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Van Morrison fan site under attack by Web Sheriff

A popular Van Morrison fan site has received a letter demanding that the site be closed. Here’s an extract from a post by the site’s founder.

This site began as a personal hobby about 12 years ago, an expression of my own enthusiasm for Mr. Morrison’s music, which I hoped to share with other fans…The tone is respectful; there is no advertising on the site — never has been; there is no facilitation or encouragement of piracy; in fact the site has long contained a statement to the effect that bootlegging was “not condoned”. Any fair-minded visitor to the site is likely to have concluded that the site promoted, and helped fans to better understand, Mr. Morrison’s work.

Despite this history, despite all of these facts, on Monday, January 14 I received a message from someone working for an outfit named WebSheriff, who claimed to represent Van Morrison and Exile Productions. According to the message, this website stands accused of (and I quote): “numerous infringements of our said clients’ IP [ed: Intellectual Property] rights including, but not limited to, the infringement of copyrights, trademarks, goodwill, performers rights, moral rights, publicity rights, privacy rights and the wholesale facilitation of further, numerous infringements by third parties on a grand scale (such as providing access to bootleg / unauthorised / illegal recordings)” end quote. I’ll repeat for emphasis: “wholesale facilitation of”; “on a grand scale”.

It looks like this is the Web Sheriff in question:

It was through the acute need and demand for the protection of on-line rights against infringements and abuse, that Web Sheriff was set-up by its parent company, Entertainment Law Associates. Web Sheriff is one of the few specialist, companies that operate in the field of internet policing and has become a market-leader through offering truly across-the-board solutions, from on-line legal enforcement to high tech anti-piracy.

There is quite possibly some degree of copyright infringement on the site in question; but attacking your biggest fans, who are doing unpaid promotion, is silly. The site is well-regarded and was apparently featured in the BBC’s “Best of the Web” guide, among other recommendations.

The site owner received this unwelcome missive on January 14th. It was also sent to his employer, a university, presumably because the site was hosted on its servers. He took the site offline as “an expression of goodwill” and pending receipt of guidelines for making the site legal, which he was told to expect within 48 hours. They did not appear, and he decided to reopen the site, but at a new home, so as not to involve the university any further.

No doubt this controversy will get the Unofficial Van Morrison website many new visitors to enjoy these “grand scale” infringements.

Update: It looks as if the site is offline again.

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7 comments to Van Morrison fan site under attack by Web Sheriff

  • I work for such a company as a digital foresnics developer. I laugh at some of the antics that companies get up to, sometimes bordering on malpractice. I haven’t see the Van Morrison (should that be trademarked?) site, but no doubt does have some IP content such as images etc. However, this does not constitute illegality if the images are in the public domain.

    But the real problem here is not with the VM site but with Web Sheriff who are no doubt being paid to provide their services and who are failing their clients. Indeed simply saying bad site not following the guidelines which we will send later, is useless it does restrict the number of potential new customers purchasing VM products, but it also means that Web Sheriff either do not have any guidelines to send out or are some part-time organisation over paid, under worked and unprofessional.

    Our company would have (God sounds like an advert but it is not – just an example I am knowledgable about) sent a report to the webmaster saying the images, files, and comments need to be removed because of copyright / IP infringement. Use these instead, or other appropriate alternatives or seek permission from . We would also say things like your ICRA rating is missing, your Accessibility score is… etc, giving the webmaster not just the bad news but assistance in making their site much better and compliant.

    TIP: Never host any site on your employers servers it is very very poor practice.

  • Linda

    I renewed my interest in Van Morrison after stumbling on to the fan site.

    I enjoyed the news of his shows, and photos of him and his fans. The site was well done and very positive toward VM.

    If this action was instigated by Van Morrison I am seriously disappointed in his lack of character and his inability to make discerning judgments. Bad show!

  • Phil

    Like Lynda I got interested in Van Morrison again after finding this site. I even bought several Van albums after rediscovering his music. This kind of censorship is depressing, restrictive and commercially DUMB!

    I wanted to revisit the site because I really enjoyed the site’s passion and astringency about a great artist. Now it’s gone. SHAME! And shame on you Van if you had anything to do with harrassing it.
    Still may thanks to the site’s founder – you’ve given me a lot of pleasure TA
    This is the future of the web (well present now) as commercial interests take over.

  • James

    I hate this. I feel so bad for this guy who has clearly spent many, many hours of his free time creating and maintaining what is basically a shrine to Van and his music. Personally, I learned a great deal at this website and it’s revolting that a performer who often rails against the “system” would then bully an ardent fan.

    Does anyone know of any way to contact Van more directly???

  • Gary Suffling

    The loss of this site was a huge blow for me as it was one of my favourites out there, not only was it a great source of information but also helped de-code some of Van’s lyrics in both literal and implied meaning. How this site acted agains Van’s interest is beyond me, on recommendation I sent several friends and acquaintances there many of whom became fans and bought several CD’s (there was no possibility to download music there anyway). Having had a large collection on vinyl and now the full collection on CD it is a shame to see such sites attacked, especially when the official website was inferior.
    As mentioned above, it was clear the presenter of this site was a huge fan and probably added more to the fan base and understanding of the songs than any other site or magazine including Wavelength.
    If the site’s founder would please contact me I would love access again to the lyrics and interpretation pages. her’s hoping … better use an alias in case the lawyers come after me for asking! friar.laurence246@googlemail.com

    Thanks for the information 🙂

  • laura

    is there any way of accessing the van/exile videos that i listened to in the summer of 2008? (when the leaves come falling down, vanlose stairway (oddly still on youtube), soul, keep it simple, that’s entrainment) what happened to exile?

  • Tony Loggia

    After hearing this I think I’ll just get rid of all of my Van Morrison CDs and never bother with him again…Exile productions promised to reissue all the CDs and stopped in the middle and never issued a statement which is more of this arrogance…Van Morrison isn’t at all for his fans but more for being spiteful and selfish when it comes to himself…he even closed his own website down because someone supposedly said he fathered a child, but who really cares at this point in his life he’s not that much of a celebrity, never really was and never will be, personally i had enough of Van Morrison’s horrible attitude…Dylan actually encourages piracy he knows if people hear his live stuff they’ll want to see him and it’s true i heard his live stuff and make my way to see him everytime he comes to a city i’m in at the time…life is too short to be hateful and spiteful like van morrison is maybe it’s because he was an only child he acts like this.