record companies ridiculous, again

In a recent lawsuit against a guy who sells used music CDs on eBay, music industry powerhouse Universal Music claims that no one is allowed to sell the promotional CDs that they give away as advertising. In fact, they argue that it is illegal even to throw a promo CD away.

In a brief filed in federal court yesterday, Universal Music Group (UMG) states that, when it comes to the millions of promotional CDs (“promo CDs”) that it has sent out to music reviewers, radio stations, DJs, and other music industry insiders, throwing them away is “an unauthorized distribution” that violates copyright law. Yes, you read that right — if you’ve ever received a promo CD from UMG, and you don’t still have it, UMG thinks you’re a pirate.

In the absence of any Universal-sponsored recycling program, I suppose that music industry folks are supposed to hang onto these CDs–which they never asked for in the first place–forever.

(h/t Eszter)

8 thoughts on “record companies ridiculous, again”

  1. Thanks to my past as a musician, music writer, and occasional promoter, I landed on many promo lists over the years. It was amazing how many unsolicited CDs I got, even outside of my preferred genre. Before I started asking off of the lists, there was a year-long stretch, where I would receive a couple new CDs every day. It was silly.


  2. This does seem truly bizarre… are these not unsolicited promos? To the extent that they’re unsolicited, my understanding is that they become the property of the person receiving them. This is analogous, then, to the review copies of books we receive at Social Forces, or frankly the oodles of textbooks we are sent by publishers. I don’t see how the responsibility for disposing of them in any particular way can be transferred to the recipient simply by virtue of having had it addressed to him/her!


  3. as a music industry specialist i just have to say wow four different ways.

    1. pop music is a hit industry, with an infinite variance for sales per title and basically all of the revenues coming from a handful of albums and most albums making essentially no money. if the number of copies of promo cds have less variance (which they almost certainly do) then this is a non-issue. in other words, the vast majority of promo cds are close to worthless on the open market and for the minority that are worth something the finite supply of promo cds is greatly outstripped by demand for these titles.

    2. in some ways this is reminiscent of the MPAA ordering member studios to stop blanketing LA with “for your consideration” dvds on the grounds that they could be ripped and uploaded to bittorrent before the official dvd release. the MPAA thing was actually relatively rational as a) they were worried about digital reproduction costing hundreds of thousands of sales not physical transfer costing a few hundred sales and b) they targeted the suppliers, not the recipients, of media junk mail.

    3. even if you can EULA your way around “first sale” with deliberately “licensed” (ie, purchased) digital content like itunes, it’s absurd to talk about doing it with a physical object like a cd or a book which the recipient didn’t even want, let alone sign a EULA for

    4. this is a beautiful example of a declining industry making ridiculous claims on the state — the steel tariffs of the information age


  4. i am so breaking the law on an hourly basis. besides, 95% of what i get is crap. especially from UMG. actually, that’s not fair.

    UMG – 89% crap
    EMI – 98% crap
    Sony BMG – 96% crap
    Warner – 93% crap

    and even of the stuff that’s not crap, i rip and throw away recycle.


  5. sorry, tina. i guess we are going to have to take your office out of the house. i need somewhere to store the promo cds.


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