Posts Tagged ‘Mass NOIs’

You Can’t Find What You Don’t Look For: Spotify May Not be the Only Source for Aaliyah Bootlegs

March 15, 2018 Leave a comment


Vanessa Okoth-Obbo’s eye-opening and must-read post about possible Aaliyah bootlegs on Spotify confirms a suspicious looking trend on digital music services–bootleggers finding another way to profit from lax policing by the “saviours of the music business” like Spotify.

As Vanessa writes in Factmag:’

Aside from her 1994 debut Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, most of Aaliyah’s music has never officially been available on major streaming platforms. Ola [a fan Vanessa interviewed for the story] added ‘More Than A Woman’ to Old School Hip-Hop via the album R&B Divas (International Version), one of two compilations with the same title released simultaneously by, itseems, Universal Music International in 2007. While listening to the playlist from his phone last month, ‘More Than A Woman’ came on and Ola idly tapped the song’s title, something that normally takes the user to the source album. But instead of R&B Divas, which features music from artists like Rihanna and Amy Winehouse, Ola says he found himself looking at the full tracklist for what appeared to be a bootleg version of Aaliyah….

The sophistication of methods for getting songs onto the platform in the first place accounts for some of this. Spotify has agreements with most major labels who, in turn, handle the process for their signed artists, and an adjacent economy of content aggregators has sprung up to assist those with no direct label backing. Distributors like CD Baby and TuneCore help independent artists put their music on the leading digital services and collect any royalties resulting from streaming or sales, for varying fees.

It’s highly probable that the Aaliyah albums were bundled in via a similar third-party service…

Taking advantage of his Spotify Premium membership, Ola moved quickly to download his favorite Aaliyah songs to his device while he could. In a blunt reading of his action, it represents money out of someone’s pocket — business is business. Still, the chances of a fan turning down a chance to engage with their idols’ work are slim, in any era or arena.

That leaves Spotify, and whoever is responsible for uploading the Aaliyah albums without permission, open to scrutiny. For Gary Pierson, the matter is clear cut: a service is liable for what it hosts. “This can get more nuanced in the case of ‘user generated content’ such as Youtube videos, but for the streaming services it’s pretty clear,” he summarized. The streaming behemoth has a lot on the line: Spotify recently moved to go public, filing for a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in a money-generating step that some analysts have deemed unconventional. While the move could bring in much-needed capital to help the company resist copyright lawsuits (to which they are no stranger), a music streaming service cannot risk the stain of failing to protect artists’ interests…

Well…that ship has sailed.  We all know Spotify has demonstrated a lack of control over what’s on its systems for songs, and it increasingly looks like all of the services have fallen down on making sure that there’s no bootlegs in their catalogs.  So I ran the name “Aaliyah” through the SX Works NOI Lookup to see what came back–because if there’s no license for the sound recording, they can’t get an compulsory license for the song.  (If you’re new to the mass NOI problem, read my article from the American Bar Association Entertainment & Sports Lawyer).  

Sure enough, as you can see from the screen capture above, Google Amazon, Pandora and Spotify have all filed mass NOIs on Aaliyah, which means they are able to avoid  paying royalties on Aaliyah’s songs.  Some of these tracks may be from legitimate sources, but Vanessa’s story makes you wonder and points out yet again the need for the Copyright Office to take some responsibility for allowing these NOIs to be filed in a manner the Congress never intended.



You Can’t Find What You Don’t Look For: How Big Tech Rips off New Orleans Songwriters with Mass NOIs

March 6, 2018 3 comments

MTP readers will be familiar with the morass known as the “address unknown” mass NOIs, the loophole in the 1976 Copyright Act that Big Tech companies like Spotify, Google and Amazon have been leveraging for nearly two years.  This loopholeapalooza has resulted in well over 60,000,000 notices filed by these whingers with the U.S. Copyright Office–giving the biggest companies in commercial history a free ride on mechanical royalties otherwise payable to songwriters and music publishers.   You read that right–SIXTY MILLION NOIs.

That’s right–it’s not that the royalty is deferred or paid retroactively.  The royalty is never paid.  It must be said that the reason this royalty is taken from songwriters and publishers is because the Copyright Office (and the Congress) allows these filings to happen, indeed makes it easy for it to happen.  They do this while they take months to “examine” the very copyright registrations that would prevent the royalty free “license” ever coming into existence, yet accept millions of “address unknown” uncritically.    (For a more complete background on this absurdity, see my article on the subject from the American Bar Association Entertainment & Sports Lawyer.)

This is important for a number of reasons–and as I will show, affects songwriters at both ends of the food chain from the most played like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars to some of our most important classic artists like Rebirth Jazz Band, The Neville Brothers, New Orleans Nightcrawlers and the Hot 8.  This is particularly relevant to me as we remember many of these players who came to Austin during the storm.  Je me souviens.

Not only does the Copyright Office uncritically accept these “address unknown” NOIs for our most vital songwriters, they also post them in a manner that makes the posting essentially unusable.  Each NOI is posted separately in massive compressed files, so no individual songwriter is likely to be able to decompress and index them to even know if their song is included, correctly or incorrectly.  This takes looking the other way to a whole new level.

