Disney Suppressing the Kleptones

I received a cease-and-desist from the Walt Disney Corporation for hosting the Kleptones’ Night at the Hip-Hopera mashup. (Disney owns Hollywood Records, who owns the rights to Queen’s catalog.)

The irony is that I’m not even hosting the files anymore… The links on my site are all redirected to someone else’s server, and have been for weeks. At any rate, I’ll be forced to remove the direct links by November 23.

As far as I know, I was the first person to put the DJ Dangermouse’s Grey Album on the Web. Now, I see the suppression of artistic freedom again with the Kleptones album, which has always been freely-distributable and never made a dime. It’s depressing to think that our horribly broken copyright law means that nobody can legally hear this album or create others like it.

The cease-and-desist is below. The album itself can still be downloaded from the mirrors on the official Kleptones site, but I’m not sure for how long. If anyone has any ideas for creative protest, now’s the time.

Update: I’ve compiled a list of active mirrors to download the album. If you want to be added to the list, e-mail me or add a comment.

From: “Plotkin, Steve” <Steve.Plotkin@disney.com>

Date: Tue, 9 Nov 2004 16:04:50 -0800

Subject: Unauthorized Use of Copyrighted and/or Trademark Properties/File #

05-0165 – www.waxy.org

VIA U.S. & ELECTRONIC MAIL

November 8, 2004

Mr. Andrew Baio

555 Privacy Lane

Santa Monica

CA, 90403

Re: Unauthorized Use of Copyrighted and/or Trademark Properties/File # 05-0165 www.waxy.org

Dear Mr. Baio

I write on behalf of Disney Enterprises, Inc., and Disney s subsidiary, Hollywood Records Inc. (collectively Disney ), the owner of rights to the Queen music tracks.

It has come to our attention that you and/or your affiliates ( You ) are using without permission on Your Internet website waxy.org part or all of a number of songs by Queen, including some or all of the following:

God Save The Queen

One Vision

Keep Yourself Alive

Another One Bites The Dust

Jazz

We will Rock You

Play The Game

Bicycle Race

Under Pressure

I’m Going Slightly Mad

I Want To Break Free

Radio Ga Ga

Spread Your Wings

Flash

(It’s A) Kind Of Magic

Save Me

Don’t Stop Me Now

Who Wants To Live Forever

Disney does not permit the unauthorized use of its names, copyrighted works and trademarks. Such use infringes Disney s trademark rights, copyrights, and/or constitutes unfair competition.

Disney hereby demands that You immediately remove from any website owned or operated by You or on Your behalf, all music tracks containing any part of any song by Queen, and any other property of Disney, and that You provide me with a letter by November 23, 2004, in which You confirm that You have complied with the foregoing and that You agree not to resume such use.

Very truly yours,

Steven Plotkin

Executive Counsel

The Walt Disney Company

500 South Buena Vista Street

Burbank, CA 91521-0643

SP:rd

46 thoughts on “Disney Suppressing the Kleptones

  1. Ugh. I tried to make a point today about the Grey Video: that it only enhances interest in the original samples and doesn’t take away from future sales.

    But someone pointed out that if no one makes money, then it’s seen as a loss to labels.

    I listened to the hiphopera numerous times, and it made me seek out old queen classics I loved as a kid, ODB songs I hadn’t heard before, and I discovered the hilarious Gay Bar song and that band’s other videos. I’m likely to buy tracks from all three sets of artists now.

    So this infringing work piqued my interest in two old bands and one new one (as well as made me a kleptones fan), but hey, it’s best we act like it never saw the light of day, right Disney?

  2. Will everybody else who has a sample on this album get involved. Before IP law became a thing people woried about everyone stole little riffs and beats from each other. This style of remixing has been done for decades. I think it was Fatboy Slim (or a likeness) that mentioned that one of his early albums has so many unchecked samples he could never have made the album. Are 20th Century Fox going to sue for the use of the “Middle Children” speech from Fight Club? How far down the line does a sample become stealing rights of artists.

    On this album are numerous tracks by relative unknown rappers that I sought out after hearing it, especially the rap in Plan. Are their record companies going to start c&d’ing because of the free publicity they have been given or is sueing mash-up albums restricted to just established tracks.

