The music industry has had a difficult relationship with new technologies over the past several decades.
Cassette tapes, recordable CDs, MP3s, and streaming services have all been described as a major threat to the revenues of artists and labels.
More recently, various blockchain and NFT projects are seen as a growing problem. Earlier this year, the RIAA went after NFT marketplace HitPiece, describing it as a scam site designed to lead fans to believe that they had bought artist-endorsed collectibles.
HitPiece pulled the plug following this critique and NFT Music Stream followed soon after. But these aren’t the only sites with problematic NFTs. In a Variety op-ed published in March, RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier wrote that the problem is much bigger as many more sites are selling ‘infringing’ NFTs.
“These sites are charging exorbitant prices for these NFTs, promising ownership in a ‘unique song recording’ and often featuring album art or artist photos to lure in unsuspecting fans,” Glazier cautioned.
The problem isn’t limited to dedicated music NFT projects that sell ‘rights’ to songs and album art. Broader NFT marketplaces, through which third-party sellers can auction NFTs, present challenges as well. And for the RIAA, these issues hit close to home.
RIAA Goes After .ETH Domains
The music industry group recently sent a takedown notice to NFT marketplace OpenSea, asking the platform to remove several listings for Ethereum Name Service (ENS) domain names. These blockchain-based domains are known for their .ETH extension and are popular among crypto aficionados.
The RIAA doesn’t have any issue with the domain service itself but takes offense when third parties sell domains with RIAA branding and the names of its members and executives.
An RIAA takedown notice sent to OpenSea lists 51 ENS domain name auctions, including RIAA.eth, Sony-music.eth, Warnermusicgroup.eth, Atlanticrecords.eth, Virginrecords.eth, Universalmusic.eth and republic-records.eth.
In addition, several .ETH domains are named after music industry executives including RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier, Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer, and Columbia Records CEO Ron Perry.
The RIAA is not happy with these domain name auctions and recently filed a request for them to be removed. The group informed OpenSea that they violate the rights of the RIAA and those of its members.
“The ENS domain names […] infringe RIAA’s or our members’ trademarks, as they cause dilution, confusion, and/or tarnishment of these trademarks. The sale of these ENS domain names is also actionable under the Lanham Act.
“In addition, the sale of ENS domain names that contain the names of executives at RIAA or our member companies violates the AntiCybersquatting Consumer Protection Act,” the music group informed the platform.
OpenSea appears to have complied with this request as all of the listings have now been removed. Instead of a domain auction, the auction URLs now point to a delisting message.
While the RIAA certainly has grounds to take action against trademark infringements, not all domains are obviously problematic. After all, there are other people named Ron Perry or Rob Stringer who now have no opportunity to buy those domain names.
We reached out to the RIAA for more information but the group declined to make further comment. We expect that this won’t be the last time that it takes action against NFTs though.
The RIAA’s action coincides with a PR campaign from LimeWire, which just launched its own NFT marketplace. Ironically, the original LimeWire was previously shut down by the RIAA after being sued for copyright infringement.
This LimeWire reincarnation has nothing to do with the original file-sharing software. Even its founder is less than thrilled to see the brand being used for this new purpose. The domain name and other assets were sold last year and are now in the hands of a completely different team.
Given the brand’s history, the new LimeWire will be cautious of copyright issues. Its initial partnership with Soulja Boy shows that the platform is actively teaming up with artists, albeit one with a ‘piracy’ history. In addition, the site appears to be virus-free as well.
A copy of the RIAA/OpenSea takedown notice, obtained by TorrentFreak from a third-party source, is available here.