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inspired_Dev

Elephant in the room: 99.5% of all tracks on Smule are illegal!

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Crazyjster
13 hours ago, inspired_Dev said:

It is a social platform. Heard of network effect?

LOL yes but several months ago changes were made requiring new accounts to have a 3-day trial and then to purchase membership.  My guess is people pay for a week and then stay non-vip.  The difference between Smule and FB is that FB pulls restricted content they don't have a licence for. If you want premium service on Youtube or Spotify or just to access Netflix for example, you have to pay, because it covers the royalties etc. You don't pay, you loose access. Those services also have content removed and added because contracts change over time and rights to music/movies change. The network effect has seem to be successful for many paid apps that don't offer free services. 

@MissMalice89 as for attitudes of Non-VIP lol you again make great points but I am trying to stay focused on the topic at hand. PLEASE post your thoughts though because I think they would make a great separate discussions! You have brought up a few that would make about 3 different posts  (i.e. non VIP joins, android issues)!

 

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inspired_Dev

PART I: Summarizing the discussions so far with my thoughts on them...


@opentype @Crazyjster @The Minty Clinch and @MissMalice89 have shared their valuable thoughts on this topic so far! No one has objected to the "claim" I've made in the title regarding the legality of user-uploads.

[In hindsight, it would be more accurate (technically) and right (ethically) to re-word the title as: "User-uploads constitute most of the tracks (estimated to be around 99%), but there is NO WAY they can be copyright-compliant under the current laws (unless the users also happen to be the original composers/writers/owners/permission-holders)".]

We've all known something about copyrights to some extent, and have some idea about the "advise" given in general about how to handle copyrighted material.

Still, no discussion about this have happened before here. Only @misterspeakeasy had touched upon this aspect w.r.t. addition of licensed tracks to the official songbook (here). 

WHY???

Firstly, this has to do with the situation that:
Copyrights are already a complex landscape for the real world scenarios for which they were originally designed. And with Internet and the Web and the new use-cases of how original works can be easily copied/modified/shared by millions or billions of people, they become at least a thousand-fold more complex.

Secondly, it's because we are millions of users - we automatically get a safety in numbers. And we can see that we are in fact being encouraged to upload tracks.

Thus,
1) we don't seem to have any incentive to follow the laws, and
2) are only being encouraged to do actions which "technically" amount to breaking the law.

Well, we just want to fulfill our selfish, harmless interests of singing to our favorite songs, and there are no obstacles being put. In fact this process is quite streamlined. So let's enjoy! My appeal to ethics seems amusing and unnecessary to most, while the scope of discussion is limited to individual users. However, this is not about a handful of users. There are millions of us. When we scale something, trivial matters become serious. Plus, this is not limited to copyrights, licenses and royalties. Being hooked to our phones all the time isn't harmless. And there's a reason why we are hooked...

The situation of "let's fulfill our selfish interests" is not limited to individuals: Large organisations like corporations and governments also operate on this mentality (or rather instinct, built into us by the natural evolution). Corporations say one thing in their mission statements (and in their terms), but behave quite differently in the real world. They may not be deliberately wanting to be evil or hypocrites here. They are also just succumbing to their selfish interests like we individuals do.

But this is problematic, since greater the power, greater the responsibility (and also greater the scope for corruptibility). Thus, greater the power, greater the scope for damage possible due to this "succumbing" to the instinct of selfishness in those who possess this power. Does my appeal to ethics still feel trivial, amusing and unnecessary??

Which brings me back here to things directly relevant to us, the users - like our health and safety - which is why I had asked these questions earlier:

On 2/17/2020 at 9:45 PM, inspired_Dev said:

The following questions might throw the reader off, but are quite relevant:

Would anyone report their supplier of pirated movie CDs to the local police, if they were getting their favorite movies at a very cheap rate?

And what if this supplier was also providing them drugs along with the movie CDs & now they were addicted? What would be the chances now?

 

This expands the scope of the discussion, while being relevant to everyone here, and also being relevant to copyrights, so that it can be continued here at least for a bit. It can be made into a separate topic after everyone (or most) in this discussion get acquainted with the existence and importance of the expanded scope.
 

PART 2 will also reference an earlier comment I've made, containing terms like network effect, attention economy.

Another sneak-peek into Part 2: intent informs the design. And design guides the behavior. And behavior shapes the culture. And culture affects the experiences, and experiences comprise our lives.

But, what defines the intent currently?? And, what should define the intent?


Do You Love MUSIC? Most likely it's a 'Yes'! But do you RESPECT & VALUE it fairly?

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The Minty Clinch

By the way, the acts whose uploads disappeared last week all seemed to be signed to Universal Publishing. And Columbia label seemed fairly constant too

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inspired_Dev
8 hours ago, The Minty Clinch said:

By the way, the acts whose uploads disappeared last week all seemed to be signed to Universal Publishing. And Columbia label seemed fairly constant too

Oh, interesting. Does it look like it could've been RIAA then? https://www.riaa.com/about-riaa/riaa-members/


Do You Love MUSIC? Most likely it's a 'Yes'! But do you RESPECT & VALUE it fairly?

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inspired_Dev

 PART II: I tried writing this part several times, but every time it got too lengthy. I wanted to keep it crisp and true. But it's also about the big picture. So please bear with it. It is both important and urgent.

This earlier comment was actually kind of a "scratch recording" for Part 2. Please give it a glimpse. It'll help.

Smule is a for-profit company, competing with around 10 other similar or copycat products in the market, like StarMaker, WeSing, SingSnap, Yokee etc. All of them have similar user-upload system and similar terms of service. Smule was the pioneering one as far as I'm aware. Along time, these products copy each other's features to "stay ahead". Gifts were present on StarMaker before Smule. It is so unnecessary to the whole singing thing - we already have likes and comments. But Smule added it anyways. Because with it they get to sell their virtual coins to users for real money for buying virtual gifts to give to other users. Anyone outside the ecosystem will laugh at this proposition. But users spend real money and buy virtual gifts for each other, because they've already been sold the "value" of this ecosystem. And it provides an additional revenue stream along with ads and subscriptions.

