Rarely does anything within the music industry move fast. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), however, has a fire lit under it when it comes to addressing the NFT debacle created by HitPiece last week.
If you recall, HitPiece is a website that’s been up since November but just last week exploded into notoriety by uploading digital song files — from iTunes, Spotify and other digital distribution platforms — from musicians and labels of all genres and sizes, from indie musicians just starting out to music owned by Disney and other major corporations, and promised to sell NFTs from this music to the highest bidder, all without securing any rights, royalties, permissions or even having a conversation with the artists beforehand.
Needless to say, this was a horrible idea: within hours of setting this idea in motion, the site was pulled offline and a ridiculous sounding “apology” was posted, promising that the guys behind HitPiece had “started a conversation” and were “ready to listen.”
Well, listen to this, RIAA is saying loud and clear: You’re done.
In a letter sent late Friday, the RIAA notifies HitPiece it will be facing legal action for “infringing music creator Intellectual Property (IP) rights” It demands HitPiece “provide a complete listing of site activities and revenues to date and account for all NFTs and artwork auctioned off,” something musicians and labels can’t do right now because the site is basically useless and inaccessible.
Mitch Glazier, RIAA’s chairman and chief operating officer, said the organization decided to move quickly because, “As music lovers and artists embrace new technologies like NFTs, there’s always someone looking to exploit their excitement and energy. Given how fans were misled and defrauded by these unauthorized NFTs and the massive risk to both fans and artists posed by HitPiece and potential copycats, it was clear we had to move immediately and urgently to stand up for fairness and honesty in the market.”
While the website and its underlying framework “appears to be little more than a scam operation designed to trade on fans’ love of music and desire to connect more closely with artists,” HitPiece used buzzwords, jargon and professional and exciting sounding promises to try and cover up its fraudulent activities, including the absolute lack of communication with, and permission from, musicians and labels, says Ken Doroshow, RIAA’s chief legal officer. HitPiece might be offline for now, but the RIAA had to take action “to ensure that this site or copycats don’t simply resume their scams under another name.”
The letter, written by Jared Freedman, RIAA senior vice president for litigation, says Hit Pieces’ operations “have been variously described in recent days as a ‘scam,’ a ‘complete sham,’ ‘immoral,’ ‘unethical’ and a ‘fraud.’ All of these criticisms are of course accurate. Although it appears that your clients now contend that they did not actually include any sound recordings with their NFTs (which, if true, likely amounts to yet another form of fraud), it is undeniable that, to promote and sell their NFTs, your clients used the names and images of the record companies’ recording artists, along with copyrighted album art and other protected images, the rights to which belong to the recording companies and their artists. Your clients’ outright theft of these valuable intellectual property rights is as outrageous as it is brazen.”
By the way, the HitPiece debacle came to light Tuesday afternoon/evening and other than a really lame change to the main image on their website, a non-apology apology, the company has not made any comment to any reporter or publication anywhere.
I sent a DM to both one of the company’s co-founders and the company’s Twitter account directly, since all tweets from musicians to HitPiece’s account on Tuesday were replied to with “DM me” type comments. No response there either, but I, too, am ready to listen if anyone from HitPiece would like to talk.