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Merlin criticises new MySpace for streaming its labels’ music without a licence

By | Published on Monday 21 January 2013


According to the New York Times, the all new MySpace, which was opened to all for the first time last week to coincide with the posting online of a new track from its creative overseer Justin Timberlake, is already running into licensing issues.

As previously reported, MySpace’s newish owner, Specific Media, hopes to stage a miraculous revival of the one-time king of social networking by bringing the streaming service that has existed in the background of the social network for years to the fore, so it is a combined streaming platform and social network.

MySpace has by far the biggest catalogue in the increasingly crowded streaming music market, Specific chiefs keep saying, because it has both the catalogues it licensed from the major labels and all the music unsigned bands uploaded to their MySpace profiles back in the day. And if the sleek new look MySpace can excite the current generation of new bands, that free-to-use (for Specific) unsigned catalogue will be replenished all over again.

But, says the Times, the bigger indie labels, which licence their digital content through rights agency Merlin, don’t have a live deal with MySpace, yet their content seems to be available on the all-new MySpace site that went live last week.

Telling reporters that Merlin’s deal with MySpace expired a year ago, the body’s chief Charles Caldas said: “While it’s nice that [Justin] Timberlake is launching his [single] on this platform, and acting as an advocate for the platform, on the other hand his peers as artists are being exploited without permission and not getting remuneration for it”.

A spokeswoman for MySpace confirmed that the company did not currently have a deal with Merlin, but said that if any content from its labels was still online, it was there in error, and would be removed if takedown notices were received.

It’s not clear whether MySpace intends to sign up to a new Merlin deal, though Caldas’s comments would suggest talks are not ongoing. The social network came in for much stick back in the day when it first launched its streaming music service without Merlin on board. Operating without the popular indie labels is never going to look good if your brand is all about a supposed passion for discovering and championing new and alternative talent.

The exact nature of MySpace’s ongoing licences with the other music companies is not currently known – though a pitch by Specific to possible investors leaked last year said that new finance was in part needed to fund the renewal of music licences.