by carl wilson

MySpace Artists, Unite
(You Have Nothing to Lose But Your 'Friends')


This first broke on Stillepost last week, while I was a bit out of the loop, but a press release today indicates that Toronto band Kids on TV intends to keep pushing the issue: At the beginning of the month, the group had its MySpace account deleted "with no warning or specific explanation." They were sent a notice after the fact which cited several of the rules that could have been involved, including a ban on nudity and "sexually suggestive photos." Kids on TV say, "We suspect that, although we kept our site visually 'PG-13' and played by the rules, the discussion of sexuality in our lyrics and the open embrace of radical culture was too much for MySpace. We definitely ran into their limits, whatever they were. They never responded to our questions either, which is the experience everyone has apparently."

The group was free to set up a new account, but the work that went into the first one - including having accumulated 14,000 "friends" - was lost. So the Kids went on to set up a MySpace page addressing the question of MySpace censorship, and have been collecting stories from other artists - most of them, they discovered, other gay and sex-positive artists. In addition, Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy, as well as local band Sailboats Are White and a Stilleposter who posted a fan Tiny Tim profile (a common MySpace practice), have discovered that MySpace deletes sites - again, without notice - when they perceive intellectual-property issues. All of these actions are taken by anonymous MySpace staff without any process in place for appeal or discussion.

I'd be quick to agree that when you take advantage of the free service that a network such as MySpace provides, you're dealing with a private company - specifically, Rupert Murdoch's company - that has every right to set terms and limits to what they're willing to provide and the legal risks they're willing to undertake. However, MySpace in turn only has value to Murdoch and his shareholders because of the content and labour provided, likewise free of charge, by its membership, and especially in MySpace's case, by musicians. The arbitrary draconian approach they've taken in these cases violates the reasonable expectations and good-faith implicit contract between these contributors and the owners of the network. Not to mention many of the conventions and underlying ethos of Internet culture. If it's being applied disproportionately to queer artists, that's a big problem, even if (as I'm sure is the case) it's not an intentional policy but a consequence of acting reflexively on whatever complaints they receive. And on copyright issues they're sure to give corporate rather than artistic interests the benefit of the doubt, no matter if the law would probably be on the artist's side (as in Final Fantasy's case).

The good news is that MySpace has proved pliable to pressure in the past - as when Billy Bragg pushed them to change an ambiguous clause in their user agreement that seemed to give MySpace property rights over posted songs. Kids on TV makes the fine point that they should get rid of the highly subjective language of the ban on "sexually suggestive" pictures. But the standards are always going to be subject to interpretation. So here's what users should organize to demand: If there's a problem, suspend accounts rather than deleting them; send a notice explaining the specific violation, with a reasonable window (say, 10 days) for users to appeal to an ombudsman-style arbiter who would be empowered to reverse the initial decision or negotiate changes so the page could be restored to active status.

It all sounds very geeky, I know. Many will say, why not just bail from MySpace and move on? Well, as Kids on TV say, access to this network has been a huge boon to independent musicians in recent years. It's a corporate site, sure, but in most senses, unlike major and even indie record labels, it's a space defined by musicians and audiences without go-betweens. It has a very active, music-loving audience. Building up new alternatives would burn up time that could be spent making music, and there's little doubt that these issues would cycle around again. So, better to take a stand.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 14 at 12:56 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)



building up alternatives doesn't take any time at all!!

Posted by Kevin Erickson on March 16, 2007 12:13 PM



The tendency for queer profiles to be deleted seems even more perplexing when you consider the number of sexy baby doll profiles that are constantly requesting adds and spamming comments' boxes with YouTube videos and pics of scantily clad women.

Posted by Kevin on March 16, 2007 10:10 AM



It's ridiculous that myspace deletes the profiles without first a warning, but I've been a bit wary of some of these calls of censorship. The few people that I was "myspace friends" with who had their profile deleted and claimed to be victims of censor ship also seemed to be very generous with the number of bulletins and whatnot they sent out (spamming is also on that list of reasons for profile deletion).

Posted by Jay on March 15, 2007 8:30 AM



My!Gay!Husband!, a Vancouver based DJ/Promoter, had his MySpace profile deleted awhile back as well. He, of course, wasn't given any warning or a reason for the deletion, but one would imagine that it had to do with his "provocative" stage name.

It's unfortunate that MySpace has become so large that bands can't simply go elsewhere to promote themselves in the same ways. In addition to the aforementioned shady practices and the Rupert Murdoch link, it's just so poorly coded.

Posted by Quinn on March 15, 2007 1:38 AM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson