Commercial use

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The YouTube video of “That Song that Sounds a Whole Lot Like ‘Toy'” was pulled down, which seems like a tacit admission that proper protocols were not observed when it was made. And one of the Korean fans has managed to get through to Poptime, so it seems like Seven Seasons is definitely going to know about it.

(Original Tweet here. And thank you!)

The thing that could potentially make this really expensive for the guy is that it’s a commercial release–“TStSaWLL’T'” (a.k.a. “Megafon”) is on iTunes and Amazon and Google Play and Spotify and God only knows what other retail outlets. That makes its a very different creature than a mixtape using an unlicensed sample from “Toy,” which would likely not be a big deal.

Notice something interesting? When it comes to classifying as song as a commercial release, it doesn’t matter if it makes any money. The mere presence of “TStSaWLL’T'” on retail sites is enough to make it a commercial release. Has the song sold not a single copy? Did the guy actually lose money on it? It doesn’t matter.

I have seen this concept repeatedly confound newbie writers. You tell them that they are making a commercial release when they self-publish a book, and they tell you:

  • “I haven’t made any money from this!”
  • “This isn’t a commercial book–it’s literature.”
  • “There’s not a publishing house involved. It’s just me.”
  • “I’m fine if I don’t make money–this is really a passion project.”

Nobody cares!!! Are you putting your work up for sale? Yes? That’s enough! It’s a commercial release now, and nobody gives a fuck about the rest of it.

The thing is that, at least in the United States, the holder of the copyright on something has certain rights regardless of how the property is used–but they often distinguish between what’s called personal use and what’s called commercial use.

So, let’s say there’s some cool clip art out there, as well as some bitchin’ fonts, and you have used these time and time again to advertise your church’s bake sale or your school club or whatever. You never had to pay for any of this artwork, and that was never a problem–you’ve never even had to think about it.

Because you were engaged in personal use.

Try slapping that shit on the cover of something you’re going to sell, and suddenly there’s a whole bunch of problems. There’s all this small print about “commercial licenses,” and if you don’t pay it any mind, lawyers send you nasty letters and you have to pay a bunch of money.

Do I think that kind of slippery-slope thing is what happened here? I have no idea–maybe the dude thought that Korea is so far away that no one could possibly figure out what he’d done! (It’s not like they have the Internet there, right?) (ETA: We know more now.) But a lot of newer artists do kind of have trouble wrapping their brains around the fact that the arts are commercial–these are businesses and industries, and you can’t get away from that no matter how bohemian or small-time you are.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a commercial artist, if you’re putting it up for sale, the law thinks that you are one–and it’s important to know that.

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18 responses »

  1. Thank goodness Kfans found out what was up,the language barrier is tough sometimes. I’m really impressed it got taken down in about 24 hrs considering there were at least 3 different languages involved.This Sven deleted the English remarks from his Ig.There weren’t too many of them & basically ppl were just telling him he needed to clarify how he came to use Toy in his mv & he was headed for trouble. I don’t have any idea what it would cost to legally sample a popular,well known,award winning song like Toy but from the looks of things I doubt he’d be in the market to pay much of anything. Unless he’s wealthy & this is just some vanity project he does on the side the vibe I got was of a garage band that might be known in a limited area & play in small venues where they sell their CD’s at the bar after the gig…The whole thing baffles me because if you’re going to take someone else’s music wouldn’t you at least,y’know,Google that shit first to see if it was well known?? If he’d used one of their lesser known B tracks who knows how long it might’ve gone undetected but TOY !!?? Really….? 🙄

    • Well, it’s a distinctive hook. That’s always the issue with sampling, even when it’s done legally–the good bits are always REALLY recognizable, and you have to work pretty hard to create a song that doesn’t just make everyone think of the earlier one.

      The sad thing is, he could have cobbled together a “Toy”-like riff and basically done his song without the headaches. But laaaaaazyyyy……

      • He’s not a new artist, either. He had a fair number of other music videos up (I didn’t count, but it was more than 2), so he and his management should’ve known better.

        • I doubt he has management–he doesn’t have a label (recordJet puts out whatever for a fee). His YT channel has been up about a year (ETA: Whoops, my bad–three years), and he’s done a lot of songs in a short period of time, which is grand if you don’t cut corners….

      • Lazy indeed & I’m not sure the talent level is there to attempt any reworking of the melody either,so he probably thought he was taking the path of least resistance & had no clue he kicked a beehive..Has anyone bothered to listen to any of his other stuff to see if it sounds “familiar”?

          • If I can find a minute I think I’ll try to suffer through whatever I can find just out of curiosity.If he Has & it’s something I listen to…you’d think though since he got caught he’d remove any other offending works but he strikes me as a German version of the DoucheBroDude so…he “advertises” FFF on his Ig flipping double birds at the camera,pretty much the very definition of “cringe”.

                  • Rofl…please,I have to pace myself..I know allergies have my sinuses a wreck but I swear I started getting a headache.

                  • No sympathy here either,he pretty much cancelled that out w/his brazen disregard of the talents someone else possesses.

                    • Right? I used to host Meetups that were basically seminars on how to self-publish, and that’s what I told people (cover art is a big challenge for most writers). We all live or die by this copyright system, and it’s a HUGE dick move to screw over someone else who also works in the arts. Solidarity, please!

                    • Solidarity indeed,it was like a stab in the back to I-rap/hip-hop. I’ve listened to rap by Italian,S.African & Russian artists that might not be to everyone’s taste but it sure didn’t sound like anyone else’s work. I don’t know a thing about this Sven other than this weasel move he pulled w/Toy but he seems to need to either stop deluding himself about his talent level or go take some music classes & try to improve. Find your lane & stay in it….If I could write & needed cover art I knew I wasn’t able to do I’d go find someone to hire for that.If his lyrics are any good (?) but he can’t write music or rap for shit then try to hook up a collab w/someone.If he can make “official”,”prank” & “parodie” videos he surely can look for other musicians.

  2. Pingback: I can’t say I have too much sympathy | My Other Blog

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