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.