Does the Universal Music Group have unfettered access to SoundCloud?

A minor furor has erupted over SoundCloud's removal of a DJ's radio show and the supposed access SoundCloud gave to Universal Music Group in removing it. An email exchange between SoundCloud and the DJ was posted to the blog Do Androids Dance, in which SoundCloud is seen to write: "The control of removing content is completely with Universal. This means I can't tell you why they removed your uploads and not others, and you would really need to ask them that question."

The response has led to speculation of SoundCloud giving UMG -- and, it's very likely, all major labels -- keys to a "backdoor" to the service, which a source at Universal maintained is not the case. "There's a tool, similar to other platforms, where we provide SoundCloud a list of offending URLs. We're notifying them with the tool they've provided," a source told Billboard. "Unless there's a specific reason, like a pre-release leak, it just wouldn't come down willy-nilly."

Our source continued, "It's similar to the way it works with YouTube: you send in a request, and the content could come down immediately or be reposted, if there's a question as to the legitimacy of the takedown request."

Our contact said that SoundCloud, and a lack of transparency on their part, is the root of the uproar. "SoundCloud should be clear with the user about why, and the process underlying it. This story is spiraling because they're not being transparent."

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A spokesperson for SoundCloud told Billboard, "We cannot comment on specific cases or specific rights holders, but we apply our processes consistently and fairly. If any user believes that content has been removed in error -- for example, because they had the necessary permissions from Universal Music and/or any other rights holder -- then they are free to dispute the takedown."

The service was also criticized recently by the producer Kaskade, who posted about his takedown.

SoundCloud existed for years as an un-monetized, slightly Wild West-esque platform for all forms of audio content to be uploaded. Recent developments, however, show the company, valued at $2 billion and having raised $123.3 million since its founding in 2007 according to CrunchBase, slowly moving towards generating revenue (outside of the charges for its professional-level accounts) from its global footprint. The company implemented a copyright identification system similar to YouTube's Content ID earlier this year, writing at the time, "Our Terms of Use state that SoundCloud reserves the right to remove audio that is deemed to possibly violate anyone’s rights. Users and content owners can still report tracks using the '!' button on the right hand side of track pages, and this technology allows us to preempt any audio that potentially infringes our Terms of Use."

As well, there have been persistent rumors since the spring of this year that the company is looking to be acquired.