terre thaemlitz writings

The Beatport Incident
Unauthorized Mille Plateaux Back-Catalog Once Again Removed From Major Distribution Channels (Formerly: Mille Plateaux Back-Catalog Once Again Illegally Uploaded Into Major Distribution Channels)
- Terre Thaemlitz

An open letter to the press sent July 31, 2010, upon discovering the old Mille Plateaux back catalog had once again been uploaded into major distribution without authorization.

Screen capture of Beatport storefront selling unauthorized Mille Plateaux back-catalog on July 31, 2010 (indications in red by myself).

July 31, 2010 (Some content from original mailing revised here August 2, 2010)

To all members of the press,

I am shocked to say the original Mille Plateaux back-catalog has once again been illegally uploaded into major distribution systems, including Beatport, etc. As a result of a phone conversation between another involved party and a representative of Beatport Berlin, I am led to believe they had been provided the content by the distributor IODA, from whom I am attempting to get specific information about the uploader. (I will update this page with uploader information as soon as I have confirmed data.) This is devastating news for myself, as well as so many other Mille Plateaux artists who struggled for years to have the works removed from illegal distribution.

If possible, I would ask you to remind your readers that none of the original Mille Plateaux catalog is authorized for digital distribution, all contracts have since expired, and exclusive rights have returned to the original artists long ago. This includes both solo albums and compilation tracks. (The only legitimate Mille Plateaux downloads would be very recent projects released under the Mille Plateaux label name since it has been owned by Marcus Gabler [c.2008-present], which have nothing to do with the original Mille Plateaux catalog and are only related in label name). No matter how well reputed the stores selling the music may be, listeners should be aware that all such content is unauthorized, and we artists do not receive any money from their sale. The consumers' money is going to crooks - usually industry-related - who illegally and deliberately upload the materials solely for profit.

Meanwhile, we artists face tremendous difficulty in having our unauthorized works removed from online distribution systems. For example, it took me four years to have my old Mille Plateaux albums taken offline after Rai Streubel first uploaded them without authorization in 2005, after buying the Mille Plateaux label out of bankruptcy. The chief difficulties we face are 1) being dismissed as individuals incapable of legal action, and 2) a lack of information regarding the chain of command by which our releases were uploaded into the storefronts (which, for some mysterious reason, is a burden of proof that is expected of us before any discussion may begin).

Many online storefronts do not offer any direct means of contact for legal disputes. Clicking the various "Contact" buttons on sites such as eMusic or iTunes lead us through a maze of dead-end FAQ pages. If we manage to find a way to contact the storefronts about unauthorized contents, they generally ignore our emails unless we include specific names and details regarding from where they are receiving the content - information that is generally unavilable to us as "consumers" who just happened to accidentally stumble upon our works being sold illegally, and with no idea how they got uploaded. To further complicate matters, even if we have a suspicion about the identity of the illegal uploader, companies such as iTunes, Juno Download, and others who have illegally sold my albums over the years typically receive their content from central distributors (such as IODA or Iris Distribution). Therefore, in order to provide the storefront with a 'keyword' that triggers a response, we must not only track down the identity of the uploaders, but also the distributors with whom the uploaders are in contract. I assure you this is a very difficult and time consuming process which I have only been able to accomplish at rare times, and only through the assistance of well-connected friends in the industry.

In my experience, the way that storefronts dismiss or ignore notifications about unauthorized contents is extremely commonplace, if not SOP. If the storefronts do reply, they almost never share information about where they received the data, or to whom they have been paying royalties - that is, as I mentioned, until we dig up those names ourselves, at which point I assume the threat of legal implication becomes real to them. It is at this point that they suddenly act cooperative and deny any knowledge of the content having been unauthorized (despite many notices from us artists clearly stating we are the direct controllers of the works at issue). One cannot help but feel the storefronts are using distributors as legal buffers between themselves and the illegal uploaders, buying themselves additional sales time after our notifications rather than actively investigating our allegations. (In particular, I am thinking of my experiences several years ago with iTunes, emusic, Juno Download and others. One would think that even if the storefronts ran a quick check by contacting their distributors and were told the uploads were valid, they would provide us with a brief response stating they had contacted Distributor X who says they have a valid contract regarding the files with Uploader Y. Rather, we get silence.)

Clearly, distributors and storefronts are subjected to fraud and misrepresentation daily by swindlers presenting them with unauthorized contents. From a business perspective, when unauthorized uploaders sign distribution contracts it is the uploaders who misrepresent themselves and are liable for fraud. In this moment of signing the contract with an uploader, the distributor or storefront are not at fault, and are simply showing standard good faith in the representations of the uploader. I do not take issue with this process, and realize in this relation between distributor and uploader that the distributor has been tricked right along with us. However, I do take issue with the way in which distributors and storefronts fail to extend equal good faith to relevant persons outside their contracts - such as individual owners of the works fraudulently entered into their catalogs, particularly when we do not have the weight of a big company name or an administrative team behind us. To extend good faith to a party in contract, while showing no faith to the actual owners of unauthorized works (and in fact going so far as to create bureaucratic obstacles which prohibit our ability to inform them about works in violation) strikes me not only as irresponsible, but seems intended to preserve the possible profits of all contracts regardless of legality. It typifies a download marketplace that is preoccupied with amassing bulk quantities of data for no purpose other than to increase the odds of a sale.

