Myspace has a problem. Backed by singer Justin Timberlake, the revamped, music-centric social network isn’t trying to take on Facebook directly; it’s trying to go head-to-head with streaming services like Spotify. And to take on Spotify, Myspace needs to have deals with music labels. And the only way to have deals with music labels is to not totally piss them off – a key bit Myspace seems to have overlooked.
A New York Times report indicates that the social network is already in a bind over streaming unlicensed music to users. Merlin, a licensing organization representing thousands of independent labels, has accused Myspace of streaming music that it no longer has the right to stream. And the fact that Timberlake, a music icon, is using his star power to promote the new Myspace only makes matters worse, says Merlin.
“While it’s nice that Mr. Timberlake is launching his service on this platform, and acting as an advocate for the platform,” Merlin CEO Charles Caldas told The New York Times, “on the other hand his peers as artists are being exploited without permission and not getting remuneration for it.”
According to Merlin, Myspace reneged on a licensing deal with the music-licensing group over a year ago. And yet, music from 100 of these indie labels are showing up on Myspace’s music player, including tracks from Beggar’s Group, Domino, and Merge, three of Merlin’s largest indie labels. It’s worth mentioning that Beggar’s Group is a big deal in the music industry. The label works with names like Adele, Bon Iver, and Radio Head, to name a few.
Myspace, responding to the accusation, has pinned the upload of these illicit tracks on some no-good users sharing copyrighted music without consent. The failure to remove said tracks and the social network’s decision not to renew its deal with Merlin were entirely unconnected, Myspace spokesperson Neda Azarfar told The New York Times. She added that if Merlin labels want their music taken off Myspace, they would have to file DMCA take-down requests for each song – just as all copyright holders must do in instances of alleged infringement.
Myspace has launched to critical acclaim by most users. It’s the anti-Facebook in some regards, and has thus far abstaine from targeted advertising – the variety that pokes and prods at its users’ privacy. But seeing as how Myspace is desperate to rebrand itself as a music service, the platform is treading in grey waters. All you have to do is look at Grooveshark and how it left a sour taste in the mouths of many music industry executives to get a sense of what happens if Myspace continues on such a path.