I haven't seen this news out there, in the Hi World! part of the world so here goes. Jack White has declared that none of his live recordings may be shared by fans.
On the 21st May, one Jack White fan who was sharing live concerts via Mediafire received a Cease and Desist (C&D) letter. Not a DMCA Takedown notice, or a notice of violation of TOS, but a full-blown letter written by Jack White's lawyer Stacy Fass, and reading in part:
I represent Jack White. It has come to my attention that, in violation of multiple rights of my client's, as well as violation of the clearly posted rules of The Ryman Theater, you audio/visually recorded Jack White live performance on either or both May 15 and May 16, 2012, and have posted the same to the public.It was addressed to a first name and username rather than a legal name, and used that odd phrase "posted to the public" but it was still very definitely a lawyer's letter, and the person involved took the files down immediately.
Let's take a step back. Copying a piece of artwork, like a record, and selling it to the public is usually called piracy, and the folks who do it are chased down and prosecuted. Taping a live recording, and making it available for free to other fans, although similar copyright regulations apply, is generally tolerated by bands. These files are often called ROIO, recordings of independent origin, and the people who tape and upload are called bootleggers, in the old tradition, although most of them would call themselves simply tapers. Taping has been going on a long time – bands like the Grateful Dead have special areas in front of the stage where tapers can set up good equipment not be bothered by noisy fans during the recording.
Jack White has been cool with it too. Hundreds of recordings from the White Stripes days were circulating. There was no discussion of whether Raconteurs or Dead Weather shows could or could not be taped, and so plenty of people taped or videoed those as well – and White said nothing. The current tour, though, has a posted no photographs, no taping policy in place. (I think – I've only seen no photography signs, but I'm told it was made clear Jack White did not want taping.)
So since there is a posted no taping, no photographs policy at the current live shows, was this C&D letter just a shot across the bows to show he really meant it? Jack likes to be in control of every aspect of his image, and so to save us the bother and to provide the professional touch, he posts photographs of every concert taken by his house photographer to his website. Maybe, we thought, he's keeping the videos off the inadequate screen of YouTube-o-vision in preparation for a blistering live release later on?
Good thought, but no. For a start there have been several audio and video webcasts of this concert series all webcast on YouTube with Computer Speaker Sound, so it can't be the quality that's bugging him. And secondly, a day after the first letter (that I know about) was received, the popular filesharing site Dime received a request to put Jack White on the Not Allowed Bands list (NAB), along with the previously untroubling bands, The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.
The day after that, another fan of my acquaintance got a C&D letter to take Jack White recordings off Mediafire. (In amongst all of this, I got a DMCA Takedown to take a Jack White interview off Mediafire, but since it contained no music, I'm assuming this was coincidental. I deleted my Mediafire account anyway, just in case.) He means it.
The thing that's bothering the fans I know is White's silence in the matter. Nothing has been said on the Vault, nothing on Third Man Records' blog, nothing on Jack White's website, and nothing on the fan message board where this first came up – even though we know that various Third Man honchos trawl the messageboard whenever they feel like seeing what real-life people are doing.
What bugs folks
When the White Stripes broke up, White issued a statement that said in part:
Quoting this tends to lead to derisive laughter from other parties and a sneery "Did you really think he meant he was putting his music in the public domain?" Well, no, but we thought he meant what he said, within the usual borders of artistic license – that fans have a part to play in the legacy of the White Stripes. Now, we are told, we apparently don't have a part to play – except to consume product – and Jack hasn't said why.
I'm sure someone will write and ask why I'm complaining that my entitlement has disappeared or why I felt this was ever okay to do. Good questions – but I'm not complaining, just wondering why there's a change in a laisser faire policy that's been in effect for more than ten years. And I felt it was okay to share ROIO because I'm quite sure they never cost a sale.
On the contrary, folks who share files usually buy a lot of merchandise. I buy a rock bottom minimum of $240 a year from Third Man, since I'm a Vault member and that's what it costs. I buy official releases as they come out, t shirts, posters and the usual doodads. I have a Raconteurs stylophone! If that's not buying product, I don't know what is. And on the other hand, having access to the live files means we can interest new fans. I'm not big on the White Stripes myself, but I'm told those live shows are blistering, and a listen to those can turn waverers into fans like a switch being thrown.
I'm equally sure that Brendan Benson, Little Jack Lawrence, Patrick Keeler and Dean Fertita were enjoying having these advertisements for their songwriting and playing and (in three of their cases) general rock and roll badassery being circulated by fans. No need to inveigle anyone to click on a photo of one weird tip here – people are actually seeking out these performances and listening to them and then going out and buying more – it's a marketer's dream.
So what did we do to make you mad this time, baby?