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.