Are YouTube gagging artists in the copyright debate?
Censorship , Copyright , Internet / February 2018

COPYRIGHT / CENSORSHIP Internet   Hot on the heels of a report by Bloomberg that YouTube had asked musicians to agree not to disparage the streaming-video service in exchange for promotional support as a way to silencing criticism by artists, the Content Creators Coalition (C3) has urged Congress to investigate the so called  ‘non-disparagement agreements’. YouTube meanwhile is trying to stem the damage, and has played down reports that it includes non-disparagement agreements in contracts with some artists which would prevent those musicians from criticising the Google platform – although the company admits that a small number of current agreements tied to original content and/or promotional work may include “general language around conduct”. US artist-led lobbying group C3 has called on the Judiciary Committees to investigate the non-disparagement clauses in partnership agreements. In its report, Bloomberg conceded that such terms “are common in business”, but noted that it seemed only YouTube had extended the the music streaming marketplace. In a letter to the chairs of the Congressional Judiciary Committees in both the Senate and the House Of Representatives, C3 argues these clauses are “clearly aimed at thwarting the Congressional review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s [provisions for] ‘safe harbor’ as well as the…

Music not politically correct? Spotify will protect you
Censorship / September 2017

CENSORSHIP / EQUALITY Recorded music, streaming   Bands like Rage Against the Machine, Dead Kennedys and Public Enemy exemplify the fact that music is political and vice versa.  But how political is too political? In 2014 The Sothern Poverty Law Centre published a list of ‘white power’ artists, in which 37 artists including ‘Skull Head’ and ‘Tattooed Mother Fuckers’ were featured. The list was originally intended to target the iTunes store, and at the time Apple did remove many of the artists from download sales. The list has recently resurfaced, in the aftermath of the race related protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spotify has now taken action to remove artists that are identified as white supremacist hate bands.  Spotify has over 140 million users, but the question should be asked: do these users need to be told what they can and cannot listen to? Well, a spokesperson for the service, which claims to be a champion of free speech, stated that “Illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality, or the like is not tolerated by us.”  Spotify’s competitor Deezer has also joined in, and has also taken moves to decide what users can and…

Gambia outlaws music for Ramadam
Censorship , Live Events / July 2016

CENSORSHIP Live events sector     The government of The Gambia has outlawed music for Ramadan, warning citizens against engaging in “morally obscene” activities during the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. The Gambia has been an Islamic state since December, when President Yahya Jammeh declared the Islamic Republic of The Gambia. On 2 October 2013, The Gambian Interior Ministry announced that The Gambia would leave the Commonwealth of Nations with immediate effect, ending 48 years of membership of the organisation. The Gambian Government said it “decided that The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism”.[15]   In a press release, The Gambia Police Force listed “music, dancing and drumming” as activities that “Allah frowns on during the Holy Month” and said Gambians should “desist from such acts, otherwise they will be eventually apprehended and face the full force of the law without compromise”. The state-owned Daily Observer welcomed the diktat as “wholly reasonable as it is sensible”, opining “the ban should be seen through the lens of guiding Muslims to the respectable, honourable path during a month that Allah dishes infinite blessings…

Iranian Metal Band Reportedly Jailed For Making ‘Satanic’ Music and Blasphemy
Artists , Censorship / March 2016

CENSORSHIP Artistes     The international metal community is rallying behind members of the Iranian groove/nu/thrash metal outfit Confess, who have reportedly been arrested in their native Iran — and potentially face execution — for a range of “offences” including playing heavy metal, owning an independent record label and corresponding with Western media. Metal Nation Radio was the first to break the story of musicians Nikan Siyanor Khosravi and Arash ‘Chemical’ Ilkhani after a message from an anonymous “close friend” of the musicians who also claimed to be the administrator of the band’s official Facebook page: The message asked MNR to publicise the case saying “He really needs you now by [sharing] it, post[ing] it and [talking about] it in the network and your radio shows and your co-workers and friends”  and “We … need your help.” It appears that that the men were  arrested by the intelligence unit of Sepah-e Pasdaran, (Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) on 10 November last year — a matter of weeks after the band released their most recent album, In Pursuit Of Dreams — and were held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, in north-west Tehran, until 5 February this year, when they were…

Beyoncé faces police backlash after controversial Superbowl performance

HEALTH & SAFETY / CENSORSHIP Live events sector     Beyoncé is facing protest from the police as well as sports fans as well after her controversial halftime performance at Super Bowl 50. Beyoncé’s  show featured outfits resembling Black Panther and Black Power regalia.  The performance, viewed by more than 112 million people, also featured an unmistakeable ‘X’ formation (believed to commemorate the legacy of Malcolm X) and was soon followed by the equally controversial video for ‘Formation’. Immediately after the show, New York Mets enthusiastically announced that Beyoncé was scheduled for an upcoming performance at Citi Field, but many Mets vented their anger in social media, with angry fans demanding Citi Field cancel her event. Now, a number of police unions are speaking out against the singer, with some urging all-out boycotts. Police unions in Miami, Nashville, New York, and Tampa, Florida are taking the lead. Miami police union president Javier Ortiz said “Beyoncé used this year’s Super Bowl to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers, and her anti-police message shows how she does not support law enforcement”. The Tampa Police Benevolent Association expressed ‘disgust’ at both the half time performance and the ‘Formation’ video and urged “all law enforcement officers to boycott the purchase of Beyoncé’s…

