Franz Ferdinand Sends Web-Sheriff After Pirates

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Confessed pirates themselves, Franz Ferdinand have recently taken a pro-piracy stance, encouraging fans to download some of their work. It was therefore quite a surprise to hear that the band has recently hired the infamous Web-Sheriff to stop people from downloading their recently leaked album "Tonight".

web sheriffFranz Ferdinand are a band from Glasgow, Scotland, and were formed in 2001. The band has had quite a few hits, and received NME awards for the best album and track of 2005, and for the best live act in 2006.

Last year, the band were working on their yet-to-be-released studio album “Tonight”. Like many other albums, however, a copy of “Tonight” leaked out before the official release date, and it is now widely available online. Given the previous pro-piracy stance of the band, which got them on the front page of Digg, you wouldn’t expect that they would make a big deal out of it.

The contrary is true. The band, together with the record label, have instructed the one and only Web-Sheriff – who also works for Prince, Michael Jackson and Village People – to take on the sites that posted the album, or links to it. One of the sites that received a takedown notice recently is Scene Releases. Web-Sheriff wrote in an email to the site:

On behalf of Domino Records and Franz Ferdinand, we would kindly ask you not to post copies of ‘Tonight’ on your site. We do appreciate that you are fans of / are promoting Franz Ferdinand, but the label and artist would greatly appreciate your co-operation in removing your links to the pirate files in question.

Web-Sheriff, who sent similar emails to dozens of other sites, is known for his politeness – if you cooperate, that is. Normally, this takedown request would hardly be newsworthy, but this one is special. Only a few months ago, Franz Ferdinand openly encouraged its fans to pirate one of their new tracks, advocating downloading using LimeWire. They even confessed to being pirates themselves, by admitting copying CDs for use on their iPods – currently illegal in the UK. So, understandably, the partnership with Web-Sheriff comes as quite a surprise.

Faolan, one of the editors of Scene Releases, was as baffled as we are, and decided to ask the sheriff for an explanation. Instead of explaining why Franz Ferdinand performed this 180, Web-Sheriff replied with a list of threats, claiming that Scene Releases could be held liable for putting links up to the unreleased album. He replied:

Joking aside, you are currently acting as a de facto digital distributor of this (unreleased) album and, if you do not remove / de-activate the links that you have published, our clients shall be obliged to take legal action both to stop what you are doing and to seek compensation for the (extensive) commercial losses directly arising from your illegal activities.

Furthermore, the sheriff stressed that the email should not be shared with third parties, a tactic also employed by UK lawyers Davenport Lyons, in an attempt to stifle discussion. Faolan told TorrentFreak that the reply from the sheriff inspired him to keep the conversation going. He believes that he didn’t break any laws by merely linking to files that are hosted on other sites. In fact, the links that Scene Releases posted at the bottom of their article were already dead (removed by the associated hosting sites) by the time Web Sheriff sent his reply.

Scene Releases was not the only release blog that was contacted by Web-Sheriff, the conversation that he had with RLSLOG is just as entertaining. After RLSLOG pointed out to Web-Sheriff that he misspelled the domain name, he didn’t back off, and sent the following demands:

You must also arrange for the following apology to be published on the relevant page of the site for a period of seven (7) days : “RSLOG wishes to apologies to Franz Ferdinand, Domino Records and Web Sheriff for the disruption caused to their sales, marketing and promotion plans by our publishing of pirate file details relating to the unreleased album “Tonight”.

Yes, you’re reading it correctly, the Web -Sheriff is asking RLSLOG (or RSLOG) to make an apology, and he repeated his spelling mistake. The admin ignored all his requests, and replied with the following email:

Thanks for good laugh, i will probably publish this whole conversation somewhere, it’s too good to remain unknown! Once again, learn to type instead of drinking brandy in saloon.

Yours, Old Shaterhand

The question remains – does Franz Ferdinand know about the involvement of Web Sheriff and his threatening tone towards the site admins, or is it all orchestrated by the record label? We hope that it’s the latter, but thus far the band hasn’t responded to our inquiries. Franz Ferdinand’s new album Tonight will be available in stores on January 26th.


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