Let's look at their mission statement:

Quote

Mission Statement (source)

  1. Realize the immense potential of audio.
  2. Inspire people to reach new levels of self-expression.
  3. Create an interactive social medium to connect the world.
  1. "Audio"? But recordings are in "video" mode by default, since these tend to become viral easily. Great audio recordings will often stay quite small in comparison to mediocre video recordings.
     
  2. "new levels of Self-expression"? By aren't we mostly just copying by singing on the same music tracks and trying to sound like the original singers, rather than creating our own creative cover versions, mashups or songs? How about just singing unplugged, freestyle for the sake of "self-expression" - how many do it? How about using this freestyle along with the group join feature, giving you the freedom to make a large number of creative choices, enabling you to reach "new levels of self-expression"? It's been possible for a long time, you can record upto 100 joins on the same track using the group join, and there are no restrictions whatsoever if you sang on the freestyle track! But how many have even thought about it?
     
  3. "to connect the world"? (this became a bit long, sorry)

    By inundating us with notifications about likes, views, followers, joins  (and in the beginning, when the user is new and there are 0 notifications, they write: "psst? wanna get noticed?") which happen to be both: 

    a) dopamine-inducing reward signals - in short, stuff that makes you keep using the product, develop new habits and even get addicted, (refer to the book "Hooked" by Nir Eyal)

    b) status symbols that sell you the "Superstar Dream" and make you feel like are "becoming a star" (reinforced by "sing with stars" mass invites from official Partner Artists, invites from "sing with renowned smule users" invites made by different regional community handles, "verified" badges, plus the "viral" videos of users singing with "stars" or other users, featured on the home page)

    Thus, we can see that rather than "connecting", they are making us "compete" with one another for more views, likes and followers. How many of the 50 million users do you see becoming the next big star? And how fair would it be anyways? It's more like a lottery rather than rewarding talent. I've easily come across 100s of good singers in my 1.5 years here.

 

You can now see why you and others might have complained about bad/unfair/irritating-behaving users or the lack of improvements in essential features, but with no effect. You might also have felt elated (extreme case: became an egomaniac) or discouraged (extreme case: became depressed), based on how much views, likes, followers etc. were happening to you. (also you might've compared yourself with other users). You may have also tried to "game" the system to get these status numbers by doing things other than singing, like the follow-unfollow tactic, upload tracks to get more followers, spam message your invites and recordings to get more joins and likes etc. But that's just fooling yourself and wasting your time.

By competing with similar and other social media apps, for more users who are regular and using the app more, the incentives for Smule have been about staying ahead, rather than fulfilling their mission statement and caring about users. They can always say, "if we don't stay ahead, we will perish in this race, and thus not be able to fulfill the mission anyway". But in practice, even while staying ahead, have they been able to stay true to their words showcasing their vision, values and ideals? (including their hypocrisy about copyrights, which I know isn't so relevant or important to us users, compared to all these other things). You can see that a lot of compromises have been made along the way. Calls for a reality-check, no? I asked them to do this. They denied it was necessary and that I was mistaken in my beliefs and "theories", formed by making "wrong" assumptions or "incomplete" data.

Since we are connected through this app and the common love for music and singing, and are affected by all this together, it make sense for us to talk about the things specific to it here.

But also remember, that this is happening everywhere. It is called the "extractive attention economy". And it is tearing apart our social fabric, increasing digital addiction, constant social comparison, bullying, race for 'likes', increasing vanity & superficiality and even leading to polarization of ideologies and political manipulation: https://humanetech.com/problem/

Hence, not just as users of the same app, but also as citizens and consumers, we need to wake up, start creating bottom-up solutions wherever we can change things, and collectively demanding top-down solutions wherever centers of power can change things.

Empathy and Ethics can guide everyone in this solution-search.


Do You Love MUSIC? Most likely it's a 'Yes'! But do you RESPECT & VALUE it fairly?

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inspired_Dev

 ADDENDUM TO PART 2: Glassdoor Reviews for Smule 
see more: https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Reviews/Smule-Reviews-E361201.htm

Here are some excerpts:

Quote

"People who were pillars of company culture were fired overnight and "disappeared" without a word ever being said about what happened" (in 4 reviews)

"It is disappointing that upper management has chosen blindness and has chosen to protect one of their own so that the cycle of privilege may continue" (in 4 reviews)

limited vision

One bad people manager can ruin several lives and morale.

Practice transparency... for real.

KPI rules everything here. Can be frustrating when you want to fix something but doesn't happen because it will hurt KPI.  

 

Two reviews are especially descriptive, heart-felt and eye-opening:
 

REVIEW A

Quote

16 October 2019

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

Former Employee - Artist Production Team (the Music Team) in San Francisco, CA

  • Doesn't Recommend
  • Negative Outlook
  • Disapproves of CEO

I worked at Smule full-time for more than 3 years

Pros

- Made tons of friends and have remained friends post-Smule. We continue to have our own community long after our tenure at Smule. - The people who I worked with day in and day out: smart, hardworking, fun, weird amazing people. They taught me a lot and I enjoyed their company. - Great potential!...though people have been saying that for a decade. - A genuinely enjoyable set of products - It was really fun once upon a time. I had an amazing team, we were extremely prolific and productive, had a lot of fun, and I loved working there. I think the memory of those times is what keeps a lot of the old-timers around. - I learned, first hand, about the glass ceiling and about white male privilege; it really opened my eyes and set me down the path to being a stronger advocate, ally, and representative. While this can be seen as a con, I want to focus on the positive things that came out of it. :)