Will boycotts of Israel mean a ban on Jewish festivals in Spain?
Censorship , Licensing , Live Events / December 2015

LICENSING / CENSORSHIP Live events sector   A left wing lawmaker from the Spanish city of Cordoba said that a local Jewish music festival would need to be rethought if a motion she had submitted in favour of boycotting the state of Israel passed.   Europa Press reported that Amparo Pernichi, Cordoba’s alderwoman for landscape and infrastructure, had linked Israel to the music festival during a news conference earlier this month and following controversy in local media over her statements, the draft motion was rejected by the Cordoba City Council on Nov. 10.   However, a similar motion passed the same day in the northern city of Santiago de Compostela. At the November 4th news conference Pernichi, who represents the United Left party, was asked whether her draft motion would spell the end of the International Sephardi Music Festival. The festival has been held since 2002 in Cordoba, a city in southern Spain that was a major cultural hub for Jews before their expulsion from Spain in the 15th century. Spanish Jews once constituted one of the largest and most prosperous Jewish communities in the world. This period ended definitively with the Alhambra decree of 1492, as a result of…

Ugandan star faces pornography prosecution for racy video
Censorship / June 2015

CENSORSHIP Broadcasting, all areas   Ugandan pop singer Jemimah Kansiime, who performs as Panadol Wa’basajja (which translates as ‘medicine for men’) is facing prosecution under Uganda’s 2014 Anti-Pornography Act, the conservative government’s somewhat draconian attempt to ban porn or “any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement.” The Act defines pornography as “any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement.” It goes on to state that “a person shall not produce, traffic in, publish, broadcast, procure, import, export, sell or abet any form” of the state’s interpretation of porn. The penalty, if convicted, is a fine or up to ten years in prison or both. The prosecution is the result of a racy music video for the track “Nkulinze” where the 21-year-old pop star can be seen dancing in a soaped-up thong and not much else. Kansiime released the video last September and was arrested two months later after Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo was apparently “shocked” by the video. Lokodo has recently boasted that he and his “intelligence team”…

Bombay blues for Indian songwriter
Artists , Censorship / March 2015

CENSORSHIP Artistes, sound recordings   An Indian songwriter who used ‘Bombay’ to rhyme with ‘today’ has seen his song censored when it was used in a television show – with the pre 1995 name for Mumbai removed. Censors stood by their decision to bleep out ‘Bombay’ in Mihir Joshi’s song Sorry about the gang rape of a girl on a Delhi bus, saying using the old name provoked ‘unnecessary controversy’.  The renaming of cities in India started in 1947, following the end of the British imperial period in India, and continues today.  In 1995 the Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena won elections in the state of Maharashtra and presided over a coalition that took control of the state assembly. After the election, the party announced that the port city had been renamed after the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi, the city’s patron deity. Federal agencies, local businesses, and newspapers were ordered to adopt the change.

Police stick with ‘ban on ‘obscene’ music at the Newcomers Parade
Censorship , Live Events / March 2015

CENSORSHIP Live events sector   In the U.S., local Police Chief Calder Hebert has confirmed to reporters that the St. Martinville Police Department will continue with its policy of keeping the Newcomer’s Parade as “family-friendly” as possible by removing any parade float playing “obscene” music, Hebert’s comments come just a few days after receiving a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana stating SMPD attempts to remove floats due to playing ‘obscene’ music would be considered unconstitutional and the letter, addressed to Hebert and SMPD, states the police department does not have the right to enforce an obscene music ban during the parade. The letter said: “First, we recognize that the Newcomer’s Club is a private organization with the right to set rules for participation in its parade. Our concern is not whether or how a private club may regulate participation in its event, but rather how police will enforce those rules,” the letter stated. The three-page letter, written by ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman, also cited an article published by The Teche News stating that city officials had singled out “rap” music in a January 20th St. Martinville City Council meeting. Esman said singling out…

School use of Rage Against The Machine track could result in funding cuts
Censorship , Education / February 2015

