For The Record: Is a 'Name and Shame' The Best Solution To Plagiarism?

Words by: Ben Raven, David Alexander
Posted: 13/11/17 19:32

Mihalis Safras press shot.

What should you do if someone rips off your track? Going straight to Facebook might not be the wisest solution.

The eye of the storm from the Mihalis Safras episode seems to have passed over now. But the repercussions it promises and the questions it asks are still very fresh.

Since Ibiza Voice’s last report on the story, Nick Curly and Gorge’s 8bit Records has removed Safras’ ‘Never Ever’ from all stores, after claims were made that Safras had plagiarised J Barnum’s ‘Barracuda’. This is a quick and appropriate response from the label, which is to be applauded but it’s unclear as yet if other labels involved are following suit.

The artist’s public profile is irrevocably damaged and Safras is facing further pain as a DJ as some of his tour dates are now also being cancelled.

Additionally, sources close to the act have told us that the act has been receiving death threats via social media. Whilst we strongly hope that these messages are the erroneous work of over-zealous keyboard warriors, they must be terrifying to receive.


UK artist Tennan who first accused Mihalis Safras.

At this point, with releases being pulled and gigs being cancelled, it's clear that a court of law should be adjudicating on the situation and not social media. 

Producers stealing beats from one another is as old as dance music itself. But what should an act whose music has been copied actually do? And is trial-by-social-media the correct way to handle this?

The old fashioned way to respond to such claims was to call a music lawyer. Due to the costs involved, however, many producers are put off taking this route, especially those operating out of a bedroom due to the perception that they cannot afford to litigate. This is not the case.

The amounts of money generated by the average Beatport track’s income certainly falls short of what would be required to pursue an extensive legal campaign, even if the label would be ordered to pay back all royalties earned and perhaps a penalty on top, if found guilty. 

Mark Lawrence, CEO for the Association for Electronic Music says “where music has been used without permission, artists can approach labels and publishers for lost income directly.  Ultimately it depends on the remedy they want for the breach of copyright they have endured.”   

“If it’s about money, go get the money from the label and publisher. If it’s about theft, get the tracks taken down (by approaching the DMCA or via a lawyer). If it’s about credit where credits due, get artist names and metadata changed by working with labels and distributors. If it’s about stopping it happening again, do the above and go public with all steps taken.”

One of the tracks involved in the Safras dispute.

Digital media platforms like Beatport are governed by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and must operate with its parameters. If you are a victim of copyright infringement (theft of a part or illegal sampling),  submit a copyright violation form on Beatport (or to wherever the content exists).

Brandon Shevin, from Beatport's legal team advises that accusers should be "confident before making allegations against someone else. The more information that can be provided, the better. When more details are provided in a complaint, the labels and suppliers can typically better asses the legitimacy of the claim and act accordingly."

Producers who have been plagiarised or have suffered a copyright infringement argue that social media is their only viable recourse at their disposal. But it is a measure that should only be taken as a last resort. Careers can be broken by social media scandals and there is a lot at stake for a touring artist who finds themselves at the centre of one. Accusers could very well find themselves on the wrong end of a libel case if unable to back up their claims to the sufficient requirements of a legal inquiry. 
 

And it’s not just the offended producer who needs to worry about falling on the wrong side of a liability case. Those pitching in with libellous comments on Facebook or Twitter could be a target for a libel case as well. An online comment, such as a tweet or a retweet of a libellous tweet, is potentially libellous in England and Wales, for example, if it damages someone's reputation and exposes them to "hatred, ridicule or contempt".

So be careful just how hard you weigh in on an online debate without sufficient facts to back your opinion up. And it goes without saying, don’t post anything that could be interpreted as hateful or malicious. Often social media controversies are not as straight forward as they may seem when only the accuser’s point of view is considered.

If you do take on a plagiarist, be realistic about your demands. UK producer Trus’Me found himself at the heart of a copyright infringement scandal when accused by another producer of stealing parts. After consulting a lawyer, issuing an apology, taking down the track in question from digital stores and offering the collaborator a split in shares, the accuser refused to accept the terms and demanded €5,000.

When the accuser posted about the matter on his Facebook account, Trus’Me  gave an in depth statement to Resident Advisor to explain the situation and the accuser was heavily criticised in the site’s comments section and social media pages.

Whether you’re in the right or wrong, posting on social media is never guaranteed to have the result you might be seeking. And when you’re reaching for that sample folder, make sure you know where that part came from before going any further.




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