Clip: Billy Bragg’s MySpace Protest Movement
Billy Bragg's MySpace Protest Movement
By ROBERT LEVINE
Published: July 31, 2006
When he is not writing or performing protest songs, the British
folk-rocker Billy Bragg is apparently reading the fine print.
In May, Mr. Bragg removed his songs from the MySpace.com Web site,
complaining that the terms and conditions that MySpace set forth gave
the social networking site far too much control over music that people
uploaded to it. In media interviews and on his MySpace blog, he said
that the MySpace terms of service made it seem as though any content
posted on the site, including music, automatically became the site's
Although MySpace had not claimed ownership of his music or any other
content, Mr. Bragg said the site's legal agreement — which included
the phrase "a nonexclusive, fully paid and royalty-free worldwide
license" — gave him cause for concern, as did the fact that the
formerly independent site was now owned by a big company (the News
Corporation, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch).
Mr. Bragg said that he himself had kept most of the copyrights to his
recordings, licensing them out to the various record companies that
have released his albums over the years. "My concern," he said in a
telephone interview, "is the generation of people who are coming to
the industry, literally, from their bedrooms."
About a month later, without referencing Mr. Bragg's concerns,
MySpace.com clarified its terms of service, which now explain who
retains what rights. A sample line: "The license you grant to
MySpace.com is nonexclusive (meaning you are free to license your
content to anyone else in addition to MySpace.com)."
Jenny Toomey, executive director of the Future of Music Coalition, an
advocacy group for musicians that focuses on intellectual property
rights, said the Internet could help musicians warn one another about
potential contractual problems. "Information is now shared in a
different way," she said, "and artists who are getting a bad deal can
connect with each other."
Mr. Bragg, who said he never had any direct communication with
executives from MySpace, has put some of his music back on the site.
And he offered some praise for the site's effectiveness in spreading
his message. "That's the amazing thing about MySpace," he said. "If
you say something, word gets out."