CENSORSHIP Education   Back in 2010, Arizona passed a somewhat controversial law that effectively banned ethnic studies within the collective school system. Now, John Huppenthal, a state superintendent of public education, is claiming that the use of Rage Against the Machine and other politically-charged music in the Tucson school curriculum is a direct violation of that law. In a “note of noncompliance” complaint sent to Tucson’s school district chiefs last week, Huppenthal argued that when U.S. History students at Cholla High school are asked to dissect the lyrics of a politically charged rap-metal band Rage Against the Machine – then band’s 1992 single “Take The Power Back” — a song that was being taught as part of a Mexican-American history lesson — this defied the restrictive law. An “Introduction to Hip-Hop” essay penned by rapper KRS-One that’s used in an English class was also cited as a violation. Huppenthal pointed to the lyrics of “Take The Power Back”, noting that that type of “content” was forbidden in Arizona classrooms and that courses that taught it were breaking the law. That is, these classes are working to promote “the overthrow of the government” and “resentment toward a race or class of…

Kiss FM guilty of Ofcom breach
Censorship / February 2015

CENSORSHIP Broadcasting   Ofcom has found that UK radio broadcaster Kiss FM breached its rules after the station broadcast an unedited version of Calvin Harris’s ‘Open Wide’ at 17.45 on a Sunday afternoon in November 2013 – The explicit track features sexually suggestive lyrics and multiple uses of the word ‘fucking’. Kiss said that it “sincerely apologised” for the error, and acknowledged that it had breached the rules. It explained that it had been given the opportunity to have the first play of Harris’s new single, and had scheduled the spin into its Sunday night chart show and that the track was not properly vetted and “clearly not been the expected ‘radio-friendly’ edit”. Ofcom said that it was “concerned that in this case, the licensee allowed a track that had not been listened to by station staff to be broadcast at a time when children were particularly likely to be listening”. Kiss said that as a result of the incident, it overhauled its procedures for checking the content of new songs, and disciplined the producer in charge of the chart show.

Cannibal Corpse face Russian ban
Censorship , Live Events / January 2015

CENSORSHIP Live events sector   After a number of shows on Cannibal Corpse’s recent Russian tour were cancelled by local authorities, shortly before or, in one case, during their performance, one of the cities that took against the US death metal band has now banned all of their album artwork and translations of their lyrics. A district court in the city of Ufa last week ruled in favour of a complaint brought by the Prosecutor’s Office of Bashkortostan on the grounds that (according to news agency Rapsi) “Lyrics by the band Cannibal Corpse could damage the mental health of children because they contain descriptions of violence, the physical and mental abuse of people and animals, murder and suicide – all accompanied by illustrations”. Several shows on the band’s tour of Russia earlier this year were pulled by the authorities, though none on the grounds cited in the lawsuit. In a statement at the time, the band said: “In Ufa the power was turned off shortly before the show (we were told because the venue was late on rent), and in Moscow and St Petersburg we were told that we did not have the correct visas and that if we attempted…

Apple removes white-supremacist music from iTunes
Censorship , Internet , Music Publishing / January 2015

CENSORSHIP Recorded music, internet   Apple has started removing music with white-supremacist themes and messages from iTunes following a non-profit organisation’s look into the funding of racist movements. An investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center discovered that 54 racist bands and their music were catalogued on iTunes. Many of those bands’ music was available for purchase or streaming through iTunes’ radio application. The music store also offered recommendations for other bands similar to those racist groups, a feature common for all music on the app that allowed users to find even more music with similar themes. Apple quickly responded to the SPLC’s article by removing 30 of those bands, including music from Skrewdriver, Max Resist and the Bully Boys, according to Noisey. The tracks remain available on other services including streaming platforms.

Legal threats to women in Iran for singing and playing music
Censorship , Live Events / December 2014

CENSORSHIP Live events sector Women in Iran are being threatened with legal action for singing or playing music in the latest clampdown on civil liberties within the religious dictatorship. A group of members of parliament in Iran have called for tougher action against women flouting the law. The spokesman for the parliament’s Security Commission Hossein Naghavi said in an interview with the state-run Mehr news agency: “If government officials do not take into account the remarks by the lawmakers, parliament will use its legal powers to address this problem.” “Women singing or playing a musical instrument is contrary to beliefs and religious values and in many cases, these prohibitions are not respected in this country.” The clerical regime has stepped up restrictions against women’s participation in the arts in recent months, cancelling concerts for having women musicians performing or for the use of the term ‘concert’.

Miley Cyrus fights ‘lewdness’ ban
Censorship , Licensing , Live Events / October 2014

LICENSING / CENSORSHIP Live events sector   Miley Cyrus has reportedly filed a legal challenge against her concert ban in the Dominican Republic. The star was set to perform a show in Santo Domingo on September 13th as part of her Bangerz Tour, but the Caribbean country’s national entertainment and radio commission (CNEPR) didn’t authorise the concert, citing lewdness as the reason why the show was cancelled. According to E! News, Miley has answered the cancellation by filing papers in a Dominican court claiming the council’s ban on artistic expression goes against the nation’s constitution. “Miley wants to defend artistic expression for all artists,” an insider explained to the outlet of the singer’s alleged decision to put forth a formal legal challenge. Local Dominican outlet Hoy previously reported a poll taken showed that 64% of voters agreed with the CNEPR’s decision to ban Miley’s show, but the rest opposed, arguing the ban violates freedom of expression. In a statement released last month, the CNEPR stated Miley ‘undertakes acts that go against morals and customs, which are punishable by Dominican law’ in her concerts. According to, the official letter went on to state the Wrecking Ball songstress wears inappropriate costumes…