Ironically, major distribution and the mainstream music industry spend millions of dollars on promotional and legal campaigns aimed at eliminating not-for-profit file sharing, all under a moralistic pretense of the fight to protect access to information worldwide. Let there be no mistake about the hypocrisy of the online music distribution system - including labels, distributors and storefronts - which is only concerned with profit, and has no interest in conceptualizing information as anything other than commerce. To the contrary, their moral march to "protect the rights of musicians" is our demise, individually and culturally. I would rather have my projects illegally shared freely a million times rather than illegally sold once by these cultural slaveholders. (The question of how those sharing my files freely expect me to survive is another issue... but it is an issue that is certainly not addressed by the music industry publicly claiming responsibility for the survival of people like myself.)

Please feel free to contact me if you are a member of the press and wish to have more information, or to investigate the matter on your own.


Terre Thaemlitz

P.S. You might also mention that I have nothing to do with files about me on YouTube, and the quality or content of those files should not be seen as representative of my projects.

Related links:

Former Mille Plateaux Artist Unauthorized MP3 Removal Assistance:

Former Mille Plateaux artists can email me at info(at)comatonse.com for email addresses where you can send requests about MP3 removal directly to the following companies:

  • Beatport: Relevant time period: April 23-August 3, 2010. Mille Plateaux back-catalog residing on Beatport's internal servers was accidentally re-activated. Beatport is offering each of the involved artists a one-time direct payment for 100% of the unauthorized sales.

  • Iris Distribution: Iris was the contracted global MP3 distributor for Mille Plateaux prior to it's purchase by Marcus Gabler in 2008. Iris should be contacted with regard to listing on iTunes, emusic, etc. NOTE: Be sure to tell Iris to remove the works from their EU partner Junodownload.com as well - I and others have noticed our works remained available on Juno for over a year after Iris should have removed them. They were removed after a second request was submitted to Iris.

  • And the following is a general contact at Apple regarding unauthorized distribution on iTunes: iTunes Legal Disputes mpd(at)apple.com

August 3, 2010 - Update 1

I have been directly contacted by a senior official at Beatport who assures me they are investigating this matter and will take action soon.

August 3, 2010 - Update 2

I have been forwarded an email by a senior official at IODA who says they find no reference to the Mille Plateaux back-catalog in their distributorship, and that the only Mille Plateaux items they do sell are related to the current catalog released since Marcus Gabler's takeover of the label name. Independent searches for Mille Plateaux content in the IODA database simultaneously forwarded to me by an IODA business partner seem to verify this, meaning it appears the files were not provided through IODA.

August 3, 2010 - Update 3

I wish to announce my unauthorized back-catalog, as well as all other Mille Plateaux catalog excluding the five valid and recent titles currently held by Marcus Gabler, have been removed from Beatport - to which the problem seems to have been isolated.

I have looked at Beatport's homepage and confirmed they are no longer online from my end, and Beatport informs me that even if a customer somewhere still temporarily sees the releases in cache they cannot be purchased. Matthew Adell, COO of Beatport, writes:

    Beatport was contacted by Mr. Thaemlitz after business hours on Friday, July 30 notifying us that this content, who's rights had reverted back to the original artists after a long dispute. [Note from Terre: while the spirit of Mr. Adell's comment is correct, the rights did not revert after a long dispute, but after the 5-year terms of the original contracts - which only covered CD and vinyl sales - had naturally concluded. Any ensuing dispute was simply having the terms of those original contracts adhered to.]
    Upon resuming business on Monday, August 2, Beatport's Label Management team investigated and discovered that when Mille Plateaux was activated onto Beatport under the account of its new distributor, that the previously inactive content delivered to Beatport by their old distributor was inadvertently made active as part of the switch.
    All of the previously inactive Mille Plateaux content was removed from Beatport as of 10am Mountain Time on Monday, August 2.

In this instance, it appears the files were not maliciously uploaded by a third party, but were entered into Beatport's system around May, 2010, as the result of a combination of human and computer error. Old contents which had been offline were inadvertently re-activated by Beatport when they received valid catalog from IODA. (Insert bad joke about Mille Plateaux being the ultimate in 'glitch' music here.) The question of who received payments for items sold (if any), and who was aware of this problem prior to my original letter, is under investigation.

Beatport was unaware that the files were unauthorized until I contacted them on Friday, July 30. Clearly, in this instance, they acted very quickly and cooperatively in getting the materials offline.

