Billy Bragg and MySpace

Interesting piece in today’s NYT…

When he is not writing or performing protest songs, the British folk-rocker Billy Bragg is apparently reading the fine print.

In May, Mr. Bragg removed his songs from the Web site, complaining that the terms and conditions that MySpace set forth gave the social networking site far too much control over music that people uploaded to it. In media interviews and on his MySpace blog, he said that the MySpace terms of service made it seem as though any content posted on the site, including music, automatically became the site’s property.

Although MySpace had not claimed ownership of his music or any other content, Mr. Bragg said the site’s legal agreement — which included the phrase “a nonexclusive, fully paid and royalty-free worldwide license” — gave him cause for concern, as did the fact that the formerly independent site was now owned by a big company (the News Corporation, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch).

Mr. Bragg said that he himself had kept most of the copyrights to his recordings, licensing them out to the various record companies that have released his albums over the years. “My concern,” he said in a telephone interview, “is the generation of people who are coming to the industry, literally, from their bedrooms.”

About a month later, without referencing Mr. Bragg’s concerns, clarified its terms of service, which now explain who retains what rights. A sample line: “The license you grant to is nonexclusive (meaning you are free to license your content to anyone else in addition to”

Jenny Toomey, executive director of the Future of Music Coalition, an advocacy group for musicians that focuses on intellectual property rights, said the Internet could help musicians warn one another about potential contractual problems. “Information is now shared in a different way,” she said, “and artists who are getting a bad deal can connect with each other.”

Mr. Bragg, who said he never had any direct communication with executives from MySpace, has put some of his music back on the site. And he offered some praise for the site’s effectiveness in spreading his message. “That’s the amazing thing about MySpace,” he said. “If you say something, word gets out.”