Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Not that I want to cover much about politics here or on the new allmediareviewsnotmusic, but with this message on today, it's probably worth passing along. If rym went away, while I'd survive, it would definitely change things and suck for awhile. Although I'm sure finding alternatives would happen, I still wouldn't want it to happen of course.

Stop SOPA and PIPA

SOPA and PIPA are two misguided bills intended to fight piracy, but will instead stifle online speech and threaten the existence of many legitimate sites such as RYM. Please take a moment to call or write your representatives to let them know you oppose these bills! If you live outside the US, please petition the State Department. RYM is offline today to raise awareness about the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bills which are currently being considered by the U.S. Congress.

As the founder of RYM, I'd like to explain why this legislation would threaten the existence of legitimate sites such as this one.

As most of you know, RYM is a reference site which provides information about music. We feature artist biographies, discographies, user-written reviews, and similar content. There is no music available for download on the site, with the exception of a collection of songs from around 100 unsigned artists who have given us explicit permission.

In addition, we prohibit users from linking to any pirated material, or even to other sites which are dedicated to providing such links. The result is that you won't find any pirated music on RYM, or even through RYM.

Despite our work in making sure RYM only contains legal material, we constantly receive complaints from a small group of misinformed artists and labels who mistake RYM for a piracy/file-sharing site and believe we're somehow making their material available for download. Oftentimes, a simple reply asking them to take a closer look at the site clears things up, but sometimes we are forced to have attorneys respond.

While I wish we wouldn't have to spend time and money responding to these false complaints, it's a situation that is manageable. However, the proposed legislation would change this dynamic in a way that would make it impossible for site owners to defend themselves against such false allegations.

The reason is simple: these bills allow the attorney general and/or third parties to effectively shut down sites like RYM without due process.

If this legislation were passed, any third-party could complain to the attorney general in an attempt to shut down RYM. The AG could then request a temporary injunction against RYM without us being notified or given a chance to defend ourselves against the allegations.

If that wasn't enough, the legislation would grant immunity to any service provider that decides to voluntarily stop providing services to RYM due to their own suspicion of copyright infringement. This gives third parties yet another way to subvert due process; they could simply bully the service providers into voluntarily shutting down a site, and it would usually be in the providers' best interest to do so given the immunity clause.

As I've mentioned above, some copyright holders unfortunately don't understand how the internet works at all. Some of them mistakenly believe that informational sites like Wikipedia are infringing sites. And the government itself has demonstrated that they can often be confused as well. For example, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency shut down a legitimate music site,, for over a year.

It therefore makes no sense to allow these parties to make a determination of the legitimacy of a site without input from the site operators themselves.

If RYM were temporarily shut down, it would be devastating to our finances. Running a site that serves 50 million page views per month is expensive. By the time I would be able to contest the shutdown and contact all the services needed to power RYM, I would be thousands of dollars in debt, and there's no guarantee that I would be able to re-establish all of the affiliate/advertising agreements that would be broken as a result of the injunction.

I strongly feel that artists should be properly compensated for their work. But this bill has little to do with protecting artists and everything to do with taking away fundamental legal protections to those who operate web sites. And legitimate, non-infringing sites that are related to entertainment - such as RYM - will be hurt the most.

Please take a moment to call or write your representatives to voice your opposition to this legislation. If you live outside the US, Wikipedia has information on how you can take action.

Hossein Sharifi

Founder, Rate Your Music

Resources and links

Wikipedia: SOPA and PIPA: Learn More

EFF: Stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation

Ars Technica: Why Ars Technica opposes the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Tim O'Reilly: SOPA and PIPA are bad industrial policy

*Some proponents of this legislation claim that it only applies to foreign sites, but this is false. The definition of "foreign" is loose enough to include RYM due to its use of non .com/.net/.org domain names. And section 104, the immunity clause, applies to all internet sites.