I must say the speed of this situation is nothing short of miraculous. There is no doubt this would not have been possible without the kind assistance of many personal contacts (including a personal contact at Beatport who had supported my projects since my first release in 1993, and friend in the media with personal contacts to a top official at IODA), as well as a tremendous internet buzz initiated by fans and members of the press. I, and the other artists affected by this action, owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all of you.

My joy and relief in this instance are tempered by the fact that the problems with file removal which I discussed in my original letter below remain real within the industry. It is my sincere hope that storefronts will adapt easier systems through which individual artists and rights holders may contact them, and that our notifications will be taken as seriously as they have been in this case. While I understand companies wish to avoid being inundated with prank claims on valid catalogs, the methods by which they attempt to shield themselves from such SPAM should not impeed or unnecessarily complicate their receipt of valid removal requests. I am not speaking of the roadblocks presented by some random site in Russia selling MP3 files found for free on our artist pages (which is another problem), but the practices of the giants of download industry.

While I was relieved to discover this recent upload of back-catalog appears to have not been initiated maliciously, there remain serious concerns about who had received payments from Beatport (if any), and would have therefore been aware of this problem but failed to act appropriately by notifying the distributor and artists. Much of the anger I expressed toward the music industry in my original letter was fueled not only by the ambivalance of storefronts and distributors in the past, but by a history of this back-catalog being uploaded by a small circle of business persons who had at one point or another been related to the Mille Plateaux name. I confess, in this instance, there was an unusual (if not discreet) amount of assistance from these parties in gathering information regarding the Beatport uploads. It is my sincere wish that none of them had their hand in the cookie jar.

August 7, 2010 - Update 4 - Final

I consider the problem to be resolved. The following is a synopsis of key points:

  • Beatport has admitted full repsonsibility for the uploads, which went online accidentally on April 23, 2010, when new (and legal) releases by Marcus Gabler's Mille Plateaux were delivered by IODA. When putting the new files online, Beatport also reactivated backup copies of old Mille Plateaux files they had received years ago from Iris Distribution.

  • Beatport took down all unauthorized files on August 3, 2010, and deleted all backups from their servers.

  • Beatport is reaching out to all affected artists, and is offering us one-time direct payment for 100% of the unauthorized sales.

  • The distributors IODA and Iris were not involved in the Beatport uploads, and were previously unaware of the files being online.

  • Mille Plateaux, Marcus Gabler, Rai Streubel, Achim Szepanski, Bernd Lennartz, and any other people related to various incarnations of Mille Plateaux in the past or present were not involved in the uploads. I have also confirmed through Beatport and IODA that none of these parties received any payments for sales of the unauthorized materials from Beatport. I am personally aware that both Lennartz and Gabler were actively assisting in resolving this problem by being in direct contact with Beatport, IODA, artists, etc.

  • Beatport says it is likely that they made payments for at least a portion of the sales to IODA during routine payments for 2010 Second Quarter sales, which went out between July 30-August 3 (just as this was all blowing up). IODA says they are unaware of having received monies from the unauthorized sales, and they are investigating the matter. If such monies are found, they will return the funds to Beatport in light of Beatport's payments to artists (otherwise, IODA says they would pay the artists directly). Since IODA has yet to make their first payment to Marcus Gabler for (legal) Mille Plateaux content sold by Beatport, any money IODA received from Beatport would still be strictly internal.

  • Iris tells me they are invesetigating unauthorized back-catalog that remains for sale on eMusic. These titles have been online constantly since the initial unauthorized uploads in 2005, and are unrelated to the problem at Beatport - they are part of the ongoing original problem. Since none of these releases are related to me directly (which means I have no legal relation to them), I strongly urge all affected artists to pursue their removal from Iris' system. Please contact me for relevant Iris contact details.

As anyone can tell from my open letter of July 31, since the beginning I had serious concerns about the materials being re-uploaded maliciously. Therefore, if only to appease my own suspicions, I believe I have been extra thorough in confirming this was an accident confined to Beatport, as well as verifying that none of the "usual suspects" involved with past abuses of the Mille Plateaux back-catalog were responsible for this incident. On a side note, the reason why my original letter stated the files were available on "Beatport, etc." - and not just on Beatport - was because at the time of writing Beatport was still saying the materials were provided by IODA, which is the official distributor of the current Mille Plateaux label, and which delivers content to a large number of vendors through 24 distributors worldwide. The fact that back-catalog still remains online at eMusic and a few other places made it appear the "Beatport incident" (as it shall henceforth be known) was yet another act within an ongoing drama, rather than a new and isolated event. Although I feel my suspicions in this instance were justified by my intimate awareness of the first, malicious, illegal, and still partially active upload of unauthorized Mille Plateaux back-catalog, I apologize for the misassumptions I made about this case.

Screen capture of Beatport as of August 3, 2010, 13:30 JPT. Unauthorized Mille Plateaux back-catalog removed or inactive.