Sony Music Bullies The Verge. Sony Music Doesn’t Even Contact Digital Music News…


If lawyers are good at anything, it’s bullying and intimidating people without any legal basis whatsoever.  And the reason is simple: the other side is usually clueless about the legal issues involved, doesn’t have representation in place, gets scared, and caves.

Which might explain why The Verge decided to remove its posted contract between Sony Music Entertainment and Spotify based on extremely flimsy copyright claims.

Sony’s lawyers probably intimidated the crap out of some Verge editors, even though copyright claims around contracts have little if any legal foundation.  And that doesn’t even include fair use considerations surrounding such contracts, especially if the contract offers critical information to interested and affected parties.  Which is exactly what happened when Sony’s crony contract with Spotify was shared with the world.

Sony isn’t the only one that plays dirty.  We’ve faced similar issues with both Apple and Google in the past, specifically over contracts we posted relating to iTunes Match and YouTube Music Key.  Apple initially bullied Scribd into removing our posted contract based on DMCA grounds; we eventually re-posted the contract on Digital Music News’ servers while Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen Litigation Group led the fight to preserve it live.

We never heard back from Apple’s attorneys after that, and Google didn’t even challenge us.

Beyond all of that, there’s the very practical consideration that Sony’s Spotify contract simply can’t be ‘un-leaked’.  After the Verge’s contract was ripped down, Digital Music News received more than three dozen copies of the leaked contract from readers for us to re-post.  Maybe people care about things like massive cash advances, preferential advertising blocks, ‘Most Favored Nations’ stipulations and crony dealmaking, especially when it affects their livelihoods.

Maybe this leaked contract is the most important catalyst for change the music industry has experienced this decade.

If you need a copy, grab one here.




8 Responses

  1. Obama

    “Sony Music Doesn’t Even Contact Digital Music News”

    Because you are not very important! 😛

    Posting confidential contracts is a crime!

  2. Musicservices4less

    Definitely agree that the reveal of the Sony Spotify agreement may be up there with the most important event regarding the “streaming” issue in the last 10 years. Did anyone ever think that the contract may have come out of the North Korean leak?

    For the record, lawyers over the years have occasionally tired to establish a copyright claim in contracts and legal forms. The short answer is they have been laughed out of court by other lawyers and all judges.

    And as far a violating a confidentiality clause, that is certainly not criminal but at best, is a breach of contract. It is fact based determination and if you didn’t not steal the information but just republished it, good luck trying to even get civil damages. But it is a fact based determination.

    We need more people in the business to reveal even their expired contracts that may shed light on exactly how the tech distributors might be contributing to the various problems all independent labels and all artists face regarding their music on the internet.

    Sunlight will cure all ills. Truth to Power is the only way.

  3. Myles

    Lowery explains that there has been prior bad blood between Sony and The Verge. Bolstering his theory that Spotify intentionally leaked the K in order to distract angry artists away from Spotify and have them focus on Sony and other major labels for awhile.

    Sorry I’m too lazy to post the link you’ll have to look it up yourself

  4. jw

    I’m sure that the Vox Media has a team of lawyers that would blow DMN’s representation out of the water. It’s just that they have a suite of brands that depend on brands like Sony for content. Giant content networks like Vox Media have way more to lose than DMN, & way more invested in their relationships with these brands.

    I’m somewhat surprised that they posted it to begin with… it doesn’t have broader tech implications beyond the music industry. (See Emily Yoshida’s initial commentary on the hacks: But seeing as how they did, I don’t think it’s nearly as damaging as you guys are making it out to be… I thought things were much worse than the contract makes out, at least the way I interpret it.

  5. Legal Eagle

    Threatening is prolly 80-90% of any lawyer’s job.

    Ever get an email from a lawyer with all that “if you are not the intended recipient” bullshit in the signature? This is meant to intimidate: it has no force of law and is meant to be cheap insurance against a sender’s mistake.

    And a 3rd party cannot possibly violate a confidentiality clause since (duh) is is not party to the contract in the first place!!! and is thus not bound by it.

  6. jot

    Artists should stop bashing Spotify only. The labels continue to withhold the advance money with any trickle down to copyright owners. Labels have been screwing with artists like this since the inception of streaming.


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