July 31, 2014

DJ Shortee: On Theft from Other DJs & Producers

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Hi, I’m DJ Shortee, a Los Angeles-based DJ/producer. As an artist and label owner, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of thieves, copyright infringement cases, and plagiarism. I’ve had to defend my own rights and the rights of artists on my label (Heavy Artillery Recordings) numerous times. I believe theft is a growing problem within the music scene, and that’s why I’m writing this.

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about people illegally downloading music for free for their own use—that’s a totally different discussion. I’m referring to previously released original musical works being stolen, re-named, re-released and sometimes even re-sold under someone else’s name, as if they had produced it themselves. In addition to music production, this problem has also spread into the realm of DJing and turntablism.

Recently, I raised a dispute over some of my content that was stolen multiple times. An original scratch intro that I created for my DJ mixes years ago was re-released, cutting my name out and replaced with someone else’s name, leading people to believe that this other person performed it, rather than me.

My work was used as this person’s DJ intro on at least 38 mixes and various radio shows over a period of four years. As a point of reference for traditional musicians, this would be akin to someone stealing a recording of a guitarist’s solo and promoting it as if they performed it themselves in order to gain more work as a guitarist.

Shortee - Guitar Center 6

In addition to the actual theft, I was also shocked to find how quickly blogs and media outlets ran with a fragmented story, without even verifying the facts. Some even went as far as falsely quoting me without ever speaking to me personally, confusing the story further. It quickly became evident that the buzz of a story and the hits these websites received was more important than the lives of the people it actually affected. This also made me realize how easy it would be for someone to manipulate a story to gain publicity, and that was a bit unsettling, too.

If all this sounds alarming, it’s because it is. A music industry in which people can steal your work and use media to further gain from you is scary. Music theft and defamatory reporting is reminiscent of identity theft. Contrary to popular belief, I do not feel that all publicity is good, nor is all drama newsworthy. As an artist, it’s important to stand up for your hard work and take action against theft, but awareness and communication are key to controlling an easily confused public dispute.

Take it from someone who still values individual artistic expression—some things are worth fighting for and you don’t need to be a victim. I wish I had all the answers to solve all these problems once and for all, and I hope that by making this issue public, I’ve brought some awareness to an ugly reality that’s happening far too often in our music scene. That said, here’s some advice for DJs and producers finding themselves in similar situations:

If the music in question is on a music social media platform such as Soundcloud, Bandcamp or Mixcrate, reach out to those platforms directly, as they are really good about these situations and will take fast measures to remove stolen content from their sites. If someone is re-releasing your work in an online store such as iTunes or Beatport, reach out to the store and the label that released it (if any), or have your label/distributor reach out to them—and then the store should delete the offending release once they confirm that an infringement has been committed.

If it’s on a blog, reach out to the blog’s principal/editor, etc. If it’s on the offender’s website and you aren’t getting a response from the offender, call them out publicly. Most people will be embarrassed and they’ll delete the content immediately. However, after this experience with the media running with public posts and twisting the stories up, I have found that if you want to stay in control of your viewpoint online, only use the “public post” option as a last resort—and only when all else fails.

In the End: Ultimately, my situation is finally in the process of becoming resolved to my satisfaction. However, it didn’t come without its own measure of annoyance. So, to the DJs and producers: I wish you all good luck, I encourage you to watch your back, and, of course, I offer best wishes to all the creative artists who are doing their business the right way.

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