  3. Technically, there’s no media on your server, right? Maybe tie up Steven with a little back and forth about that? This should cost Disney a few more hours of Steve’s billable time.

    and that You provide me with a letter by November 23, 2004, in which You confirm that You have complied with the foregoing and that You agree not to resume such use

    Um, yeah. How about you do your own fucking legwork and confirm it yourself, Steve. Babysitting Disney’s trademarks is your job, not ours.

  4. So what is Disney demanding here? That you not link to another’s website? Since when was linking illegal? And they also haven’t threatened any court action. Ask them what legal action, if any, they would take were you to not comply. Because I am not sure that linking to copyright-flaunting material is a crime.

  5. If you’re not actually hosting the files on your server, then you’re doing nothing wrong. Phawkins is right — linking is not illegal. It’s not even a case of a company telling you not to link to its own website. Anyway, I’d suggest that you write a letter clarifying this, and that you keep the links up if you want.

  6. Problem is matt they don’t see it from a artistic viewpoint, to them it is CD’s, rights, ownership, distribution, contracts, money. They view this as a physical entity in which a dollar value can be attributed to it. The idea of ‘free’ scares them and while they’ll manipulate real world marketing based on popular downloads on p2p sites they wont admit it. My opinion is they could give a rats ass about artist freedom and are really only out to control distribution. To them ‘artistic freedom’ must equate to a dollar value and/or must be controlled at all costs (look at Disney, Mattel for squashing artistic freedoms). In the Dangermouse case EMI had no rights to the Beatles album (some others possibly did) yet it was EMI who pushed to prevent its distribution. JayZ wanted people to create derivative works from his work. The thing that interested me about the Grey Album was the power word of mouth had and the number of times the album was downloaded. That protest put dangermouse on the ‘map’. I’ll never understand why they don’t want to harness that ‘power’ and would rather suppress it.

    Beastie Boys just won a case involving sampling so maybe there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. (naw who am I kidding)

    I empathize with americans the system is very screwed up and it is coming to us North of the border in 3 …2 … 1…

    *sudders at the thought*

  7. I think that what they are really scared of is that we all might spend our time listening to the free stuff -regardless of wether it was obtained legally or illegally. There are only a finite number of listening minutes out there, and if everyone becomes their own artist, or becomes involved in an grassroots artistic community which creates and supplies its own entertainment, then we are not buying their product, which cuts into their market share. As John Lennon said, “Power to the people!”

  8. If a copyright holder knows about a legal infringement they have to fight it, even if it’s a little shitty one like this, so they can defend fighting gross infringements. Like say, Pixar using a Queen song in their next blockbuster without paying up. Totally different, but “The law is an ass.”

    I doubt that Disney would really waste their time otherwise on this.

    Now,

  9. The Queen riff is owned entirely by Queen themselves (or Queen FIP, or something) – Disney (or rather Hollywood) own the mechanical rights, ie the rights to the recording. Queen settled over Ice, Ice Baby, and if I remember correctly subsequently decided they didn’t care about people ripping off their work. I wonder if anyone has talked to them about this case yet?

    (IANAL, but this is my understanding, at any rate 🙂

  10. Steve: Yeah, the files listed here actually redirect to another web server not owned by me when clicking on the filenames. It does appear, at first glance, that I’m hosting the files. I can understand how Disney got confused.

  11. Attention! If you’re going to be downloading this album before it’s pulled, please use the torrent. You will get a faster download and help reduce the load on the sites that are generously hosting the downloads.

  12. Steve: You’re confusing trademark with copyright. Copyright does not have to be contested, those rights are inviolate until the expiration of the copyright. Trademark, however, has to be defended any time it is noticed otherwise the trademark risks losing protection for being over-broad.

  13. You know what? The final manifesto movement of A Night at the Hip-Hopera tells the whole story. The labels and the lawyers believe “all that we say and do is right”, but nothing is fucked here, man. Nothing is fucked. There are too many of us grooving on too many different vibes, and we’re all mixing and mashing and creating so much so fast that there’s no way Steve Plotkin and his ilk can keep up. Look how long it took them to send this one letter? It may take a few years before the labels fall and the paradigm changes, but we’ll raise our children to believe that All Communication Should be Free and Open, and they wont stand for anything else.

