September 15, 2008

EMI Records’ Threatening Legal Disclaimer

Posted in Music tagged , , , , at 6:50 pm by Andrew McMillen

A friend handed me a few CDs this afternoon. One of them was Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain by Sparklehorse. After I placed the disc into my computer tray and ripped the tracks to MP3 – which is a habit that I undertake immediately after acquiring any new music – I had a quick glance at the liner notes to try to ascertain something about the artist, as I was as yet unfamiliar.

I came across this paragraph:

Thank you for buying this music. This recording and artwork are protected by copyright law. Using Internet services to distribute copyrighted music, giving away illegal copies of discs or lending discs to others for them to copy is illegal and does not support those in making this piece of music – especially the artist. By carrying out any of these actions it has the same effect as stealing music. Applicable laws provide severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution and digital transmission of copyrighted sound recordings. Many examples of where to buyal legal downloads can be found at http://www.musicfromemi.com

How quaint. This disc was released in 2006. Sparklehorse are signed to Capital Records and distributed by EMI.

Clumsy wording aside, the message is plenty amusing. I smiled at the MP3 encoding program running in the background, quietly transferring the contents of the plastic disc into audio data.

A friend handed me the album with his recommendation. I have every intention of listening and giving him my feedback. I might like it, I might not. But it’s highly unlikely that I’d have given the artist my time without this personal recommendation. I surely wouldn’t have dropped $20 without being remotely familiar with their music.

Naturally, after transcribing the above paragraph, I googled the phrase to see what came back. Unsuprisingly, someone had already dissected EMI’s bullshit legal posturing in February 2006.

Jon Dyer found the message in his store-bought Morningwood CD and discussed its ridiculousness at length in this post. A few choice quotes are included below – I suggest you read the full article.

The day I want a band to give me legal advice is the same day that I ask my lawyer to jump up on the desk, strap on an axe, and rock like Great White at a fireman’s ball.

…one of the last things that I want to read in some liner notes is a big, pseudo legal warning about what I can and can’t do with my purchase. If you’re determined to go this route, have the courtesy to be brief, accurate, and honest with what you write. And have the cojones to put your extensive warnings on the outside of the CD, so I can see what you’re all about before I lay down the $10.

Lending CDs to people is how some people communicate. And what they are doing with that communication is free, evangelical advertising for the bands that they lend. To lie and say that this is illegal is beyond stupid: It alienates the fans, stops free advertising without loss of sale, and actually insults the people who actually took the time to read your liner notes. Like me.

On the other hand – at least I’m talking about Sparklehorse. They’ll stick in my mind a little longer than the average band, whether I like the music or not, purely due to EMI’s hilariously threatening legal disclaimer. 

I wish I could confirm or deny whether they’re still including a similar message in their 2008 releases, but I don’t think I’ve bought a recording by an EMI artist in years. I’ll have to look when picking up You Am I‘s new album.

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2 Comments

  1. Meg said,

    Ugh was going to comment but got to the part about You Am I and felt hostile 😀

  2. Jon said,

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks the way they word things is ridiculous. I see they toned it down from the CD that I had, but still…


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