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Music industry’s anti-piracy operations putting the focus on NFTs and the metaverse

By | Published on Monday 14 February 2022

Piracy / Hacker

With increased concerns within the music community over a whole new form of music piracy happening via NFT services and inside the metaverse, the Italian music industry’s Digital Content Protection agency used the recent Sanremo Music Festival to announce that it now has a unit focused on monitoring and acting upon unlicensed music activities happening on all these new fangled platforms.

The recent HitPiece debacle brought the potential issues around copyright and music NFTs into the spotlight. Although the HitPiece website wasn’t making available any actual music – either to stream or download or linked to any of the NFTs it was selling – it was utilising the record industry’s artwork, while also arguably exploiting artist trademarks and publicity rights. All without permission.

HitPiece quickly went offline after multiple artists and labels started accusing it of infringing their rights, although since then the spotlight has fallen on some other music NFT services that seem to be utilising songs and recordings – or at least implying official connections to artists and their music – without any of the proper licences in place.

All of which means NFTs – not to mention the metaverse – are now on the radar of the music industry’s anti-piracy agencies, including those run by the record industry’s trade organisations. The Recording Industry Association Of America sent a big old cease and desist letter to HitPiece earlier this month.

Confirming that letter had been sent to HitPiece, RIAA COO Mitch Glazier said: “Given how fans were misled and defrauded by these unauthorised NFTs and the massive risk to both fans and artists posed by HitPiece and potential copycats, it was clear we had to move immediately and urgently to stand up for fairness and honesty in the market”.

The Italian industry’s Digital Content Protection unit’s announcement at the Sanremo Music Festival confirmed that NFT services, metaverse virtual worlds and other Web3 activities are now being monitored as part of its anti-piracy operations. As with other such activity, where unlicensed music is discovered, a takedown notice or cease-and-desist letter may be sent, or – where there is rampant infringement – legal action could be considered.

The unit’s CEO Luca Vespignani spoke to Torrentfreak last week, saying: “Basically, we crawl Web3 resources such as NFT markets, virtual reality platforms and in-game platforms looking for unauthorised NFTs, bad actors and rug-pulls” – ‘rug-pulls’ referring to various scams in the world of blockchain and crypto.

“After the monitoring”, Vespignani adds, “we either send a notice and takedown request or we compile a forensic archive of copyright infringement evidence, to support potential legal action”.

Having unveiled the agency’s latest anti-piracy focus at the Sanremo Music Festival, the DPC then apparently detected and had taken down some unofficial NFTs linked to clips recorded at the very same festival that were on sale on the NFT platform OpenSea. Good times!