  14. Is everyone going to hide behind the .torrent links? I understand, but a few more hardlinked mirrors would be helpful.

    BTW, an email from Eric Kleptone, states that they’ve not received any legal notice, yet.

  15. I’d like to hear what Jay-Z and the remaining members of the beatles think of the album, I think Jay-Z would dig it, but the beatles would be all uppity about it, I don’t know, maybe they’d be cool too.

    I really don’t care what copyrights say, I’m more interested in the artist’s opinion. Imagine if Jay-Z and the remaining members of the beatles got on stage and performed some of these songs, it’d be an atomic culture clash, this kind of stuff brings people together.

    AND LIKE THE SONG SAYS COME TOGETHER RIGHT NOW.

  16. maybe try contacting the folks at bannedmusic.org or downhillbattle.org. i know they were a large force behind grey tuesday and keeping danger mouse’s cd online. the other possibility might be having people host bittorrents but i don’t know if those are traceable off the top of my head.

    nonetheless, i want to throw up whenever i hear news trying to suffocate anything that breathes creativity.

  17. November 18, 2004

    Steven Plotkin

    Executive Counsel

    The Walt Disney Company

    500 South Buena Vista Street

    Burbank, CA 91521-0643

    Dear Steve:

    I read with complete digust your recent cease and desist letter regarding the Kleptones’ A Night At The Hip-Hopera album. Because you are as seemingly deaf and clueless as the rest of your industry has proven to be, I’m just taking a moment to enlighten you.

    That record and other works like it are exactly the stuff that is keeping recorded music alive and exciting – as opposed to every release ever issued on the Hollywood label, for example. Acquiring the Queen catalog was the only smart move made by Peter Paterno during his regretable tenure there. It merits mentioning, though, that Freddie Mercury’s untimely death made it seem far more prescient than it really was. If the populous had to sustain itself on the collected output of Hollywood Records, the culture would be even more bereft than it already is.

    The Kleptones record is one of the most distinctive, creative, and forward-looking releases of the year. Not understanding the good that this does in the world is sorrowful to say the least.

    The collective stewardship of the record industry has succeeded in throwing the business right off a cliff and Disney has been complicit in its decline. Your work as a complete corporate tool is doing nothing to correct the situation. You’d be well-advised to lay off lest you lose what little ability to sleep at night that you still might retain.

    Warm regards,

    A Music Lover.

  18. Billy: I appreciate the effort, but let’s not shoot the messenger here. He’s just doing the job he was hired to do; I doubt he made the decision to contact me. Complaining to Disney, Hollywood Records, and Queen would probably be more productive.

  19. Andy:

    I sent the letter to Disney HQ. Make no mistake: Plotnik’s not some passive entity here. He’s just as complicit in shaping corporate policy as any of the others. I suppose one could write to Eisner or Bob Cavallo (head of Buena Vista Music Group) but neither of them will know or care.

    I posted a copy of the letter to your site in the hope that it would inspire others to write to Disney as well.

    Best,

    BB

  20. I’m only a law STUDENT, so I can’t say this with absolute certainty, but my understanding of copyright infringment is that Disney/Hollywood records has to prove damages, that is: their sales suffered because people were listening to the sampled music and that the artists and/or distributors of the sampled music profited. Since you’re not profiting and they probably can’t effectively show damages, the legally appropriate thing to do is tell him to go fuck himself in a tactful sort of way. Good luck.

  21. I cannot host the temporary mirror on my site anymore, I’m afraid. I need to make place for other files… But seeing that there are other mirrors around, I hope this will not be a big problem.

    Andy, you can remove the link to almaren.ch from your mirror list whenever you want. Thanks for the heads-up and all the best!

  22. That Cease and Desist letter sent to Waxy was a fake fabricated by this guy Eric Kleptone to hype up the project.

    Duhhh!

