Vice Chairman, International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP)
Past President, Music Publishers Association of the USA
Chairman, ICMP Anti-Theft Committee
Almost ten years ago, while I was president of the Music Publishers Association of the United States (MPA/USA), we started shutting down illegal guitar tab Web sites. These sites were decimating the print music sales of the once highly successful line of guitar books that notated tablature, in addition to the engraved music and lyrics. After the BBC and The New York Times published related articles that included photos of me, I received over 2,000 hate emails from people who claimed that it was the right of individuals on the internet to share, create and digitally duplicate music. Some of the emails threatened my family.
Returning home one day, my teenage son proudly told me that I was #3 on the internet’s Most Hated People. Number 1 was Osama Bin Laden, Number 2 was George W. Bush and there I was in a photo with devil horns growing out of my head! The next week my son told me I was Number 4. I asked who took over my slot and he said Britney Spears.
We at the MPA/USA approached the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and joined forces to create an anti-piracy task-force to shut down these sites. For five years we budgeted over one million dollars in legal fees and operations to fight these illegal and unlicensed internet entities infringing copyrights. Presently the MPA/NMPA has hired a dedicated, in–house lawyer to monitor and administer our program. This has resulted in courtroom victories against illegal lyric sites and the reduction of pirate guitar tab sites. We then observed that many of the illegal sites were leaving the American landscape and setting up their servers in foreign countries. We also observed that there were now pirate sites focusing on lyrics and others with piano/vocal/guitar sheet music outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law such as pianofiles.com, based in Belgium with their server in Amsterdam, Holland.
The International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP) is the global trade organization for MPAs around the world. (www.icmp-ciem.org) Every developed country has an MPA and ICMP representing their international rights.
Three years ago the ICMP created the Anti-Theft Committee for the purpose of shutting down illegal Web sites around the world. (We did not use the word “pirate” as our studies revealed that the word brings connotations of Johnny Depp and Disney to the masses) We obtained funding from the MPA/USA and the MPA/UK. We have set-up regional operation offices in three sectors of the world. MPA/Japan monitors the Asia/Pacific territory, the MPA/UK the European region and the MPA/NMPA the Americas. We were able to shut down the most egregious illegal site, pianofiles.com, without any legal fees. We met with the owner of the site after over 100 MPAs around the world sent him “cease and desist” letters to his home when his wife was there. When the site shut down in December 2014, other individuals copied the pianofiles.com data and opened up new sites in Poland (swappano.com), Belgium (sheeto.com) and other territories.
We then contacted the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in London and Brussels, of which the RIAA is the American member. They informed me that they have used the City of London Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to successfully take down three large Russian sites. We assigned the CEO of the MPA/UK to meet with the chief inspector. The meeting went well and PIPCU agreed to help us since they have global jurisdiction if any illegal site broadcasts in the United Kingdom.
Earlier this year the MPA/UK went through major changes with a new Chairman, new CEO and new General Manager. These people are now being briefed by the ICMP Committee and in the fall will collaborate with PIPCU in the taking down of swappano.com, jellynotes.com and sheeto.com among other targets.
The committee, through the MPA/USA, the NMPA and the MPAs around the world has compiled a spreadsheet listing all the illegal Web sites globally in the sheet music/lyric area. Next month, I am meeting with the top five advertising agencies that represent over 90% of Internet advertising and presenting them with the list. These agencies have always claimed that they had no way of knowing who was legal or illegal. Our dedicated lawyer has examined and checked the list as has every MPA globally. The purpose is to make the agencies aware that they now know who is illegal thereby leaving them open to possible legal action and negative press. Then, after we have educated and informed the advertising community, we shall do the same to the “money changers,” Master Card and VISA.
MPA Tools You Can Use
The MPA/USA has created a Grammy Award winning video designed for children. Please view it at www.mpa.org. We also created a school curriculum on intellectual property and the importance of copyright from the eyes of our forefathers and the US Constitution. It is free to whomever wishes to use it. Every year we have a contest for young people to create their own videos about copyright and intellectual property. We award the winners $10,000. The videos are on our website.
It is vital to communicate with the MPA/USA’s Executive Administrator, Brittain Ashford, at email@example.com if you find any Web sites that may be infringing copyrights. She is the coordinator for the ICMP here in America.
In closing, I wish to thank RPMDA President Christie Smith for the opportunity to tell the MPA anti-theft story, what the music publishing community is doing to address this situation, and the chance to directly communicate with your membership and associates.