Cons

AS A COMPANY - The most brutally toxic environment I've ever been in (particularly as a woman) - The needless lying from management was very disheartening. - They do not value people and almost go out of their way to send that message when highly valuable people suddenly "disappear" - Everyone is replaceable and expendable. - EDIT: Half the SF office was suddenly laid off so those above points are rather ominously demonstrated - It is led by someone who IS in fact very smart but needs to learn emotional intelligence and appropriate and healthy communication tactics. Instead of listening and learning from knowledgeable people, he has been emotional, defensive, and has kept his yes men close by for reassurance. You can't grow or improve if you refuse to acknowledge what needs improvement. People genuinely wanted to help you and the company but you only wanted to hear the echo of your own voice. It is the diversity of voices that makes a choir robust and powerful. MUSIC TEAM I want to be very clear. I left Smule due to the discrimination I experienced from management. And I am writing this review only because it's a cycle that is continuing rather than an isolated incident, apparently. - When looking to hire a new music producer, we were told to look for someone “beaten down” who had been "dragged through the mud". Those are direct quotes. - For a music company, they sure don’t value their music team. A c-level executive said, "musicians are a dime a dozen" as an explanation for why we were expendable. - The wage gap is real. - When this was brought up, the reaction from management was contentious. Threats were made, and there were attempts to gaslight the women, and we were individually told not to discuss our salaries with the rest of the team. That's illegal. - When making workflow suggestions on how we could ease the team's stress levels and optimize productivity, I was reprimanded and told to keep my head down. I was told not to initiate any meetings with people outside of the team from then on and that nobody had asked me to help. - "I can't tell you not to go to HR, but realize that if you do...there are consequences." - After this, when another team wanted me to move to their team, I was blocked by management. It is unfortunate that management has aggressively and obstinately chosen ignorance. When you are a hodgepodge of laziness, ignorance, incompetence, and dishonesty and use those qualities to try to exploit people, you are in no position to tell others how lucky they are to have jobs. It is disappointing that upper management has chosen blindness and has chosen to protect one of their own so that the cycle of privilege may continue. Allowing a bad person to continuously fail up is not a win for you, for him, or for the company, ultimately. Oh, and telling a female subordinate, "You're beautiful" in any context is inappropriate. Don't do that again. It was uncomfortable for the whole team.

Advice to Management

You won't listen to it, you won't try to learn from it, you'll only get defensive and emotional about it and lash out. :sadpanda:

 

REVIEW B

Quote

8 November 2019

"Came for the karaoke, stayed for the people, left because of everything else"

Former Employee - Senior Software Developer in San Francisco, CA

  • Doesn't Recommend
  • Negative Outlook
  • Disapproves of CEO

I worked at Smule full-time for more than 3 years

Pros

- People: Smule has a knack of finding some of the most talented, passionate, hard-working people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. I've formed relationships, both professional and personal, will continue for years to come. - Products: Karaoke is a passion of mine, and being able to work on the Smule app (called Sing! when I started in 2015) was incredibly fun. I found myself using the app in my spare time, not just when testing code I was working on. - Culture (pre-2017): The first couple of years of my tenure at Smule, I would almost describe it as my dream job. Smule's culture was that of passion and innovation, and the products we were building were exciting and fun. We had monthly happy hours and karaoke parties, and lots of people would organize activities for coworkers outside of work (mid-day coffee trains, board game nights, movie nights, bar crawls, Tahoe trips, etc.) - Work environment (pre-2017): I felt like managers cared personally about their direct reports, at least in the teams I regularly interacted with. There were late nights and fire-drills, sure, but people cared more about how to resolve the issues than who was to blame for them. I had lots of support from more senior engineers when I first started, and they were very patient when I asked them for assistance, always giving me the benefit of the doubt when I made mistakes. -Personal career growth (pre-2018): I started at Smule as a relatively junior mobile developer and was given great mentorship by my peers and plenty of opportunities to advance my development skills. When I expressed interest in pursuing a leadership track, I was put into roles with responsibilities that would develop my leadership skills. Even when put into situations where I'm the least experienced in the room, I felt heard and respected.

Cons

- Culture (post-2017): I understand that company culture naturally changes as the company gets bigger, but the last couple of years have been very different. A lot of the people who organized get-togethers outside of work were either actively discouraged from doing so (coffee trains went from a near-daily announced activity to a much more casual and almost discrete slinking to a nearby coffee shop) or ended up leaving the company. The frequency of happy hours and karaoke nights drastically decreased. - Work environment (post-2017): Blame culture became more prevalent, with post-mortems being less about how to prevent issues from coming up in the future and more about which parties were in the wrong. Features became more about moving certain product metrics and less about functionality and user experience. At some point, Engineering dept was moved to be under Product, and there was more pressure to aggressively release features, cutting functionality to hit arbitrary deadlines that sometimes are moved up with little transparency. And when features don't meet the targeted metrics, Engineering is usually blamed for it. - Management: After a change in management, I felt like the managers that did a good job of managing down were not valued and the managers that ended up being "successful" only do so because they are very good at managing up while not supporting their direct reports. My peers and I felt the need to escalate our concerns to parties outside our org to be heard, and even then they weren't always resolved with satisfactory expediency, if it was ever resolved at all. I've seen cases of managers gaslighting or yelling at their direct reports. Some managers have the mindset that the people who express concerns are being "difficult" and it's easier to encourage those people to leave instead of trying to address those concerns or firing them outright. I'm sure those sentiments were taken into consideration when deciding which people to lay off. - Personal career growth (post-2018): During my last year at Smule, despite asking for more responsibilities and growth opportunities, I saw more and more of my responsibilities being transferred to teams in the Sofia, Bulgaria office, with very little transparency about the rationale behind those decisions. Luckily I left before Smule laid-off approximately half of the SF office, including most of the mobile engineering team.

 


Do You Love MUSIC? Most likely it's a 'Yes'! But do you RESPECT & VALUE it fairly?

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GJAM
On 2/19/2020 at 8:55 PM, inspired_Dev said:

Oh, interesting. Does it look like it could've been RIAA then? https://www.riaa.com/about-riaa/riaa-members/

I am inclined to disagree.  A majority of the user uploads are instrumentals uploads not for profit by Beatmakers or Individuals who such as myself actual pay for these instrumentals as a DJ/Producer/Artist even if just public performance of Karaoke shows.   Majority of these were not obtained from the original tracking company unlesss they too put it out there. So technically if a user isn’t monetizing off the use of these private performances therefore they should not be illegal.  Even a major company should not be able to take my track down if I have obtained it legally or from a free source or created it myself because I am not monetizing it nor is the singers.   Smule is not monetizing it either yet (yea I see the loophole and future deep in the TOS) smule isn’t making any more or less money from any uploads.   They are providing basically the recording studio platform that’s it.  I could take any instrumental of any song in the world I want to a recording studio pay to record it and then post it not for profit.  I don’t see how any of the user uploads could ever be illegal unless they can absolutely be proven to be the original backtrack that exclusively can prove it is in fact property of warner brothers and can prove that their is no legal link in existence to download their instrumental.  In reality smule could contest any removals and most likely win.   