  23. Your comment made me curious, so I dug up the original e-mail. Here are the mail headers, which prove without a doubt that the e-mail originated from Disney:

    Received: from mail1.disney.com (mail1.disney.com [204.128.192.18])

    by mail.waxy.org (Postfix) with ESMTP id AD01042C0B0

    for <domainATwaxy.org>; Tue, 9 Nov 2004 18:05:12 -0600 (CST)

    Received: from imr2.disney.pvt (imr2.disney.pvt [153.7.231.30]) by mail1.disney.com with ESMTP; Tue, 9 Nov 2004 16:05:02 -0800

    Received: from sm-cala-xc03.swna.wdpr.disney.com (sm-cala-xc03.swna.wdpr.disney.com [153.7.195.22]) by imr2.disney.pvt with ESMTP; Tue, 9 Nov 2004 16:04:53 -0800

    Received: from sm-cala-xm11.swna.wdpr.disney.com ([153.7.195.53]) by sm-cala-xc03.swna.wdpr.disney.com with Microsoft SMTPSVC(5.0.2195.6713);

  24. I’m curious if this was an email only, or if you actually received a letter from Disney’s attorney.

    The thread infers a letter, but then the comment on 12-8-04 makes me think that you may have only received an email. A competent attorney would send a cease and desist, via snail mail, certified.

  25. Money involved or not, copyright violation is copyright violation. Even if it’s ruled that what you’ve done didn’t ever hurt sales for anyone anywhere, you still violated copyright law and you will probably be fined the minimum fees + court and lawyer fees. The copyright office exists to give grounds of protection to people/companies, but their grounds of protection do not operate ONLY when owners of registered work(s) lose money. There are no such catches. Though I get what you’re saying. It’s strictly law.

  26. Some companies employ lawyers who inetntionaly look for someone to earn money on. Some lawyers have no honour and will exploit every single detail in your activity to bring you to the court and tu ruine you.

    This is the way these companies exists.

  27. Dear Disney,

    Please re-release SONG OF THE SOUTH!!!!!!!! I’ve always wanted to see it.

  28. Hi there,

    Just one of those internet tourists.

    So I was drifting around wikipedia looking for something to interest me while I wait for my big ol downloads to finish and here I find the genre of mash-up…. in short leading me to Kleptones then here..

    I had mash-ups on my playlist but thought they were sporadic one-offs by talented individuals…

    Turns out they’re geniuses.

    Same goes for all those guys who put those Anime Music Videos (ok alot of them are shit but I love some of the best of them)

    In about 3 hours a big ol torrent of books will finish downloading and I’ll expand my mind a little more, in 6 some cartoons for my niece will be done in time for her to come home from school.

    **************************

    I know I’m rambling but bear with me and it will make some sense…. I hope

    *************************

    In 1994 Kevin Smith made a movie for just $27,575 probably dreaming of chicks and fame but not pure Disney profit…. the movie was called Clerks and it rocked…

    I had a point to that one but lost it….. I’ll try again….

    Star Wars: A New Hope -$8,250,000 -Fucking Rocks

    Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – $115,000,000 -Fucking Blows

    Kleptones stuff probably cost next to nothing to make…. and made nothing back.

    MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING

    *****************************

    Ok I’ll stop soon

    *****************************

    In closing the phenomona of downloading is killing the commercial industries of music and film. In time I hope it will stop them from churning out the crap they do and begin to sponser something we’ll be willing to spend our money on.

    I am a Pirate and I’m holding about 400Gb on DVDs hostage till they recognise why we don’t want to spend our hard earned cash on their shit.

    My reign of terror will never end but I can’t continue without heroes like you out there….

    Keep seeding, ripping and encoding.

    The future is Kopyleft

    All Hail Discordia

    Ok, I’ll probably never vist this quiet corner again but keep up the good fight.

  29. you know, it occurs to me…ever wonder if this whole mess isnt just a rather elaborate marketing strategy? according to all the data iver read on it, file sharing has actually IMPROVED sales of most media that it has affected at all.

    but if they openly approved of file sharing, well, then they wouldnt have the “stickin it to the man” crowd, busting down the doors to share files like they do.

    and of course, they have to make it seem like theyre not all bluff and bluster (which of course they are), so they send letters out to people and threaten to sue, etc etc

    i’m NOT saying this is the case, but if you think about it, it DOES make a lot of sense

  30. dapulli wrote: “This style of remixing has been done for decades.”

    er, decades? I’m not one to go to bat for the corporate side, but be more accurate in your assertions to defend remixing. Your statement indicates a minimum of 20 years that ‘this kind’ of remixing has been done – back it up, or guys like Steve Plotkin will continue to prevail over all other arguments.

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