing Pierce Brosnan in the 007 film franchise, and to boycott Casino Royale, slated for release Nov. 17.

I just don’t get the part about loving Pierce Brosnan in that role. But then, I liked Roger Moore as Bond so who am I to judge?

UPDATE: So much for irony, no longer seems to exist. If anyone knows the backstory on that one, please tell.

Celebrity blogging, part II: Then again…

Because nothing says “I am not a killer” like lapdancers:

Sports hero-turned-actor OJ SIMPSON has hit the road in America to shoot a new image-boosting internet diary. Fans who check out will be able to watch Simpson conduct radio interviews, chat to fans at bus shelters and enjoy the company of lapdancers at clubs. The updated Internet diary, shot by one of Simpson’s longtime pals, was created to serve as a chance for the NAKED GUN star to clean up his image, tarnished by the 1994 trial into his wife’s murder…

Celebrity blogging and the “ART of telling the truth carefully”

Blogging may seem like a fairly simple, low-cost way to improve celebrity marketing (and I use “celebrity” to loosely mean anyone who might have fans). But, looking at it from the perspective of interpersonal communication research, blogging celebrities face some interesting challenges. Generally, in American culture (which is at an extreme on this matter), the prevailing pop wisdom is that the more a person self discloses, the closer his or her relationships become. That’s why you hear people bemoaning that “we don’t communicate” when in fact, they’re talking all the time. At the same time, we’re living in what’s been termed a “culture of confession” where everyone’s fessing up their private business for public consumption via talk shows, ‘reality’ tv, and half-heard mobile phone calls. Against that backdrop, blogs offer an obvious unprecedented new way to build a sense of closeness between celebrity and fan through celebrity disclosure.

But does self disclosure = relational closeness and large audiences? Interpersonal research tells us very clearly that inappropriate self-disclosures can kill a relationship. There are lots of things we don’t want to know about other people. Just as we’re likely to move gently away from the casual acquaintance who mentions at a party that he has recurring nightmares due to a lack of maternal attention in his early childhood, blogs have enormous potential to turn off fans either by revealing more than fans want to know or by revealing things that irreparably damage the fans’ image of the celebrities. If this is true in an American context, it’s even more so in cultures that place more value on public cool than openness. Consider, for instance, this disclosure from Amanda Palmer, singer of The Dresden Dolls, writing about an incident that happened when she was seventeen:

we pounded. then my hand went through the nail. i screamed. was it serious? well, it was bleeding, but not much. it was a hole, a nice little german stigmata. it only took 15 seconds before i didn’t know myself whether i was crying to get attention for a wound that wasn’t all that bad, actually in pain or shock, or crying about the fact that i was confused about whether i was crying for some real pain or over the confusion my possible ruse. this was a typical pattern in my life. maybe i was homesick. maybe i was just looking for a reason to weep and the nail was just a little gift. we bandaged and disinfected. the incident was easily forgotten. i think jan wasn’t there. but he must have come home at some point. thwok thwok thwok thwok thwok. is there anybody out there?

Now, the Dresden Dolls, who call their music “brechtian punk cabaret,” are always dramatic and over the top, and she always seems to be disclosing her deepest secrets as she sings. Could a celebrity whose career isn’t founded on being maudlin blog about this without damaging her image? And yet, even Palmer writes on her blog, about her blog:

all the journalists ask me: “aren’t you afraid you expose your private life too much?” i find this funny. my family reads this blog, my manager reads it, the label publicist reads it, brian reads it, our crew and promotors read it. this is the fucking ART of telling the truth carefully.

if i actually shared my private life in all it’s complexity and detail, i would anger and worry and confuse these people so much….i’d be crucified. so i generally save my personal conflicts, my true heartbreak, for the emails i send to the ones who don’t need me as a boss, a rock star, a musician, an idol, a promotional tool or even an artist.

it shouldn’t come as a surprise that everything i share here is heavily censored, well, slanted at least..a combination of the reckless impulses to emote and the simultaneous, hyper-conscious measuring of the consequences.

Interpersonal research makes it clear that even in our closest relationships we need privacy. It’s always challenging for celebrities to have a clear public/private persona boundary of which they are in control. With a blog, the celebrity has the added challenge of creating a very clearly defined public persona which nonetheless appears to be a private persona. Looks like Amanda Palmer has got this down, but how many others do?

UPDATE: Current comment excepted, this post has become a target for spam comments and has therefore been closed for commenting. If you’d like to comment on it and aren’t a spammer, please email me.

NYT ponders the role of the fan in webcasting

Today the New York Times has a nice big piece about the revivial of the internet in the music business, writing:

A dot-com-era bid by concert promoters to market live gigs online fizzled out. But now concert Webcasts and vintage performance clips are gaining new currency. An array of players — from independent record labels to major concert promoters — are drawing up plans to capitalize on fans’ appetites

They pay particular attention to efforts by bands, fans, promoters, and record labels to post videos to YouTube and point out that:

Within the music industry, however, there is still widespread debate about whether a thicket of copyright and contractual issues will slow or prevent some of the new enterprises from taking off.

The “big question?”

What role, if any, will be carved out for fans who take their own pictures and “bootleg” video at concerts?

Erik Flannigan, general manager of America Online’s music, film and television content, said that at a big arena performance these days “20,000 people walk through the door.” He added: “How many people who went to that show walked out with some kind of media captured? They called someone, they took a photo. Why not harness that and turn it into something?”

One idea being bounced around is the creation of online fan forums, where music lovers could post pictures and interact with one another after a show, said Jim Cannella, national director of corporate partnerships for House of Blues. “People want to be heard and they want to develop a community of people that have similar interests,” he said.

Creating fan forums is certainly one approach, and not bad though hardly novel. But it misses the enormous point that many if not most cases the fans have already done that for themselves. They are already out there pooling these resources, creating these materials, talking with each other after shows. So the question of fans’ roles is not just one of what to do with their materials, or how to bring them together online, it’s how to take advantage of the materials and online communities they are ALREADY generating on their own. The real question is how to manage what fans do anyway in ways that will benefit the artists. If you are going to create a fan forum, it has to be one that is better than what they’ve already got. Package it with ads to generate your revenue and it might not be.

I wrote the other day about the Madrugada fanboard, which is an interesting example of the value of fan materials like this. Last fall the band toured Europe. Fans on that forum recorded several shows themselves, spent a good deal of time not just creating torrents, but also in some cases remastering the recordings for best sound. Others posted photos they had taken. Living in the States, it was a lot closer to getting to see them live than I ever would have gotten without the board. There is an archive of back concerts that are periodically reseeded and traded again. I’ve amassed enough live Madrugada recordings through the board that I have a pretty good sense of what they were like on each tour of their career. This is done with the band’s tacit approval, with the understanding that there is no money exchanged and nothing available for purchase is posted, points which the webmaster gently enforces when need be. Not only did it keep fans who weren’t able to make this tour involved with the band long after their last release might have stopped getting playtime, but it also brought in fans who didn’t like the recent release, fans who wanted to know what old songs were being played. So it kept fans they could easily have lost involved with them. Would it have worked if it were a board run by the band? Maybe, if they were able to resolve the copyright questions in ways they and those around them could live with. Would it have worked if it were a board run by their label or any other third party? It could, but it would take a good deal more than simply “creating a fan forum.”

UPDATE: Current comment excepted, this post has become a target for spam comments and has therefore been closed for commenting. If you’d like to comment on it and aren’t a spammer, please email me.