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opentype
3 hours ago, GJAM said:

… instrumentals … not obtained from the original … if a user isn’t monetizing off the use of these private performances therefore they should not be illegal.  

Sorry, but that is just factually wrong. If an independently recorded and published instrumental is using the original musical composition without the owner’s consent it is by definition a copyright violation. It also doesn’t matter that the use isn’t monetized by the user, since that aspect isn’t part of the definition of copyright. In addition, Smule is certainly monetizing the uploads. They make millions from ads and VIP sales. Monetizing isn’t just selling products or access. Just like YouTube is monetizing videos through ads.

Quote

I could take any instrumental of any song in the world I want to a recording studio pay to record it and then post it not for profit. 

No, you cannot. I mean you can, but it will be copyright violation (and you can be sued for it) if the song isn’t as old as to have lost the copyright status. Just look up the definition of copyright. “the exclusive right given to the creator of a creative work to reproduce the work”. It’s the creator of the song who has the exclusive right over every single performance or copy of the song. In theory: No copyrighted song can be performed or published in any way without the user’s consent. It needs a licensing agreement. And since the copyright owners don’t want to negotiate millions of uses individually everyday, we have musical rights organization who handle this and obtain the licensing fees from radio stations, theaters, karaoke bars, shops and restaurants, score publishers and everyone else who uses the copyrighted material. 

It is of course true that publishing an instrumental is maybe a smaller offense than publishing the original track and a non-commercial use is a smaller offense than a commercial use, but it does NOT follow that the smaller offenses are therefore legal. 

The law follows a simple moral principle: The creator of the song has created a value. He should be compensated for it. Imagine you are the creator and you want to make a living from it. But people can just take your song and play it millions of times without compensation for you – as long as it’s an instrumental and not monetized? That isn’t really fair, is it? It’s your work! You should at least have a say it it. Of course creators can release their work for free use if they choose to, e.g. using a Creative Commons license. But if they don’t then the work is copyrighted and any use needs a license. That isn’t even limited to music. The same applies to art of any kind. Photo licensing works exactly the same way for example. Just grab a picture from Google Images and put it on your non-commercial website? Copyright violation!

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Follow me on Smule: https://smule.com/opentype 

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inspired_Dev

@GJAM Hello GJam! I'd read your "Make Smule 1000% better" suggestions. I'm myself a power user of Smule, love using it creatively and in the past have sent many such suggestions to their support@smule.com email but to not much positive response. I think you're looking for something like BandLab or Songtree.

Smule's core product ("the recording studio inside their flagship karaoke app") was built in its early days 2008-2013 along with many other creative and fun music apps. Nothing much has changed about it since then. They had a "submit a song request form", this is again from 2013. And did you know about the Songify and Ladida apps? I've put info about it in that link too. Most of the early innovators at the company left or were fired over time after that. If you read the previous posts on this topic, you'll see what I'm talking about (start with the post containing the 2 Glassdoor reviews of ex-employees, right above your reply - you can also read all 85 reviews - both good and bad - by logging into the Glassdoor site). Here's a quote from one of the reviews:

On 2/20/2020 at 11:43 AM, inspired_Dev said:

- When looking to hire a new music producer, we were told to look for someone “beaten down” who had been "dragged through the mud". Those are direct quotes. - For a music company, they sure don’t value their music team. A c-level executive said, "musicians are a dime a dozen" as an explanation for why we were expendable.

There are also plenty of privacy and security issues that need to be solved, people have been complaining and discussing about these here but is anyone listening? :

On 2/18/2020 at 7:33 AM, inspired_Dev said:

Your security, privacy, safety etc. are not their topmost priority.

Forget about feature requests and complaining about recordings deleted due to copyrights

The only new features they've added recently are gifts. And that's just copying Starmaker, which actually is a copycat of Smule. So the culture of innovation at Smule (which would've listened to your "1000% better" ideas) has long been killed off by bad management and leadership.

As for your ideas about how copyrights and reuse of original music works, you are wrong on multiple counts: You are simply basing your conclusions about copyrights on what you see happening in the world, NOT on what has really been defined in the law books. I have had an email exchange about this with Smule, and they had expressly stated there that any tracks which users haven't got copyrights to are prohibited by Smule (in their "terms" of course, not in reality - they actually want you to add any and all tracks you can because without user-uploaded backing tracks, there's not much to their product to keep the users aboard, is there? At least not for most of the millions of users.)

You are free to add your own compositions, beats and original arrangements to Smule or anywhere else, and that would be perfectly legal, because you automatically have the copyrights for being the original creator of those compositions, beats and arrangements - you are automatically the owner of this content. For practical purposes, you'll have to register your original works with a royalty collection society - typically you'll separately register your performing rights (song licenses - pertaining to the melody and lyrics) and mechanical rights (master recording licenses - pertaining to the actual studio recording), so that you can protect them and make claims of copyrights over them (if say, someone later on was to plagiarize your song: say by copying your song's melody and trying to pass it off as their own without your permission).

But if you did not compose a song, or own the original master recording of it, then you don't have the copyrights to use it any way you want and post it in public - you need to obtain appropriate licenses for this. For example, if you posted others' copyrighted content on Youtube, they automatically detect this using their ContentID system, and then they will either take a share of ads earnings you might make from those videos, or entirely demonetize that content (Zero ad revenue for you), or even ban your channel in some cases. You can do anything with the tracks you've purchased legally on your own computer and phone for learning and practice purposes of course, or use them in domestic settings with your family and friends or in private parties. But the moment you post it publicly, it becomes liable to be scanned for copyright infringement - no one might actually approach you or say anything for a long time (giving you and everyone else the impression that it is perfectly fine), but if and when they do, they can take it down or impose fines or take any other legal action, for whatever they own. And this has happened recently on Smule. Backing tracks uploaded by users - and the recordings made on them were deleted, because the record labels or the trade organizations representing them must've sent them takedown notices: https://www.smule.com/copyright.

