Have you heard of the latest reincarnation of the music site Lala.com? Yeah, me neither, but according to their site Lala is a hub for you to listen to “any song or album once in full for free…Add the web song (unlimited online plays) for 10 cents, or get the MP3 download for 70 cents more.”
According to an EMI press release, they have signed agreements with all the major record labels (EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group) in addition to 170,000+ independent record companies to license the music on the site. In addition to that, according to The Associated Press the site is backed by some BIG money: $35 million in venture capital to be exact, coming from the pockets of Bain Capital LLC, Ignition Partners, and Warner Music Group Corp.
So it’s a cash-flush site that aims to please corporate and independent music entities by allowing people to pay for the music they want to listen to on the internet–and (hopefully) some of that money gets put in the pockets of the artists who create these works.
While Lala seems to be very concerned with the rights of musicians and big corporations, they clearly do not have the same amount of care for the rights of photographers. Yesterday (one day after Lala had their relaunch) it was brought to my attention that a bunch of concert photographers recently discovered that their copyrighted work was being used on the Lala artists page without their permission. I was included in this bunch, as shown above with my Ryan Adams picture (natch).
It seems as though the Lala team had searched through Flickr, downloaded, resized, and cropped photos they liked and decided to re-upload the newly altered images and host them on their own site for the purpose of adding artwork to their artist pages–without contacting most of the photographers whose work they were lifting. Irregardless of the fact that almost all the photos they snatched were NOT marked as Creative Commons allowing commercial usage. So if this is the case, that means countless numbers of artist photos you see on their site ( on landing pages and thumbnails all over site) are actually STOLEN PROPERTY.
Was there no budget for paying for photos despite that $35 million VC money?
Lala has not only altered people’s images (and in many cases, cutting out their watermarks) and re-uploaded them to their site, but they have not even credited the individual photographers–they have opted to simply credit all photos to the VERY PROLIFIC artist named….Flickr.com. They have also hyperlinked the “Source: http://www.flickr.com” photo credit back to the ORIGINAL image on Flickr as some sort of misconceived props to the people they lifted from, when really it’s just insult to injury to the photographers.
Needless to say, photographers who have caught their work being used are FUMING mad and have been individually contacting the Lala team. Their complaints have already induced some initial changes, Lala has now included a “Report this image” link listed directly next to the Flickr photo credit.
Another stolen pic, this time The Fratellis
But what they need to do is STOP STEALING IMAGES RIGHT OFF THE BAT. They should contact the photographers whose works they are interested in using and negotiate a licensing fee, as I’m SURE they did with all those record labels. They should also remove all infringed images from their site IMMEDIATELY, not wait until someone has time to click through the thousands of pages on their site to discover exactly which pictures have been swiped. As flattering as it is to have one’s photos displayed on a site, in this case most photographers would rather be compensated than receive vague promotion.
I know there is a saying accredited to Grace Hopper, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission,” but why take that risk when your wrongdoing can be so easily exposed? Please tell us why, Lala.com.
UPDATE (4:23PM): Looks as though someone has hit the panic button. Now instead of an artist image at the top of the page there is a giant black box: