Music services may have other issues lurking beneath the copyright mess, explained panelists at the SF Music Tech Summit on Monday. Because a few large companies are dominant access points, they can have the ability to exert a great deal of control over music companies.

For example, Facebook frequently changes its rules, explained Topspin Media’s Jan D’Alessandro. To stay within these rules, service providers need to make sure they are operating on safe ground.

“One of the recent changes they made is that you cannot incentivize users to take any action on Facebook. For instance, you can’t say, ‘Become a friend and we’ll give you something for free.’” That means brands, artists and labels need to be careful how they structure promotions and giveaways. “They’re very powerful and they’re very aware of that power.”

That ability to shut off an access point like Facebook can be more powerful -- and move much faster -- than copyright law, explained Milt Olin of Altschul & Olin. A service with broad terms of use -- even broader than copyright law -- can shut off a company in violation of those rules, and in the process shut off vital access to fans and consumers.

“I think one of the things that’s problematic for us as a copyright society is that you’re seeing those limitations be broader (than copyright law) and actually enforceable. All of a sudden, you’ve got terms of use and licensing policies and privacy policies that trump copyright.”

Mark Lemley of Stanford Law School and Durie Tangri concurred with Olin. “As we move to a couple of platforms that you really have to be on in order to succeed on the Internet, the difficulty becomes you can suddenly just not be there anymore.”

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print