As a hobbyist musician, I don’t write many music/composition related posts here, but this incident is worth noting. A couple of years ago, I purchased a sample CD called “Fat Boy Slim – Skip To My Loops”, distributed by AMG UK. I purchased it from an online retailer and it came in a shrinkwrap package. When it arrived, I opened it up and listened through its contents. It wasn’t right for the project I had in mind (I thought the MP3 demo files provided by the site I bought it from were pretty much the best the CD had to offer)… so it went on the shelf.
Last week, I was organizing and planned to list a bunch of stuff I no longer use on Ebay, including this sample CD. I listed it and then had an email from Ebay this morning informing me that the listing had been removed for “copyrights violation”. I was thrown by this because I made it clear in my listing that this disc was an original disc, with the original case, and documentation. I know that sample libraries are pirated all the time and wanted to make clear that this was not a copy. In any case, the email from Ebay had an email address in it for the copyright holder and suggested that I use that address if I have questions on why my listing was pulled.
So I sent email to email@example.com to see what rights had been violated. This is when the fun started.
“Matt”, apparently the guy in charge at AMG UK, wrote to explain that the license couldn’t be transferred and that if someone bought it, they could “innocently get in trouble” and would have “bought nothing in effect”. It didn’t make sense to me, so I asked him to clarify how it was different from plain old music audio CDs – which are bought and sold second-hand all the time. Or from software applications that are legitimately sold by one party to another (provided the seller no longer uses it and didn’t use what they sold for an upgraded version that they are still using). My question was, if I’m not keeping a copy for myself and I haven’t used it in any projects, how is it different from selling a used music CD if I didn’t copy it or leave it on my MP3 player? I also explained that as a software developer, I’m sensitive to piracy of software and developers are, of course, free to license their work however they like… but that this type of approach wasn’t making sense to me.
For someone in charge of a consumer-oriented business, his follow-up was unbelievably condescending and rude. Some choice quotes:
- That's shareware basically, are you really saying you thought sample CDs were shareware or something. Get back on some kind of sensible track... [this was after I asked about the license PDF on their web site, which speaks specifically to commercial use of the samples.]
- If you're looking for a consumer example that's better you could use going to the movies. You can't give your ticket to someone else if you didn't like the film, etc. [Of course not, but I can’t un-watch a movie. I couldn’t un-use the samples either if I’d ever used them in any work]
- Or what about taking samples from the music CD? Is that OK? No? Hmmm, maybe there's your difference? [in response to my question about how music CDs are re-sold all the time… since when is sampling a music CD for your own work acceptable, and how did we make this leap?]
- If a demo song exclusively uses samples from the CD too I can't see how you can have any complaint about that either, you can make that exact track using the CD, how can it be 'nothing like'? That's plain
daft. [”Daft”? Nice… now I’m an idiot for thinking that the demo files for the CD weren’t representative of the discs overall content. Matt apparently never bought a CD he didn’t like based on one radio hit that he heard.]
- The FACT of the matter is few people will say they 'never used' the samples and even less will not have kept some if not all of them and have the opportunity to use them in the future. [Ah, here’s the crux of it. My statements that I haven’t used it and didn’t make a copy are clearly not to be trusted. Few people are NOT pirates.]
- You should avoid all sample libraries probably if you didn't like this one anyway, many think it's still one of the best ever released. [In addition to being daft, I also seem to have poor musical taste… my not being happy with this particular disc likely means I won’t like any commercial sample libraries. Don’t tell Sony, with whom I’ve spent thousands.]
- All you really need to do is understand a few simple ideas and know what you're buying, then there's no problem. Not only didn't you understand the basic concept, you seem to think the samples you heard in advance and are on the CD somehow misrepresent it although they're all there too - the whole thing seems to have been one big haze. [Yes, I’m in a big haze.]
- If you're really a software developer this is like page one stuff and should be easy to understand. You're not a software developer right? I claim my £10 prize! ;-) [Of course, I’m not. I’m actually a guy who re-sells sub-par sample CDs on Ebay for a living.]
Nice, huh? This is how the guy in charge at AMG UK treats a paying customer who’s not clear on how the licensing of their sample CDs is different from other copyrights. Ask some questions and get treated like both a criminal and an idiot. But I suppose when your customers are stuck with a product they don’t want and don’t have any options for giving it to someone who might actually use it, you can treat people this way.
My suggestion would be to avoid AMG UK’s products altogether. I’ll be passing that suggestion on to friends and colleagues, as well as various music discussion groups I frequent.
UPDATE: Just as I finished writing the above, I received Matt’s latest email to me, which is included in its entirety below. Anyone coming across this post can make their own decisions on doing business with AMG UK or not. My response to this was simply “I’ve said all I need to say on the matter. Thanks for clarifying the license terms.” and a link to this blog post.
> With nearly any consumer software package, I *can* resell my license
> to someone else if I'm no longer using it (provided I didn't use the
> license I'm selling to upgrade to a newer version that I *am* using).
So audio CDs
> can be legally re-sold and most software licenses can as well...
> just takes the rights that the seller had (and no longer has). It's
> apparently your sample CDs that are licensed differently. So now I know.
Pretty much all software is like this. Whether you realise it or not, ask someone and they'll tell you. Then you'll know about that as well as sample software.
> In any case, your condescending and inappropriate response to my
Whatever. That's your problem rather than mine I think. Read the mails again and if there's anything that can even be interpreted as rude I'll be amazed. It's an easy out if you've got no answer that makes any sense.
> as well as your rush to treat me as though I'm pirating the disc,
This is plain wrong. It's never been suggested. My objection to eBay wasn't on that basis and I never said anything of the such. Although I've never suggested it the idea that would wouldn't keep a copy of the data on the 'off chance' you might need it one day is as fanciful as your other ideas. In your World where people are legitimately transferring software licenses I imagine you're suggesting that they all delete it too I suppose? Anyone with half an idea knows that over 90% will not of course.
> confirms my decision about your business. Thanks.
Given your track record of:
A) Knowing nothing about software licensing - your business?
B) Not believing the demo made with samples from a CD is a valid representation of it.
C) Believing I have been rude (prior to this mail) or accused you of pirating our work.
I think it's fair to assume your 'decision' is equally ill-informed as most of your factually unsupportable decisions have been so far. The fact you can get the founder of a successful and long- established business to 'waste' so much time with someone on a Saturday (the facts) is what actually says more about AMG than whatever 'decision' you've come to. You actually wouldn't get that degree of *respect* from anyone else in my business I doubt although I'm sure you will be incapable of appreciating that fact along with the others that should have been equally obvious.
Cheers - Matt 8)