And I've already put an example of how instrumental backing tracks or karaokes can be used appropriately in a previous post on this topic: 

 

Again, what I've written is based on how it is supposed to be according to copyright laws. It may not be followed properly in many places, and that's the question of how well our policies, technology and people's wills and ethics work. But, it DOES NOT make such use LEGAL. A whopping majority of user uploads on Smule are not legal and you'll have to change the copyright laws to make it legal.

 

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Do You Love MUSIC? Most likely it's a 'Yes'! But do you RESPECT & VALUE it fairly?

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Chandaliapink

I understand that artists should maintain some rights to their music, however if they insist on placing such a chokehold on karaoke apps like Smule those same artists will lose fans.

Even before such an issue existed (before the internet) people have wanted to sing their favorite artists' songs. For an artist to turn around and say "I don't want you to" cuts to the quick and those fans turn their backs quickly.

I was upset when I saw my Adele collaborations disappeared.  Worse, we lost a Smule friend just hours after she collaborated on an Adele song with another Smuler. Now, that precious collaboration is gone...forever.  And all because Adele doesn't like other people singing her material (and yeah, it's not the money thing, it's the ego thing).  Adele just lost several fans with that statement.

And if our memberships aren't paying for the rights to utilize these tracks I'd really like to know what they're used for.  I was paying $20 a month for two straight years (so close to $500!).  I only just switched to the annual membership to save money, but that's still $100.  I'd like to know where my money's going.

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The Minty Clinch
8 hours ago, Chandaliapink said:

I understand that artists should maintain some rights to their music, however if they insist on placing such a chokehold on karaoke apps like Smule those same artists will lose fans.

Even before such an issue existed (before the internet) people have wanted to sing their favorite artists' songs. For an artist to turn around and say "I don't want you to" cuts to the quick and those fans turn their backs quickly.

I was upset when I saw my Adele collaborations disappeared.  Worse, we lost a Smule friend just hours after she collaborated on an Adele song with another Smuler. Now, that precious collaboration is gone...forever.  And all because Adele doesn't like other people singing her material (and yeah, it's not the money thing, it's the ego thing).  Adele just lost several fans with that statement.

And if our memberships aren't paying for the rights to utilize these tracks I'd really like to know what they're used for.  I was paying $20 a month for two straight years (so close to $500!).  I only just switched to the annual membership to save money, but that's still $100.  I'd like to know where my money's going.

Much as I'd love to blame Adele, and Bono in particular, for all the world's ills, in this instance I'm sure she isn't personally responsible - it's all down to jobsworths at Universal Publishing being eagle eyes and conscientious enough to have everything killed off. Other than that I'm in agreement with you, and I say that as a former recording artist myself. Losing collabs that are important to you is upsetting, and yes I know you can download them but people generally don't know that. 

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inspired_Dev

@Chandaliapink @The Minty Clinch

1. Sometimes, the artists don't like their original songs being covered:

a) https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2009/jun/18/behind-music-cover-versions

b) https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110420/13280113977/prince-claims-when-someone-covers-your-song-original-no-longer-exists.shtml

2. Usually, the record labels or the trade organizations handling their rights file copyright violation notices to the platforms hosting such content.

3. Any track that has been uploaded by the official Smule account, or their Partner Artist accounts (all such songs get listed in their "Official Songbook" on Smule.com/Song) is legal, licensed, not going to be taken down until their deal is cancelled. So, these are the protected, safe songs to sing.

4. Any track uploaded by a user, unless the user is the songwriter or owner of that song (in other words, holds the copyrights to that song), is a copyright violation waiting to be taken down in the future. Most tracks on Smule and other karaoke apps like Starmaker, WeSing, Yokee etc. are like that! So the social karaoke apps industry is built on piracy of music. And most users have been unaware or oblivious or conveniently ignoring this. Look at our Smule community, we keep adding songs without discretion and singing to them and Smule profits from all our activity: of course we the users, the fan, are doing it non-commercially, and there's nothing wrong with fans enjoying their loved music, and Smule has been a great platform for us to connect with our loved music and with each other, to discover strangers who love the same music and become friends! BUT, there is no provision in the Copyright Laws that will mark such usage as legal and allowed... unless we all demand for it. But again, that's not happening because no one has bothered to think about this. Till now, everything has been working well even if it was illegal. And you know how it is unethical: because for all this unlicensed, illegal, pirated music that we use, NO royalties get paid to the creators and owners of this music, which is the same as stealing. So, aren't all these karaoke platforms stealing through us? Also, the creators/owners of this music are free to take any legal action against the users as they deem to be appropriate - the current scheme of things according the Smule's Terms is: Smule is not responsible for any of this, the users are, so any legal matters should be between the complainant and the defaulting user(s). But how many users read these Terms of Service before using the app? We just use the app and learn from the community behavior about what is good and what is bad. And we don't know that we will be held responsible for piracy under the current terms. This is true for all social karaoke apps with user-uploaded tracks, not just Smule! So the entire sector is like that. It's good to connect us with music and people, but the complex copyrights landscape makes this endeavor fundamentally illegal and unethical. I wish all of us people who love these platforms and love to sing with our friends need to become aware of this and really collectively demand for changes in copyright laws and for the karaoke platform companies to be our allies and leaders in this demand.


Do You Love MUSIC? Most likely it's a 'Yes'! But do you RESPECT & VALUE it fairly?

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scrapfree

Good to see this being discussed here.
Although I’m as guilty as anyone for singing the user uploaded tracks!

However I do only upload my own songs. Because it’s all very well Smule telling people to add songs, but they know fine well that what people are uploading will infringe copyright.

In a sense, Smule are asking people to do the dirty work for them, without having to pay the copyright fee. I’m not taking that chance.

Smule has completely gone to the dogs the past 18 months. There’s no kind of curation of content, the same influencers get highlighted even when they’ve not been active for years, the gists thing is a travesty... meh, lost the plot.

