A to Z Gets a Cease-and-Desist Letter for...Linking to a Blog?

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Lady Gaga in LA, 12/23/09 - Timothy Norris/LA Weekly
Timothy Norris/LA Weekly
Lady Gaga in LA, 12/23/09

​​Last Thursday, to preview Lady Gaga's show at the Fox that night, I posted about a Nirvana-Lady Gaga mashup floating around the Internet. In that post, I embedded the YouTube video and a link to the where the mashup originated: a blog post on the website of DJ Lobsterdust. Someone left a comment later that night saying that the audio had been pulled by EMI, but I didn't think much of it, because stuff is pulled from YouTube all the time.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my editor showed me a letter from EMI Music Publishing -- sent certified mail, no less -- addressing the mashup-related post on A to Z. The letter reads:

Copyright Agent 6358 Delmar Blvd., Ste. 200 St. Louis, MO 63130-4719

Dear Copyright Agent,

EMI Entertainment World, Inc. ('EMI") is the owner and/or administrator of certain copyrighted content which is currently being reproduced, displayed, transmitted and distributed without authorization on www.djlobsterdust.com (the "Host Site"), including, without limitation, a sample and download of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana (the "Copyrighted Work"). The unauthorized reproduction, display, transmission and distribution via the Internet of the Copyrighted Work without our express permission constitutes copyright infringement in violation of Title 17 U.S. Code, Section 106(a) of the Copyright Act of 1976, and other international copyright laws.

Your website, www.blogs.riverfronttimes.com (the "Site"), is directly linking users to this infringing content.


This e-mail shall serve as EMI's good faith notice to you that you are to immediately remove the web link to the Copyrighted Work as well as any other web links to unauthorized EMI material. Once the link to the Copyrighted Work, has been moved from the Site, please send us written confirmation of the same.

This notice is written without prejudice to the rights and remedies of EMI and its songwriters at law or at equity, all of which we hereby expressly reserve. Thank you.

Yeah, I had to read the letter three times too.

But it becomes clear that EMI is trying to strong-arm RFT for the crime of "linking users to...infringing content." But we didn't even do anything as drastic as that. I didn't link the actual MP3 or repost it; I just embedded the YouTube video and linked to the site (and actual post) where the MP3 was made available. 

Interestingly enough, this mashup has existed online since at least last September -- a fact I figured out by just a cursory few web searches, because I've already found several other blogs that are still hosting the so-called "NirGaga" mashup as an MP3. 

On top of that: On DJ Lobsterdust's website, a few posts down from the yanked "NirGaGa" mashup, there's a mashup he did between Wild Cherry -- and, um..."Smells Like Teen Spirit." Which, as of this writing, is still fully available.

I went to the Hype Machine, a website that aggregates MP3 blogs and lets people search for tracks within them, and searched "Nirvana." On the first page alone are several unauthorized mashups of the band. Available to download.

If the "NirGaGa" track has existed for months, why is EMI only now sending out cease-and-desist letters?

Since when is it forbidden to link to another blog? Regardless of what's posted on it?

Why is EMI going after a site that merely links to objectionable content and entirely missing the oodles of objectionable content that persist on the linked-to site?

I could go on, but you get the idea: The music industry is fighting a losing battle against music piracy.

Once a track or an album is out there on the Internet, it'll get passed around -- if not on a blog, then via Twitter, or via private email or via instant messaging. If people are determined enough to find a song or an album, they will.

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