US singer-songwriter Aimee Mann is suing MediaNet, alleging that the digital content provider is distributing some music without having the proper licences in place.
MediaNet – once known as MusicNet – began life as a joint venture between EMI and the original BMG, during that short period in the very early days of digital when the big music companies hoped to control the distribution of digital music. Like that created by rivals Sony and Universal, Pressplay, the original MusicNet platform was God awful, and was kicked out of the game in 2003 by some new fangled thing called the iTunes Music Store.
But MusicNet reinvented itself, with some success, as a white-label provider of digital music services, powering the download and streaming platforms of other brands. And while its profile in the industry has waned somewhat in recent years, it still powers music services by some substantial brands including – according to its website – Yahoo, MTV and Microsoft’s Zune.
MediaNet – as it became known when its ambitions moved beyond music – has deals in place with all the major record companies and a plethora of indies. Self-releasing artists can also upload their content to the MediaNet libraries via TuneCore. There have been some disputes on the publishing side, namely with the American music publishing sector’s main ‘mechanical rights’ body the Harry Fox Agency, but that squabble was settled out of court.
Nevertheless, according to Mann, there is still music in the MediaNet system that is not fully licensed. Specifically, the lawsuit relates to an agreement she made directly with the digital company in 2003, which she says was terminated in 2006 by a legal notice, issued by her lawyers in line with the two parties’ contract. Yet, Mann alleges, MediaNet continues to distribute her works, and is at the same time failing to pay any royalties.
Although the dispute really relates to that 2003 contract, Mann’s lawyer is spinning the matter as being another example of the digital music industry screwing over artists, referencing the recent Spotify debate initiated by Nigel Godrich and Thom Yorke, and the ongoing Pandora-bashing that has been taking place in America (and Pink Floyd’s op ed piece on that debate).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mann’s lawyer Maryann Marzano said: “Not only does this case seek redress for Aimee Mann against one of the world’s largest but least known providers of online music, it also serves as a call to other artists to follow the lead set by Radiohead and Pink Floyd to put an end to the unlicensed, uncompensated use of their music by online services”.