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scrapfree
On 2/20/2020 at 6:13 AM, inspired_Dev said:

 ADDENDUM TO PART 2: Glassdoor Reviews for Smule 
see more: https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Reviews/Smule-Reviews-E361201.htm

Here are some excerpts:

 

Two reviews are especially descriptive, heart-felt and eye-opening:
 

REVIEW A

 

REVIEW B

 

This is uncanny, especially the second review which talks about changes in staffing a couple of years ago. Because there seemed to be a very direct shift in outlook from about that time.

I’ve been on Smule for about 5 years now, and the concentration on video over audio, the introduction of influencers (shipped in to get crossover with other social media but not really there for the love of singing), introduction of gifts, focus on Middle East market, loss of community spirit, etc. all seem to tie in to that timescale. I think there was a new creative/marketing director brought in around that time too.

I still believe Smule is one of the best apps ever created, but I feel it’s lost it’s way.

If record companies are indeed clamping down on copyright, perhaps it’s an opportunity to look at Smule as a way of introducing new singer-songwriters. Although my experience is that people who want to sing karaoke aren’t there for listening to new music, they’re there to sing what they already know. So it’d be a completely different business model!

 

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scrapfree

And another thing I’d like to know is what happens to the performances you delete? I believe Smule doesn’t delete but only removes them from the ‘recordings’ list, because the total number of recordings doesn’t go down.

Im pretty sure of this, because I deleted at least a couple of thousand recordings and my total didn’t change. From a ‘right to be forgotten’ standpoint, I think that’s a little unclear. I’d also like the functionality to be able to delete all duet performances from the original open call (via a swipe left), instead of having to delete every individual one.

 

 

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inspired_Dev
On 2/29/2020 at 6:30 PM, scrapfree said:

the gists thing is a travesty

What would this "gists thing" be?

21 hours ago, scrapfree said:

what happens to the performances you delete?

Please open a new topic for this: https://sing.salon/forums/forum/11-smule-help-forum/

22 hours ago, scrapfree said:

I still believe Smule is one of the best apps ever created, but I feel it’s lost it’s way.

Yeah, but most users who feel this way aren't very vocal about it, and the active traffic looks just as happy as ever... so even if a lot of users are spamming or "dating" or doing it to fulfill some "superstar" dream by being motivated by "numbers" (promised by the design of the app and culture of the community), rather than the joy of singing in a community of music lovers, the popular outlook seems to be "all is well".

I've literally been told at least 10 times (no exaggeration) "if you've got a problem, just leave!!". The Indian community (I tried communicating with almost 200 people) has been quiet, or telling me: "There is no such thing as copyrights in karaokes. This is all legal! If it wasn't, Smule would've gotten banned by now." Also, "royalties for artists - what's that?? anyways, who cares!?"

A "verified" user running a community account even told me "user uploaded tracks are all legal and royalties are paid for them by Smule to the major Indian labels. Smule has signed contracts with them all". Right... but they showed me no proof of this - no such info is available publicly at least. Plus even if they did, the poor state of the metadata of user uploaded songs would just complicate matters and proper distribution of royalties just wouldn't happen - another royalty scam?? 

Instead, I think these people must've reported "my behavior", because Smule sent me a warning email of the possibility of a permanent ban on my account if "my behavior" continued (by the way, they conveniently did this in between our thread of emails relating to copyrights and user uploads, cutting short a difficult question I'd raised - please read our terms, guidelines & copyright pages they said - you'll find all answers there). Smule also removed (censored) my previous profile description and cover image, in which I had mentioned some of their own "terms" and words like "piracy" and implied how this was a hypocrisy on their part.

In the email exchange they had implied: "We prohibit users from adding any copyrighted content they don't own, and expect that users will only add their original arrangements". But then, they also added that they keep licensing user-uploaded tracks from time to time... Really??? And how do we know which user-uploaded track has been licensed?? No answer. They claimed "we keep investing in buying licenses for a vast collection of songs, and now have a huge list of licensed tracks and we are constantly matching user-uploads with this list". They were basically trying to convince me how most tracks on Smule are legal, after just having said that user-uploaded tracks of copyrighted content not belonging to users is "prohibited" by them... Nice try!

22 hours ago, scrapfree said:

I’ve been on Smule for about 5 years now

Wow! I've only been around from 1.5 years. As such, I learned the "good " and the "bad" by observing the community behavior. As a result, I had uploaded almost 350 tracks for Indian songs, made by vocal-removal methods (most tracks were of the "hidden gem" category, they were good songs (in my opinion) and had no tracks on Smule, or quite bad quality tracks). I don't think there will be a second person who will delete their entire collection like I did. No one gives a damn about copyrights, licenses and royalties - even if they got it, they choose to say "well in that case, everyone is a thief, it's a bad world, so let it be". They don't see how it matters for improving the music field as a sustainable career - it's a "superstar lottery reality contest dream" for most people who might be using this app with a hope of "making it big someday". It's what they see on TV and in the contests happening on Smule anyways.

Also the extractive attention economy has been totally ignored so far in this discussion: no comments so far on the manipulative design and the addictive effects on users. Zilch. Nada. Zero. "I can't be manipulated by how an app has been designed!" people feel "I'm in complete control of my choices". Read "Hooked" by Nir Eyal. Or see this TED Talk: 

 

23 hours ago, scrapfree said:

If record companies are indeed clamping down on copyright, perhaps it’s an opportunity to look at Smule as a way of introducing new singer-songwriters. Although my experience is that people who want to sing karaoke aren’t there for listening to new music, they’re there to sing what they already know. So it’d be a completely different business model!

Yeah, very very low chances. They are competing with other social karaoke apps, and until this entire sector gets a big penalty for their vast copyright infringements, they have no incentive to change their business models. Also, the enforcement of copyrights is not as strict or strong in India or Middle East or rest of the Asia, like it might be in the West, so Smule and other similar apps would continue to flourish in these regions (for a while at least) even if they suffer a blow in the West in the coming days. But India seems to have started liking the Chinese idea of censorship on Internet these days - so they might just ban these apps (also others like TikTok) and block their sites on copyright infringement grounds: This might keep users safe from unhealthy habits and behaviors - but it does very little to reforming the copyright laws or the technology surrounding it, and the music scene landscape - so basically a lazy move from the Top.

