We’ve seen something similar in Hollywood, particularly when indie studio Voltage Pictures doggedly pursued downloaders of The Hurt Locker. In music, ‘suing fans,’ whether you agree with the practice or not, has largely been the game of the majors.
But maybe that’s changing. According to details emerging Tuesday, indie metal label Century Media is now chasing roughly 7,500 file-traders in court proceedings. The targets are those swapping recent albums from Century artists Iced Earth and Lacuna Coil. In mass, ‘John Doe’ lawsuits filed in New Jersey with only IP address identifiers (for now), 4,327 people were targeted for sharing Iced Earth’s Dystopia, while 3,136 were targeted for trading Lacuna Coil’s Dark Adrenaline.
In comments to NorthJersey.com, label representative Jay McDaniel offered this.
“What many people don’t understand is that it’s the distribution that’s the evil influence. It does the real damage and harm, not just to the client but to the culture industry, and to creative endeavours in general.”
“This kills the little producer and it has an extremely destructive effect on the entertainment industry. Record sales don’t drive the music business any more – touring does. So illegal sharing of music on the internet has killed an entire industry.”
One question is whether the bands themselves agree with these actions, especially given the potentially destructive impact on fan relationships. For the band All Shall Perish, a similar series of lawsuits from label Nuclear Blast turned into an absolute nightmare. After months of battling complaints, the band finally got its label to call the dogs off. But not without creating serious problems with alienated fans, who naturally blamed the band.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether suing file-swappers is helping the situation at all. Or, if file-sharing is any worse than streaming on platforms like Spotify. On that point, Century was actually a longtime, outspoken critic of Spotify, and yanked its entire catalog in 2011 after witnessing paltry per-stream payouts. “Physical sales are dropping drastically in all countries where Spotify is active,” the label offered in a statement last year. “Artists are depending on their income from selling music and it is our job to support them to do so.”
Yet one year later, Century was back on Spotify, probably based on demands from its member artists (and their fans).