UK confirms it will classify pop promos
Censorship , Internet / September 2014

CENSORSHIP Broadcasting, internet   A spate of recent sexually suggestive promotional videos from the likes of Rihanna, Robin Thicke, Mile Cyrus and Katy Perry has prompted the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to suggest an age-rating system for online videos which it suggests should be introduced as soon as possible. Following the issuing of new classification guidance from the BBFC, the organisation’s assistant director, David Austin, said it was responding to pressure from parents who were concerned about the sexual imagery freely available to children who had access to the web, having already begun reviewing videos by artists such as Metallica, Robbie Williams and Beyoncé which had been submitted on a voluntary basis. Austin said the BBFC was working with the BPI, the body representing the UK music industry, and Google in a pilot project to see how classification might work, though there were questions about how videos created abroad could be rated. It is thought the classifications will be quite strict as sexual and other behaviour cannot be put in context in the three or four minutes a promo videos allows: the latest guidance states: “The classification of a music video will take account of any elements which…

Russia enacts law against profanity in the arts
Artists , Censorship / September 2014

CENSORSHIP Artistes, broadcasting, theatre   Russia has enacted new laws targeting publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theatre prompting fears that the new provisions may be used to target free speech. The new law provides for fines of up $1,400, however for works which may include profanities and words deemed inappropriate. However some say the new law will promote culture: Moscow State University History Professor Anna Kuzmina reportedly said the law will help promote a better artistic culture, telling VOA “My personal opinion, and I support this law, is that profane language has almost become the norm and even has acquired a certain charm. Frequently, people do not take the trouble of finding the words, but speak emotionally expressing themselves with five or six, four-letter words”. The profanity law also bans the public showing of films with swear words and forces music and books to have warning labels. Many see the law as part of a conservative movement to shape Russia’s youth into a more nationalistic culture distinct from the liberal West.

BBFC offers new regulations for music videos
Censorship / February 2014

CENSORSHIP Broadcasting, cinema   The British Board of Film Classification is to pilot voluntary ratings for online music videos, as the exemption threshold for music DVDs is narrowed The threshold at which physically released music videos – primarily DVDs and Blu-rays – must receive an age classification from the BBFC is to be lowered. The organisation is also planning to launch a voluntary pilot for online music videos, in partnership with record label trade body the BPI, a spokesperson confirmed to the CMU Daily. This follows a review of the Video Recordings Act by the UK government, which was completed last year. Until now, only physically released music videos containing “extreme” content have required an age rating. Under the pending changes to the Act, expected to be implemented in the spring, anything that fits the criteria for a twelve certificate or above will have to be classified by BBFC examiners. Previously these would have been stamped ‘exempt’, or simply not put forward for review at all. Government has also asked the BBFC and the BPI to launch a pilot scheme to rate online music videos. At the moment online content does not come under the BBFC’s remit, and so anything…

Article: Art vs Personality right: German rapper Bushido causing “stress for no reason”?
Artists , Censorship / August 2013

CENSORSHIP / PERSONALITY Artistes By Birgit Clark From Germany comes the news that Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit has filed legal action against a new song by German rapper Bushido: “Stress ohne Grund” (“Stress for no Reason”).  The news has prompted German media to excitedly discuss the legal conflict between one person’s personality right and another person’s right of free expression and/or freedom of art.  Today, the debate heated up further after the German authorities for the protection of youth have ruled that Bushido’s song (together with the album that contains it) is to be banned for minors. In his latest offering enfant terrible Bushido is rapping about “coming to a party and causing stress for no reason.”  However, the song also includes lyrics that are directly aimed at public figures and which can very easily, indeed only, be interpreted as a call for violence.  About Claudia Roth, the head of the German Green Part, Bushido raps: “I’ll shoot at Claudia Roth and she willl be full of holes like a golf course”.  About Mr Wowereit, who is openly gay, he includes rather crude, homophobic comments relating to his sexualty.  Mr Wowereit, who is known to be tolerant, clearly did not…

One member of Pussy Riot freed
Censorship / November 2012

CENSORSHIP All areas   Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich (30) has been released from prison after her two year prison term for a conviction of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ was reduced to a suspended sentence on appeal yesterday.  Judge Larisa Polyakova accepted that Samutsevich, who had been prevented by guards from reaching the alter at Christ The Saviour Cathedral on February 21st, had not actual taken part in the protest, although she had intended to. However, at the same appeal hearing her fellow band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (22) and Maria Alyokhina (24) had their original sentences upheld and therefore will remain in prison, pending further appeals and have now been transferred to two separate labour camps (gulags). Both continue to argue that their protests against Vladimir Putin were political and not religious. In an interview marking his 60th birthday, Putin told state-run TV channel NTV that the three women “got what they asked for” adding “It was right that they were arrested, and the court’s decision was right”. Russian Orthodox church members, whose leader had been visible supporters of Putin, were initially enraged by the band’s actions bur whilst the Church hierarchy said the women’s action “cannot be left…

