Today a federal court of appeals in the US will consider if selling so-called promo CDs is illegal. Over in the UK another investigation is running its course after James Hyman, a high-profile ex-MTV executive and radio DJ, became suspected of selling hundreds of discs on eBay, some of which are believed to have fallen into the hands of groups who later released them on the Internet.
“On Monday, a federal court of appeals in Seattle will consider whether it is legal to resell ‘promo CDs’. You’ve seen them, the CDs mailed out for free by record labels to industry insiders, reviewers, and radio stations, each bearing the label ‘promotional use only, not for resale’,” writes the EFF in an article titled “Why Your Right To Sell Promo CDs Matters.”
The case sees Universal Music Group take on an eBay seller called “Roast Beast Music”. Roast Beast Music buys promo CDs at used record stores and sells them on eBay. In 2008 Roast Beast Music won its case but Universal, undeterred, appealed the decision.
Over the pond in the UK a similar question could be answered shortly.
Earlier this year we learned of raids quietly carried out against members of an Internet release group, a case that is still ongoing. In the course of our investigations into this event we stumbled across another release group whose sources for new material had suddenly and coincidentally dried up. It didn’t take long to work out that both groups somehow had a connection to the same supplier.
Our investigations then led us to look closer at an eBay account which had been offering, amongst other things, promo CDs. The individual behind the ‘popculture4sale’ account clearly had access to a huge number of them and had conducted many thousands of sales through the site.
Armed with the user names of both the seller and some of the buyers we started digging deeper and asking questions, and we were surprised at what we found.
In 2006 a row blew up on an online forum over some unreleased tracks being sold on eBay. Someone interested in finding out who was behind the sales obtained the seller’s address. That address was a perfect match for the contact address provided for ex-MTV executive James Hyman on his personal website.
Hyman began his career at MTV Europe in 1988 as Press Officer but later went on to become Senior Producer, Director and Programmer. His achievements there were impressive.
“From 1988 to 2000, Hyman steered MTV through the emerging UK dance music scene, from its inception (the acid house explosion) right through to its current global multi-million dollar culture. Hyman’s MTV shows featured over 500 in-depth interviews with all the major players, many unknown at time of interview: The Prodigy, Goldie, Moby, David Holmes, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Paul Oakenfold, Aphex Twin etc,” reads information from Hyman’s personal website.
“Hyman, involved in all aspects of MTV’s playlist strategy & programme production was also responsible for producing, directing and editing over 250 pop videos, including clips for Fatboy Slim, New Order, Mike Oldfield, Moby, Prince & Michael Jackson,” it adds.
The row about promo sales played out on the NuSkoolBreaks forum. However, it seems that Hyman, who had left MTV at the time of the transactions and had joined London’s XFM as a DJ, took exception to having his real name, address and associated eBay account linked in public. Hyman went on to threaten the forum’s administrator with legal action, should he not take down the information. The multi-page thread in question was edited, but not enough to obscure who the discussion was about.
So here we are back in 2010 and it seems that despite the probability that Hyman obtained said promos 100% legitimately and probably had little or zero idea the music would turn up on the Internet, he appears to be in considerable trouble. A source close to Hyman confirmed to us that he became a suspect in the case several months ago and has been answering bail.
In the weeks prior to posting this article TF contacted Hyman via his current company website twice and gave him an outline of what we know along with an opportunity to contribute and comment, but they have received no responses.
According to his site, Hyman has a personal media library which includes over one million magazines, in excess of 50,000 vinyl records and more than 50,000 CDs. That’s several lifetimes worth of viewing and listening. Clearing some of them out on eBay seems to make perfect sense – how much music can one person listen to?
But that said, this situation provides much food for thought. If someone legitimately and freely gives a another person an item, should they then be entitled to do with it as they please? With just about any other item on this planet that would be fine. With promo copies of music, it seems to be a different story.