SoundCloud Gets Heat From Kaskade & Former Loyalists Over Illegal Licenses

Policing the so-called YouTube of audio has made enemies

A recent rise in the number of tracks flagged and removed by ­Sound­Cloud's automatic piracy detection system has some wondering about the uneasy dance between the site and its key users: DJs.

Widely hailed as the YouTube of audio, SoundCloud was once a playground for emerging producers to upload and share music for free, largely unpoliced. But with more than 250 million active monthly users, the platform has outgrown its underground roots and seems to be playing by the rules. To wit: Superstar DJ Kaskade (real name: Ryan Raddon) left the platform after 32 of his files were flagged as potential copyright violators and taken down. He later posted a letter on his website begging lawmakers and file-sharing websites to "free the music." It could be a while.

Sources within SoundCloud reveal that the site is in talks (how far along is unclear) with record labels for licensing deals that would trade equity for the freedom to continue sharing copyrighted songs on the site. Congress is also debating whether current copyright laws should be revised. Some involved believe the hearings could go on for at least another year. "They're in the weeds," says Greg Barnes, general counsel for the Digital Media Association. "I don't see it ending soon."

In the meantime, DJs are struggling to find a home for covers, mashups and remixes, which often serve as their creative currency, and there are few, if any, file-sharing alternatives that offer SoundCloud's exposure. Still, adds Christopher Sprigman, who teaches law at New York University, "Fair use is not an algorithmic thing. It's a case-by-case call. Those calls shouldn't be made by robots."


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