Pussy Riot trio found guilty
Artists , Censorship / September 2012

CENSORSHIP Artistes   Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich – have been found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred at the conclusion of their widely reported trial in Moscow for  performing a “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin on the altar of the Cathedral Of Christ The Saviour Of The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.  Paul McCartney has now joined artistes including Madonna, Rufus Wainwright and Bjork in supporting the three saying “I’m writing to show my support for you at this difficult time. I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest. Many people in the civilised world are allowed to voice their opinions and as long as they do not hurt anyone in doing so I believe this is the best way forward for all societies. I hope you can stay strong and believe that I and many others like me who believe in free speech will do everything in our power…

Anti-Putin Pussy Riot members sent back to prison “in act of political repression”
Censorship / August 2012

CENSORSHIP All areas   Back in February our news pages reported that all four members of Russian female punk rock quartet Pussy Riot had been arrested after performing ‘Putin has Pissed himself’ in Red Square and then on the 27th March we reported that three of the feminist punks were in more trouble – after an unsanctioned performance of their punk prayer “Virgin Mary Mother of God Expel Putin!” in Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral of Christ The Saviour. Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a public supporter of President Putin, said the band do the “devils work” and state television denounced the women’s actions as “disgusting”. Rather alarmingly three members of ten members plus collective, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (23), Yekaterina Samutsevich (19) and Maria Alehina (24), remain in prison on charges of aggravated hooliganism which could eventually mean a seven-year sentence. They deny being the mask clad figures at the cathedral but were denied bail at a early July hearing by Judge Marina Syrova in the Khamovnichesky District Court and having been in prison for five months already, now face for six more months in custody while the trial progresses although the trial is scheduled to begin on July 30th….

Katy Perry faces Indian claim for indecency
Artists , Censorship / August 2012

CENSORSHIP Artistes   Being taught how to hold a cricket bat seems to have landed Katy Perry in a spot of bother in India after lawyer filed a complaint about an “obscene and lascivious” on-stage incident that occurred when the singer played at the launch of the Twenty20 cricket season earlier this year. It seems  Perry invited Australian cricketer Doug Bollinger on stage during her show, and asked him to demonstrate how to hold a cricket bat. This resulted in Bollinger standing immediately behind Perry, and both singer and cricketer holding on to Perry’s microphone at groin height. A sequence that lawyer K Jebakumar believes was designed to appeal “to prurient interest”. Neither Perry nor Bollinger have been formally charged as yet and will not attend the initial court hearing to consider Jebakumar’s complaint, though if the courts believe there is a case under India’s obscenity laws, then they might be forced to defend their performance in court later this year.

Gaga faces South East Asian backlash
Censorship , Live Events / June 2012

CENSORSHIP Live events industry Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way Ball’ tour of South East Asia has hit problems in the Philippines with Christian groups joining Muslim protests against her concerts. In particular Christians have said that they are appalled by the use of a crucifix in “a very denigrating manner” as were the lyrics as one of her songs “where she is belittling Jesus Christ himself and praising Judas as heroic. It us understood the concerts in Manilla will monitored for any hint of “blasphemy, devil worship, nudity or lewd conduct”.    40,000 fans in the Catholic-majority nation have snapped up tickets of up to 15,840 pesos ($370) each to watch the U.S. singer perform in Manila. Police in Indonesia had already halted what would have been the biggest concert on her Asian tour after fears that her sexual imagery and risque dance routines would undermine Islamic values and corrupt youth. Muslim hardliners under the Islamic Defenders Front banner claimed the Born This Way Ball would undermine the country’s moral fibre and had planned to blocade the country’s airport. The 52,000 capacity show at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium was scheduled for June 3rd, promoted by Big Daddy Promotions. The IDF’s Salim Alatas told reporters  “She’s a vulgar…

Cameron wants more action on over-sexed promo videos

CENSORSHIP Artistes, broadcasting, record labels UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he is disappointed at the music industry’s efforts to regulate access by children to overly-sexualised pop promo videos, and plans to host a summit on the issue next month. An earlier report on the topic, authored by  Mothers Union boss Reg Bailey prompted the record industry to announce that it was extending its ‘parental advisory’ labelling programme, which identifies content that is possibly inappropriate for children on music CDs and DVDs, to the digital domain, with both audio and video services pledging to more clearly identify such tracks and videos.  However it seems that this has not far enough to satisfy Bailey and Cameron who think the music industry should be doing more to block access for children to more raunchy or violent videos, especially online and in particular the Sony / Universal owned VEVO platform, with Bailey as saying “Many of the industries mentioned in last year’s report have responded positively to our recommendations. I cannot say that has been the case with music videos. Age ratings should be introduced for music videos and there is also a clear case for age-verification for music video websites”….