Thankfully, SoundExchange has created a searchable index of all the “address unknown” NOIs that have been filed as of a few weeks ago, which I imagine will be updated from time to time as the Copyright Office posts about 50,000 a week.  (See SX Works NOI Lookup if you want to see if your songs are in there.)  As Andrew Orlowski has reported in The Register, Spotify claims not to be able to find Ed Sheeran–the most streamed artist on Spotify for 2017.  I have analyzed in a Trichordist guest post the Top 5 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 since January 1, 2018 (the day that the despised safe harbor begins in the controversial Music Modernization Act), but now let’s see if we can find some of the well-known New Orleans artists and songwriters in the NOI Lookup.

The Neville Brothers?  222 Neville songs across Spotify, Google, Amazon and iHeart.

Neville Brothers.png

The Meters? 186 songs also “licensed” by Spotify, Google, Amazon.


Allen Toussaint?  Oh yes.


Preservation Hall Jazz Band? 250 songs to Google, Spotify and Amazon.


And it goes on and on and on.  Remember–these are free licenses.

I want to emphasize that this loophole rip off is being done to artists from all over the country and indeed from all over the world, and that the Copyright Office is letting them get away with it.

The Music Modernization Act does not solve this problem–it just sweeps it under the rug.    Solving this problem would involve confronting Big Tech head on and it seems that the only people who are willing to do that are the songwriters and publishers like David Lowery, Melissa Ferrick, Bob Gaudio, Wixen Music Publishing and Bluewater Music Publishing who bring these cases against companies like Spotify.  You know “the litigation” that has created such a problem what the world needs is the Music Modernization Act.

Trust me–that legislation will not help all the songwriters who have been blatently stiffed by Big Tech once again.





You Can’t Find What You Don’t Look For: Spotify Still Can’t Find the #5 Record in the US — Artist Rights Watch

Blocboy Look Alive SX

The more things change…great news for BlocBoy JB, he made the Top 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The bad news…Spotify, Google and Amazon filed “address unknown” NOIs for his song which means these saviors of the music business just helped themselves to a royalty-free license for who knows how long. Yes, it’s right […]

via You Can’t Find What You Don’t Look For: Spotify Still Can’t Find the #5 Record in the US — Artist Rights Watch 

@andreworlowski: Spotify wants to go public but can’t find Ed Sheeran (to pay him) — Artist Rights Watch

Is it Time for the Inspector General to Review the Copyright Office’s Administration of Address Unknown NOIs? — Artist Rights Watch

January 17, 2018 Comments off

If all a digital music service needs to do in order to claim they have a licene to reproduce and distribute a song is send a notice to the Copyright Office is send a notice saying they can’t find the song copyright owner, how hard do you think they’ll look? Particularly if they know that the Copyright Office won’t check? It is time for the Inspector General to review this untenable situation.

via Is it Time for the Inspector General to Review the Copyright Office’s Administration of Address Unknown NOIs? — Artist Rights Watch

Mass NOI Charts: An Update from Royalty Claim

October 23, 2017 Comments off

An update on the state of the Copyright Office debacle also known as mass filing of “address unknown” notices under Section 115 (you can see the largely unusable posting of these notices at this link on the Copyright Office site).

Here’s some charts you won’t see in the trades or even on the Copyright Office site-Royalty Claim‘s Address “Unknown” Mass NOI chart that Royalty Claim measured by number of filings January 1-June 30, 2017:

[Preview] The State of Unclaimed Royalties and Music Licenses in the United States (3)

January 1-June 30 2017 by Number of Address Unknown Mass NOI Chart

And here’s another view by the millions of dollars of filing fees that Royalty Claim says has been paid to the Copyright Office (that is making a bundle out of the entire bureaucratic night sweat):

[Preview Fees] The State of Unclaimed Royalties and Music Licenses in the United States (4)

Mass NOI Fees Paid to Copyright Office Jan 1-June 30, 2017

Remember–the Copyright Office started allowing these filings in April 2016.  The inception to date totals are closing in on 50 million filings altogether–another chart the Copyright Office will never show you.

You can view the entire Royalty Claim presentation at this link.

Hey Alexa, Where’s My Money? Address Unknown Update Courtesy of Paperchain

July 17, 2017 1 comment

We get an update this week on the total “address unknown” mass NOIs filed with the Copyright Office for the royalty-free windfall loophole.  This time we have to thank our our friends at Paperchain in Sydney for doing the work of decompressing the massive numbers of unsearchable compressed files posted on the Copyright Office website.  As you can see, there’s been an increase of approximately 70% since January 2017.   (For background, see my article.)

As you can see, Amazon is still far and away the leader in this latest loophole designed to stiff songwriters, followed closely by Google.  However, Spotify is moving on up.  Spotify does get extra points for starting late in March 2017, but they are catching up fast filing over 5,000,000 as of last month.

To put this in context–the Copyright Office as recently as September 2015 posted these “address unknown” NOIs in a single searchable PDF.  However, the Copyright Office  apparently changed the practice abruptly in early 2016 once the Big Tech hammer came down.  Based on the last PDF I could find, the total number of “address unknown” NOIs filed with the copyright office from January 2010 to September 2015 was approximately 4,800.

NOI 2015 Era Date Detail

Compare that approximately 4,800 in five years to approximately 45 million in 18 months.

Notable in its absence:  Apple Music has not filed a single address unknown NOI.  Somehow Apple seems satisfied with their licensing practice based on an absence of a single NOI.

NOI Table
Licensee Paperchain 4/16-6/17
Total 45,856,225
Amazon Digital Services 23,977,548
Google, Inc. 10,386,238
Spotify 5,020,002
Microsoft 3,522,100
iHeart Communications 1,565,763
Pandora Media, Inc. 1,316,512
The Inc. 66,326
%d bloggers like this: