Sadie Dupuis has been alerted that NFTs of music by her band Speedy Ortiz are available on the HitPiece crypto market. It came as a surprise to the acclaimed poet and songwriter, as she hadn’t even heard of the company until a member of the band texted her about the sale.
She wasn’t alone in this, as many artists, especially many indie rockers, but also stars such as Jack Antonoff, took to social media to call out HitPiece for selling NFTs based on their work without their consent.
“As far as I know, none of the artists on this website had granted any license or permission, or had been contacted by HitPiece seeking a license,” she says. “I have not been contacted by HitPiece – as far as I know the only ‘contact’ they have made was to ask complaining artists to DM them, which many of my peers have asked to be withdrawn.”
The move has angered many in the music community, who are already increasingly wary of tech companies after Neil Young and Joni Mitchell broke up with Spotify. (PLACE) – Get the Spotify Technology SA reportthough it has more to do with what Young calls podcast host Joe Rogan spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation than it does with Spotify’s frequently criticized low royalty rate, which is starting to spark a boycott in full swing among artists.
But furthermore, the strong backlash against HitPiece could bode well, if not for a culture-wide backlash against NFTs, then a growing cultural sentiment in some quarters that the much hyped about crypto collectibles should be viewed with, at best, extreme levels of suspicion.
“I have no personal interest in doing an NFT. An overwhelming majority of my smart friends tell me why NFTs are awful for art, artists, power consumption, and often a scam for people who join,” says Dupuis. “But the bigger problem here is more about IP piracy – there was a whole online marketplace completely filled with unlicensed artwork from musicians. At best, it looks like fraud.
What is HitPiece?
HitPiece launched in 2020, and an investigation by Rolling Stone revealed that the site was selling NFT (which at this point many of us know refers to non-fungible tokens, i.e. say unique digital files, which in this case refer to a song) by household names such as John Lennon and BTS, with corresponding, license-free photos and artwork. HitPiece was even selling an NFT of Kanye West, who publicly criticized NFTs.
It would appear that the site’s infrastructure was created by removing information from Spotify’s application programming interface, which is public and available to other developers.
“HitPiece was co-founded by Rory Felton, a tech entrepreneur who also has a background in music, having helped form the independent record label, the Militia Group, in the late 90s,” Rolling Stone reported. “HitPiece’s core team also includes Utah-based venture capitalist Blake Modersitzki and Michael Berrin – better known as MC Serch from 90s hip-hop group 3rd Bass.”
HitPiece did not respond to a request for comment from TheStreet.
You still need permission in the Wild West
NFTs started getting some attention last year, and it seems some companies are playing fast and loose with the rules. As the controversy escalated, HitPiece tweeted an unapologetic apology, then took down most of its website and replaced it with the message, “We started the conversation and we’re listening.”
It would seem that HitPiece’s business model was that they would compensate artists… after they had already sold an NFT of their music without contacting them first, although many artists on social media indicated that they had no idea of how it would work.
Music copyright is a complicated thing, acknowledges Andy Lee of law firm Foley & Lardner, which has an NFT task force. A copyright for a song, he explains, is split between the sound recording, “embodied in the master”, and the composition, “consisting of the underlying writing”, he says. This can complicate determining ownership, as the rights may belong to the artist, the publisher, or a record label.
“One thing is clear, however: commercial use of a copyrighted work requires the permission of the party or parties that own or control that copyright,” Lee says, “ unless an exception applies based on things like fair use or other free speech considerations (which don’t seem applicable here).
Lee adds that while NFTs are a new phenomenon, the old rules still apply. “There may be open questions about precisely how copyright law applies to a particular NFT – for example, streaming a song in connection with video or moving images involves synchronization rights which are not present in the case of a still image,” he says.
“There may also be jurisdictional issues given the decentralized and global nature of blockchains, and the challenges resulting from the anonymity inherent in many crypto transactions. New media technologies sometimes present unique issues, but in the end, a fake is a fake. »
A tough look for NFTs?
The digital primate face of NFTs appears to have become fashionable digital art collective Bored Ape Yacht Club, which is reportedly in talks with Andreessen Horowitz for funding with a $5 billion valuation. For some observers, NFTs (and crypto in general) are an exciting investment, especially at a time when the Federal Reserve’s efforts to stabilize the market during the pandemic have made traditional forms of investing a bit too safe. uninteresting or too low yielding for more types of daredevil investments.
For others, NFTs are the future of digital art and a symbol of Web3 and the next evolution of the Internet. NFT sales reached $14 billion last year, with CryptoArt coins such as CryptoPunks selling for up to $3.1 million and some Bored Apes for $1.3 million.
But the days of monoculture are long gone and other people, not just musicians, seem to have a less rosy view of the subject. Social media is rife with shots of people viewing NFTs as a rip-off or at best a luxury item for the extremely wealthy, an association that might have calcified in a segment last week when Paris Hilton visited “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” for a segment in which the two discussed their mutual love for Bored Ape and the ape community. (Even if you’re an NFT fan, it’s hard to say this isn’t a very awkward conversation.) To detractors, the HitPiece fiasco vindicates their worst review of the industry.