MegaSong sparks mega row

COPYRIGHT / CENSORSHIP Internet, record labels This story has been rumbling for while now but the ‘Mega Song’ dispute is taking all sorts of twists and turns. Let’s start at the beginning: MegaUpload is a file sharing platform that produced a video for what we will call the ‘Mega Song’ featuring numerous big name artistes such as, Chris Brown and Macy Gray all, well, ‘bigging up’ MegaUpload. This was posted up on YouTube. So far, so good. But it didn’t stay on YouTube for long as Universal Music Group (UMG) took umbrage and had it taken down under YouTubes takedown procedures (or so we thought).   MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom (ermmm, that’s actually not his real name, its Schmitz, but wouldn’t it be great if it was) responded insisting his company had permission from all of the artists involved and owned all copyright in the track. He then said he was launching an action against UMG for improper use of the USA’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Universal firstly (and seemingly) said that their actions were correct as they were acting on behalf of one of their recording artistes featured in the MegaSong who had not given their consent to be…

Aceh police enforce strict code on punk rock fans
Censorship , Live Events / January 2012

CENSORSHIP Live events Police in Indonesia’s Aceh province are enforcing a strict Islamic code and authorities recently rounded up 65 male and female punk-rock fans after a concert for “re-education.” That meant having their mohawks and dreadlocks shaved, their clothes destroyed and their piercings removed “before they were paraded around like crime suspects” and then forced to sit in a muddy pool for what police called “spiritual cleansing.”  The fans were then detained for ten days. The fans have now alleged harassment but the authorities say they’ve done nothing wrong: “We’re not torturing anyone. We’re not violating human rights,” the provincial police chief said “We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.” In 2005, after years of armed rebellion, residents of secular Aceh province on the island of Sumatra were granted permission to impose strict sharia, or Islamic law, to better promote moral values in the now-semiautonomous province. Religious police can now enforce the codes where adultery is punishable by stoning and homosexuals have been jailed or lashed in public with canes. Human Rights groups have also complained that women are told they must wear head scarves and cannot dress in tight pants.  “Why? Why my hair?!” called out one 20-year-old fan said…

Music videos face age restrictions in UK
Censorship , Internet / July 2011

CENSORSHIP Internet, broadcasting A new report commissioned by UK Prime Minister David Cameron says that music videos should come with age ratings to protect children from overt sexual imagery and lyrics at an early age. The rating system is one of a number of proposals put forward by Reg Bailey, the head of the Mothers’ Union, as a way to curb the “sexualisation and commercialisation of children”. The BPI recently announced plans to extend its parental advisory scheme, which results in stickers being put on CDs which contain strong language or adult themes, to the digital domain for sites like YouTube. Songwriter and producer Mike Stock of Stock Aitken Waterman Fame (Kylie, et all) has criticised the fashion for raunchy videos and performances from acts such as Rhianna, Nicole Scherzinger and Christina Aguilera – whose overtly sexual performance on the X-factor attracted thousands of complaints but narrowly avoided regulatory censure for broadcaster ITV. Stock blamed “American acts who have sexualised imagery, dance moves and lyrical content way beyond the limits of decency” adding that the UK’s 9pm “watershed” when it is a presumed an adult audience will be watching was “irrelevant” in the age of digital catch up TV with…

Indonesian star jailed over sex tape
Artists , Censorship / March 2011

CENSORSHIP Artistes Nazril ‘Ariel’ Irham, the Indonesian pop star, has been jailed for three and a half years in his after video footage seemingly showing him having sex with various celebrity girlfriends circulated on the internet. Irham, of Indonesian boy band Peterpan, was prosecuted under strict anti-pornography laws passed in the country in 2008, which ban public displays of nudity and behaviour that could “incite lust” despite the fact it seems the video was circulated after his laptop was stolen. Irham denied the charges and denied being in the tape but the  judge ruled “the defendant is legitimately and convincingly guilty of giving chances for others to spread, make and provide pornography”.  A massive police presence was needed to keep order at the court where a large crowd of the pop star’s fans were outraged at the sentence. Representatives from Muslim groups were angered that the outcome wasn’t more severe.  CMU Daily 1st February