But whom am I kidding: very few artists and organizations from the Indian Music Industry (or more accurately, the music department of the Indian Film Industry) care about licenses and royalties. They rely on brand endorsements and live shows for their earnings. And they are happy to promote themselves on Smule whenever they get that chance. "Piracy?? What piracy?" And many of the record labels love keeping the royalties they collect on their artists' behalf, so you know, they are the bigger thieves. You know what, maybe they did do those "bulk deals and contracts" with Smule after all. No need for proper metadata - they just fill their own pockets with all this extra cash. "Artists are dime a dozen - look, there are millions of singers in this world - we can make them dance the way we want and no one will object, for we are the ones who have the power to make a few (the most talented ones? nah, not necessarily...) of them 'Superstars' (for a while). heeehahahaha [EVIL LAUGH] "

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The Minty Clinch

It's absolutely my favourite dating app. Evil laugh etc

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inspired_Dev
18 minutes ago, The Minty Clinch said:

It's absolutely my favourite dating app. Evil laugh etc

No, it's your favorite friendship app to be more accurate. And you just love singing and expressing your voice in many other creative ways, so any "evil laughs" you do are out of artistic expression and for dramatic effect, they're not actually evil!

There should be some work on original scripts and a series of voice-over dialogue recordings and some original songs on these themes around the music scene (or adaptations of popular songs - if almost everything's copyright infringement here, at least let's do it creatively and with a good intent!) Or is there a Monty Python skit on royalties already?


Do You Love MUSIC? Most likely it's a 'Yes'! But do you RESPECT & VALUE it fairly?

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Kayjan

Well, I DO have a questions to throw in the mix?

1. If an original artist’s voice has been edited out or is not present in the music, the upload music track has been edited, and the original artist is NOT singing the recording...how in the world can it be considered “copyright infringement” or “pirated” songs?

2.  If we are not “selling for profit” or “gaining royalties” from our OWN voices but merely “Sharing” them to social media...where do the infringements lie? Where do the ill-legalities lie? 

3. Does this mean that even if we were to USE song words from any song we ourselves did not write...say the words of “Amazing Grace” and sing this song and share it to social media that we would also be “infringing copyright” because we did not originally write the WORDS to the song? 

I DO believe it is completely wrong to pirate music for my own enjoyment or to sell rather than buy it properly for the hard-working artists and musicians to gain their well-deserving profits from their hard work and creativity. But, I AM confused. It seems it would be “free publicity” for their songs.

 

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The Minty Clinch
On 3/1/2020 at 3:15 PM, inspired_Dev said:

No, it's your favorite friendship app to be more accurate. And you just love singing and expressing your voice in many other creative ways, so any "evil laughs" you do are out of artistic expression and for dramatic effect, they're not actually evil!

There should be some work on original scripts and a series of voice-over dialogue recordings and some original songs on these themes around the music scene (or adaptations of popular songs - if almost everything's copyright infringement here, at least let's do it creatively and with a good intent!) Or is there a Monty Python skit on royalties already?

I'm afraid I copyrighted 'evil laugh' with universal publishing recently, so you are infringing and owe me 1 rupee 🤑

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opentype
5 minutes ago, Kayjan said:

1. If an original artist’s voice has been edited out or is not present in the music, the upload music track has been edited, and the original artist is NOT singing the recording...how in the world can it be considered “copyright infringement” or “pirated” songs?

You are still using what is left of the composition/arrangement and that’s usually part of the copyrighted work.  

5 minutes ago, Kayjan said:

2.  If we are not “selling for profit” or “gaining royalties” from our OWN voices but merely “Sharing” them to social media...where do the infringements lie? Where do the ill-legalities lie? 

If you add your voice again, you are using the protected intellectual property (melody, lyrics, arrangement) without a license. While doing it “for profit” is worse than doing it “not for profit”, both are an infringement. Once again, that’s what copyright means. The owner of it can technically decide over every single copy of the work. 

5 minutes ago, Kayjan said:

3. Does this mean that even if we were to USE song words from any song we ourselves did not write...say the words of “Amazing Grace” and sing this song and share it to social media that we would also be “infringing copyright” because we did not originally write the WORDS to the song? 

No. Amazing Grace is so old that the copyright has expired. 
For recent songs, any use requires a license. Again, just as for using a photographer’s or illustrator’s images. It’s their work. You want to use it, you would technically need to ask them.  

5 minutes ago, Kayjan said:

 It seems it would be “free publicity” for their songs.

Yes, but legally that is irrelevant. It’s still the copyright owners call to decide what they agree to or not. The user of the work cannot say “I’m sure you benefit from it, so I use it without even asking”. 

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scrapfree
13 minutes ago, Kayjan said:

Well, I DO have a questions to throw in the mix?

1. If an original artist’s voice has been edited out or is not present in the music, the upload music track has been edited, and the original artist is NOT singing the recording...how in the world can it be considered “copyright infringement” or “pirated” songs?

2.  If we are not “selling for profit” or “gaining royalties” from our OWN voices but merely “Sharing” them to social media...where do the infringements lie? Where do the ill-legalities lie? 

3. Does this mean that even if we were to USE song words from any song we ourselves did not write...say the words of “Amazing Grace” and sing this song and share it to social media that we would also be “infringing copyright” because we did not originally write the WORDS to the song? 

I DO believe it is completely wrong to pirate music for my own enjoyment or to sell rather than buy it properly for the hard-working artists and musicians to gain their well-deserving profits from their hard work and creativity. But, I AM confused. It seems it would be “free publicity” for their songs.

 

But the copyright isn’t just the singer. Whoever has played an instrument, sung backing vocals, and of course written the song, etc. all have royalty rights to the song. So, whilst the singer may be edited out or the track may be rerecorded, it’s still someone’s copyright.

Regards words, you can’t copyright individual words or sayings which are in the public domain. But you can’t copy or plagiarise whole phrases that are obviously identifiable from other songs or books. Of course there are grey areas, but that’s the general idea.

