So here we are, the moment I feared might arrive: Soundcloud has unceremoniously deleted one of my mixtapes under the grounds that it contains copyrighted content.
Of course it does; it’s a mixtape. We create mixes under the assumption that, since they’re noncommercial and constitute a radical reframing of the original work, they’re perfectly legal to share for free. This is not the case. At least, not if you’re an individual facing the wrath of a company like Sony or Universal. This is a guilty until proven innocent situation, and most people don’t have the time or money to prove that a free mixtape falls under fair use.
I saw the rumblings months ago: Factmag warned that SoundCloud’s new copyright infringement software is wreaking havoc on uploaded mixes and then I heard that Sony in particular was on the warpath. DJs were getting terminations left and right. Even worse, just last month it was reported that artists were getting their own original work deleted by an overzealous system that shot first and asked questions later, if you were lucky.
My account was biding its time beneath this metaphorical sword of Damocles. And then I forgot all about it. I forgot that the earth had shifted beneath Soundcloud and that it was no longer a safe place. Today, that ground opened up and swallowed my mix. Deleted, gone. They sent an email informing me that any more strikes will result in an account termination, and that any attempt to question the validity of the takedown will be met with a vigorous middle finger in my face.
More than anything, this saddens me because I really like sharing my mixes with you. With everyone. I spend my time carefully curating the songs that I love and giving them new context so that I can share the way I listen with other people. It’s both a passion project and a way to communicate where words fall short.
When I got the email and realized I had no recourse, I googled the problem. I immediately found this informative article that I should have read 4 years ago, when it was published. Not only did they predict the copyright reaping, but they tipped me off to Mixcloud. This turned out to be the real deal, a bit of sage advice.
Instead of proactively assaulting their users on the behalf of major labels, Mixcloud apparently does everything necessary to keep the internet’s DJ culture spinning (hah) legally and free. It took me only a few minutes to set up a profile and get a once-deleted mix live and streaming. Look, I’ve already got a widget here:
To be entirely fair to Soundcloud, it’s still a good resource for artists to share their new material, getting it into the ears of fans and fellow musicians with relative ease. Hell, Aphex Twin is still releasing a steady torrent of archival material, as I detailed back in February. I just worry about its future, about all the beloved music on there that might vanish in an instant because of archaic copyright laws and gun-shy social platforms. It’s painful to witness the moment when a company reveals that it cares for its customers even less than we feared. So while I will continue to support the musicians who work on the site, I won’t be using it for my own material. If you’re a musician who values your audience and your art, you’ll want to have a backup plan.
This is where I my past and future mixes will all appear: Optimistic Underground on Mixcloud. There’s just one up so far, but the rest will be up tonight and many more will appear in the future. The best feature of this site is the fact that there are no limitations for free users – I can keep uploading without having to delete my old files. As a central streaming hub for sharing music, this is invaluable to the hobbyists like me who do it all for free.
So that’s all I’ve got right now. If you know or anyone you know uses Soundcloud to share dj mixes or anything else sampling copyrighted material, consider this your warning. Get your music off the site and onto a safer place! We can only hope that some sensible changes come to copyright law as it adapts to the modern world.
Edit: Here’s some possibly fantastic news, just hours after I wrote this post!
In summary: this case is helping to deal a blow agains the practice of automated DMCA takedowns, the exact thing that knocked my Soundcloud account out.