Hungary raps rude radio amid growing media storm
Censorship / February 2011

CENSORSHIP Broadcasting Hungary’s new media authority has launched proceedings against a local radio station in Hungary that dared to play two songs filled with obscenities during daytime hours. The Authority launched an investigation last week after local broadcaster Tilos played Ice-T’s “Warning” and “It’s On” on a September afternoon, outside the allowed late-night time slot, when in all events a vulgar language warning would have been needed to have precede the tracks. The Authority said that the obscenities in Ice-T’s songs could have an adverse impact on the moral development of listeners under the age of 16 although the radio station responded that children under 16 rarely have the command of English to be able to understand what the songs were about. In Hungary, still relatively few possess advanced foreign language skills. Tilos Radio, whose name means “forbidden” has played songs with obscene lyrics in the past and was fined both in 2003 and 2005. The Ice-T scandal comes when Hungary is exposed to mounting criticism both at home and from the international community for the new and controversial media law that came into effect the same day the country assumed the European Union’s rotating presidency for the next six…

German Court clears Rammstein cover artwork and lyrics
Artists , Censorship / July 2010

CENSORSHIP Artists The original version of Rammstein album ‘Love Is For All’, or ‘Liebe Ist Für Alle Da’ can now be legally put on sale in Germany after a court disagreed with the Federal Office For The Examination Of Media Harmful To Young People which had prevented the album from being put on public display in German record shops last year, mainly because of the long player’s depictions of sado-masochism. Concern was also expressed regarding the explicit nature of some of the artwork and over the song ‘I Want To Hurt You’, which, as well as its S&M overtones, was deemed to promote unprotected sex. The ban also stopped label Universal advertising the record in Germany and record shops from selling it to anyone under eighteen. The major label responded by releasing an alternative version of the long player with the offending content cut.  Universal also contested the ban in court and now the administrative court in Cologne has overturned it, meaning the original uncut version of the album can now be put back on display in record shops, be sold to minors, and be advertised by the label. According to Billboard, the court ruled that the song ‘I Want To Hurt You’ does not contain…

Lambert’s kiss prompts religious fury in the USA
Censorship / January 2010

CENSORSHIP Broadcasting Adam Lambert’s gay kiss and sexually charged performance at the American Music Awards continues to have repercussions in the USA with ABC cancelling Lambert’s upcoming appearance on the late night show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and removing him from the potential roster of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve performers. The Liberty Counsel, a not for profit public interest law firm closely tied to the late Revered Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia which provides legal assistance in defense of what it calls “Christian religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family” has now filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission over Lambert’s controversial performance at the AMAs, calling on the FCC to fine ABC for “airing such an outrageously lewd and filthy performance during a show and time period that is targeted for family audiences”. Executives at ABC, which had earlier canceled Lambert’s scheduled appearance on “Good Morning America,” have declined to discuss the reasons behind the cancellations. Lambert, the popular and openly gay “American Idol” runner-up, has said on his Twitter site that the network is responding to “FCC heat”. ABC said that it received about 1,500 complaints from viewers about Lambert’s seemingly unrehearsed sexually suggestive performance, which featured the singer…

US groups seek to ban Townshend from the Superbowl
Censorship , Live Events / January 2010

CENSORSHIP Live events industry Pressure groups in the US are looking to have The Who’s Pete Townshend removed from the half time Superbowl show. Townshend was arrested in 2003 for accessing child pornography, was cautioned by police and put on the sex offenders register for five years. Townshend has always maintained that he only accessed the material for a research project. ChildAbuseWatch in the US is lobbying the NFL to drop the guitarist from the Superbowl show, whilst protect Our Children has asked US Immigration officials to refuse Townshend entry to the US on grounds of ‘moral turpitude’. The Times  December 24th 2009.

Rammstien album cover deemed harmful to minors
Censorship / December 2009

CENSORSHIP Recorded music The artwork for the new album from German band Rammstein has been banned from public display in their home country after a Federal media regulator ruled that depictions of sado-masochism were harmful to children and young people. The Deputy President of the Federal Office also said that one track on the album in particular, ‘Ich Tue Dir Weh’ (or ‘I Want To Hurt You’) caused concern, possibly as a result of the line “Bites, kicks, heavy blows, nails, pincers, blunt saws – tell me what you want” and the regulator was also concerned about artwork showing guitarist Richard Kruspe with a masked naked woman on his knees. Another track, single release ‘Pussy’, was also criticised for glorifying unprotected sex (and Rammstein members are seen having full on sex in the video to ‘Pussy’, although a spokesman for the rockers insists doubles were used for the explicit scenes). As a result of the ruling no shops will be able to display the album in any place where it might be seen by anyone under eighteen and German retailers were given 24 hours to comply with the notice. Universal Music Germany has announced it will release a new version of Rammstein’s new album ‘Liebe Ist…

Beyonce pulls out of Malaysian date for second time
Artists , Censorship , Live Events / November 2009

CENSORSHIP Live events industry, Artists Beyonce Knowles has postponed a planned concert in Malaysia following protests by Islamic conservatives – who said that the show would be immoral. Beyonce, had been scheduled to perform at a Kuala Lumpur stadium on October 25th but promoters Marctensia said in a statement that the show “has been postponed to a future date to be announced shortly” and that “the postponement is solely [the] decision of the artist and has nothing to do with other external reasons,” the statement said. The concert promoters declined to say whether the decision was prompted by criticism from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party who protested against the concert as it would promote “Western sexy performances”. Beyonce also cancelled a show in Malaysia in 2007, after similar protests from the opposition party.