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Crazyjster
On 2/29/2020 at 7:33 AM, scrapfree said:

what happens to the performances you delete? I believe Smule doesn’t delete but only removes them from the ‘recordings’ list, because the total number of recordings doesn’t go down.

you are correct because they become  property of Smule..,read the fine print...just like any Creatons you come up with or music you write yourself or anything that could be potentially monetized if someone were to become famous for something somewhere down the line. Smule wants their rights to the recordings  just like the the artists and execs that own rights to music they are not getting paid for now. You write it and upload it it’s no longer yours. You record on original on Smule they will make sure it’s featured on their YouTube channel where it’s monetized. If you notice they put karaoke covers on their YouTube and Instagram as well so they get monetized they don’t put the illegal covers it’s brilliant  If you put it on yours you’ll be in copyright infringement

U

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inspired_Dev
Posted (edited)

@Kayjan The takeaway lesson for most users is: we have been given full permission to record on the licensed tracks that Smule has uploaded. In the app, see the categories From Smule, Free and Sing with the Artist. These will be the licensed songs. On their website, you can see the directory of licensed songs at smule.com/songs

The rest of the songs uploaded by users are all copyright infringements (except when the user happens to be the original composer or owner of the song).

What we can do as consumers is NOT upload or use more copyright infringing content, but rather DEMAND the company we are paying to add more LICENSED songs so that we can enjoy the music guilt-free - licensing means the authors/owners of the songs will get royalties (it is like a lifetime pension for the artists & owners for the continued use of their music - copyrights do expire 60 years or so after their death, and then the song becomes public domain typically). The problem is, for the sake of getting millions of songs for free from the enthusiastic users, Smule has completely ignored (to the point of effectively scraping) its "user-requested song licensing" workflow. This form from 2013 is an fossilized relic from that distant past when they wanted to ACTUALLY keep things legal and ethical: http://bit.ly/SuggestSongsForSmule I've written more about the innovative past here: 

Basically, if the consumers were more educated about copyrights and their own rights to get a safe and sound product, we would all be demanding a new, robust way of requesting licensed songs from Smule (right now, it is us users who are liable for any copyright infringement by the way of uploading or singing on unlicensed content). Also, there are several other things that we would demand, like better privacy and security features, that easily allow us to delete or make private past performances in bulk, or that reduce the chances of someone accidentally breaking into someone else's account: https://sing.salon/forums/topic/837-hacked-smule-account/?do=findComment&comment=3591).

The problem is, most users don't care about copyright infringement, licenses and royalties; even if their old recordings get deleted due to copyright infringement, they wouldn't even notice it (we are busy singing, listening to and commenting on the latest collabs, isn't it?), and there is almost zero liability for most users (if anyone does legally target a user in the future for copyright infringement, it will likely be some high-profile user with lots of uploads and followers). That's why fewer users will even care about being aware of these things. But, this also means that the community remains unsafe (malicious entities can spam, stalk, hack; female users especially feel vulnerable to unwanted attention; there is too much ego and arrogance among users - for example, they wouldn't want to listen to any constructive criticism about their singing, only appreciation and flattery is welcome)

cc: @opentype @scrapfree @Crazyjster 

also,cc to: @Chandaliapink @GJAM are you guys around?

p.s. @The Minty Clinch I've now purchased a special cover license to evil laugh from Universal, with lifetime validity. Let me know if they transfer the royalties to you, or are just pocketing it all for themselves. Can't let them get away with royalty scams this time.

 

Edited by inspired_Dev
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The Minty Clinch
Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, inspired_Dev said:

@Kayjan The takeaway lesson for most users is: we have been given full permission to record on the licensed tracks that Smule has uploaded. In the app, see the categories From Smule, Free and Sing with the Artist. These will be the licensed songs. On their website, you can see the directory of licensed songs at smule.com/songs

The rest of the songs uploaded by users are all copyright infringements (except when the user happens to be the original composer or owner of the song).

What we can do as consumers is NOT upload or use more copyright infringing content, but rather DEMAND the company we are paying to add more LICENSED songs so that we can enjoy the music guilt-free - licensing means the authors/owners of the songs will get royalties (it is like a lifetime pension for the artists & owners for the continued use of their music - copyrights do expire 60 years or so after their death, and then the song becomes public domain typically). The problem is, for the sake of getting millions of songs for free from the enthusiastic users, Smule has completely ignored (to the point of effectively scraping) its "user-requested song licensing" workflow. This form from 2013 is an fossilized relic from that distant past when they wanted to ACTUALLY keep things legal and ethical: http://bit.ly/SuggestSongsForSmule I've written more about the innovative past here: 

Basically, if the consumers were more educated about copyrights and their own rights to get a safe and sound product, we would all be demanding a new, robust way of requesting licensed songs from Smule (right now, it is us users who are liable for any copyright infringement by the way of uploading or singing on unlicensed content). Also, there are several other things that we would demand, like better privacy and security features, that easily allow us to delete or make private past performances in bulk, or that reduce the chances of someone accidentally breaking into someone else's account: https://sing.salon/forums/topic/837-hacked-smule-account/?do=findComment&comment=3591).

The problem is, most users don't care about copyright infringement, licenses and royalties; even if their old recordings get deleted due to copyright infringement, they wouldn't even notice it (we are busy singing, listening to and commenting on the latest collabs, isn't it?), and there is almost zero liability for most users (if anyone does legally target a user in the future for copyright infringement, it will likely be some high-profile user with lots of uploads and followers). That's why fewer users will even care about being aware of these things. But, this also means that the community remains unsafe (malicious entities can spam, stalk, hack; female users especially feel vulnerable to unwanted attention; there is too much ego and arrogance among users - for example, they wouldn't want to listen to any constructive criticism about their singing, only appreciation and flattery is welcome)

cc: @opentype @scrapfree @Crazyjster 

also,cc to: @Chandaliapink @GJAM are you guys around?

p.s. @The Minty Clinch I've now purchased a special cover license to evil laugh from Universal, with lifetime validity. Let me know if they transfer the royalties to you, or are just pocketing it all for themselves. Can't let them get away with royalty scams this time.

 

That's good to know - evil laugh is going to be my old age pension. Here it is, but please, no free sampling....muuuuwwwaaaaaahaaaaahaaaaaheurghhhhh.

 

Not to be confused with Corona Cough. I didn't write that one

Edited by The Minty Clinch
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