When an artist signs a contract with a record label and publishing company there is a customary clause that governs how the artists music can be used in association with brands, marketing and the context of commercial placements including films and television shows. This provision grants the artist authority and control over how they are represented to the world and often coincides with the artists personal values (such as political campaign uses). These concepts track the laws against misappropriation of the artist’s right of publicity and laws against falsely implied endorsements. Not to mention the moral rights of artists.
The online exploitation of artists work, beyond the obvious illegal distribution of their work without permission or compensation now extends into brands leveraging the appeal of the artist to promote their product or service (like banking or insurance). In the examples below both Wells Fargo Bank and Nationwide Insurance are specifically benefiting from gaining direct access to fans of Aimee Mann. Unfortunately Aimee is not consulted, has not been given rights of approval, and last but not least, is not being compensation for the value her brand brings to these companies.
But it get’s worse. We’ve been reading a lot about how human trafficking has become a real problem online. We don’t know that the sites specifically advertising on The Pirate Bay are operating illegally, but they are most likely not the type of advertiser or service that we could imagine an artist such as Aimee Mann supporting.
So to add insult to injury, not only do brands run roughshod over artists’ rights to compensation for the consumption of their work, but they also ignore the artists’ right to control how they are represented to their peers and to the public. Major brands literally trade off the artist’s name by associating their products with the artist. And the worst of it is, there are businesses that may be profiting from human trafficking and also using the artists name and work to promote that human suffering.
Isn’t it about time that everyone stopped playing games and start holding those bad actors responsible and accountable–beginning with the brands and advertising networks that make it possible?