Is music policed and controlled?
Censorship / October 2008

CENSORSHIP & POLICY All areas, theatre The Taliban may rip tape from cassettes and smash radios – but other ways of controlling what we listen to are far more subtle – from copyright to BBC playlists – and this interesting article, which profiles the work of musician and academic Richard Witts, looks at how sound and music are controlled And for a look at the history of censorship in the theatre including recent cases see ‘A Disgusting Feast of Filth?’

Commercial Censorship Meets Copyright
Censorship , Copyright / August 2006

COPYRIGHT / CENSORSHIP Film and televison On July 6, 2006, the US District Court for the District of Colorado ruled that companies that produce sanitized copies of Hollywood films on DVD are violating copyright law and must stop editing out the content they find offensive. The defendants (by counterclaim) included CleanFlicks, a Utah-based company which creates and publicly distributes copies of the plaintiffs’ movies that have been altered by deleting “sex, nudity, profanity and gory violence”.  CleanFlicks sells directly to video stores and to consumers online through its web site.  Purchasers are required to buy both the authorized and edited copies. The plaintiffs (by counterclaim) included major movie studios, such as MGM, Paramount, and Twentieth Century Fox, and a number of high-profile directors such as Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg.  The studios sell and distribute movies to the public on DVD and VHS for purchase and rental.  They also sell and distribute edited versions of the movies for use by airlines and network television. The plaintiffs argued that the defendants were violating their right to create derivative works, or edited versions of their films.  They did not seek damages but rather an injunction preventing the defendants from copying…

Jerry Springer opera did not break TV rules
Artists , Censorship / June 2005

CENSORSHIP Artists, Television, Theatre The UK’s communications regulator Ofcom has said that Jerry Springer: The Opera did not breach broadcasting guidelines. The decision to screen the musical on BBC2 sparked accusations of blasphemy from Christian groups who launched the largest ever number of complaints against a programme. Ofcom accepted that the portrayal of religious figures could have been offensive to some people but said it understood that the show’s effect was to “satirise modern fame and the culture of celebrity”. Ofcom also noted that the programme was preceded by a programme designed to put the Opera in context. The BBC Board of Governors have also supported the broadcast saying that it was justified because the outstanding artistic significance outweighed the offence which might be caused to some people and that the show was a satire preceded by clear warnings. Source: The Guardian 10 May 2005 and see Law Updates February 2005 Demonstrations by some members of the Sikh community close the theatric presentation of Behzti and raise issues of free speech

Demonstrations by some members of the Sikh community close the theatric presentation of Behzti and raise issues of free speech
Artists , Censorship / February 2005

CENSORSHIP & DISCRIMINATION Artists, Theatre, Live Concerts, Film, Television A desire to stamp out religious, sexual and other hatred often clashes with the desire to retain a right of free speech for all members of a community. In our December 2004 Law Updates we briefly covered the story of Jamaican reggae star Sizzla Kalomji being barred from the UK by the then Home Secretary as police investigated claims that his lyrics were homophobic and anti-white. Of course the counter argument is that Sizzla Kalomi is an artist who should have the right to free expression (which is now provided for in the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention for Human Rights). In a widely reported story, violent demonstrations by members of the Sikh community have caused the temporary closure of the play Behzti at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. The play included scenes of sexual abuse and murder in a Sikh Temple. Along with the Sizzla case it is quite possible that the play could fall foul of existing laws against stirring up racial hatred. Under the Public Order Act 1986 it is an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour within the hearing of a person likely to be caused…

US Antitrust Settlement ‘Censored’ By State Lawyers
Artists , Censorship , Competition , Record Labels / September 2004

COMPETITION LAW/CENSORSHIP Record Labels, Artists In 2002 US District Judge D Brock Hornby sitting in the federal court approved the settlement of a lawsuit filed on behalf of millions of record club members who alleged they had been overcharged in a price-fixing conspiracy. The sum of US $143 million was agreed by the five major record companies (Sony, BMG, EMI, Universal and Warners) and three large music retailers in settlement of the anti-trust claims – the claims were that they had been conspiring to set minimum prices for music CDs in the United States. Under that settlement, 3.5 million people received cheques for $12.60 and libraries and schools across the country will due to get $75.7 million worth of music CDs. The lawsuit was signed by the attorney generals of 43 states and territories. However, all is not well with the settlement. In Kansas City, Missouri the Attorney General Phil Kline has withheld 1,600 of the state’s allotted 51,000 discs, because they are contrary to his “concept of decency”. He will not allow any albums that “promote violence or illegal activity” to go into public libraries or schools. The 25 offending artists include Outkast, Notorious B.I.G., Rage Against The Machine,…