Ballad of a Mixtape A hip-hop gentlemen's agreement runs into musical copyright law

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“Along with artists, producers, engineers, back-up singers, songwriters, and many others within the music community that are profoundly impacted by the kind of music theft Ms. Thomas-Rasset willfully engaged in, we take this case very seriously,” RIAA spokeswoman Liz Kennedy says.

The logic seems sound, but financially bludgeoning fans tends to generate bad PR. So, for the last few years, the industry has been moving away from the massive-litigation approach. All the same, the RIAA still faces a harrowing economic reality. In an age of file-sharing and music-streaming, music sales have dropped 47 percent, according to Kennedy. In January, Cake took the No. 1 album slot on Billboard by selling a mere 440,000 copies of Showroom of Compassion. “Global music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, a loss of $2.7 billion in workers’ earnings, and a loss of $422 million in tax revenues, $291 million in personal income tax, and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes,” Kennedy says.

No wonder music companies have cheered as law enforcement got into the anti-copying act. By targeting unauthorized producers and distributors of copyrighted music—as well as clothing and movies—the authorities don’t risk the publicity backlash that comes when a collection of powerful entertainment companies sue homemakers.

The industry pushed hard to get cops involved. A training video leaked in 2008, produced by the RIAA with the National District Attorneys Association, suggested busting copyright violators could lead to drug and gun arrests. (“It might allow you to have probable cause for a drug house you couldn’t get in before,” an official says. “Well, now you can get in by purchasing or doing undercover purchases of illegal CDs.”)

In some cases, the RIAA has even put together teams of ex-cops to do its own police-style raids on those believed to be selling music illegally. The association’s executive vice president of anti-piracy has said the RIAA works with hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the nation and participates in the arrests of thousands of alleged bootleggers.

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As local police departments and federal agencies turned their attention to pirates, and the cases switched to criminal prosecution rather than civil suits, the RIAA stayed involved.

The warrant that allowed MPD to storm ListenVision shows that D.C. police have their eyes out for audio contraband. Listen Vision once had a blue, neon sign hanging in its picture window that advertised mixtapes. “It’s just a compilation of original music. That’s our definition of mixtapes,” Beaver says.

The sign, which was mentioned in the warrant, could have been what drew an undercover officer to the studio on Nov. 15. According to court documents, the officer bought two CDs from the studio that included the following A-list artists: “T-Pain, KRS1 [sic], Beastie Boys, and Raheem DeVaughn.”

Listen Vision was selling “deceptively labeled and commercially pirated items,” the warrant said.

Beaver knows the CDs the warrant referred to, so when he was told why the cops were going through his establishment, he says he argued Listen Vision’s compilations were legit. Sure, the discs featured heavy hitters like the Beastie Boys and KRS-ONE, but he had worked with every one of them. “You’ve worked with the Beastie Boys?” Beaver says the RIAA rep scoffed.

Beaver doesn’t remember the rep’s name, but RIAA investigator Mike Middleton is mentioned in the search warrant. (Middleton didn’t return messages left at a consulting firm he’s associated with.) Kennedy says the RIAA regularly hires contractors like Middleton.

Confronted with the rep’s disbelief, Beaver says, he encouraged him to listen to the CDs, which include shout outs to Listen Vision by performers. On a track that features Ghostface, Cappadonna, and Garvey, one of the rappers spits: “When I step in the booth I commence to spitting behind DJ Boom/That’s a big collision.” And on “Bring the Real Back” by KRS-ONE and Rasi Caprice, KRS announces: “I’m rocking right now with DJ Boom/This is KRS-One all in the room.”

The thing is, though, that even if the artists did record with Beaver, he wasn’t necessarily allowed to sell their work. According to D.C.-based copyright attorney Elliott Alderman, “typically there isn’t a rights transfer involved in a recording agreement.”

Alderman and several other entertainment lawyers say it was possible that Beaver has that ability: The complex world of song rights creates endless possibilities. But Beaver hasn’t produced any contract explaining things one way or the other; he claims he’s encumbered by a non-disclosure agreement.

Adding to the murkiness is a longstanding unspoken agreement among hip-hop artists. Mixtapes are done “not infrequently in the hip-hop area. It’s usually done with at least the tacit consent of the label,” says Kenneth Kaufman, a D.C. entertainment lawyer who’s taught a music law course at Yale. The tape creates a buzz, says Kaufman, and it probably doesn’t hurt sales. But “it depends on what the understanding is between the artist and the producer,” Kaufman says.

The understanding goes more or less like this: You can include my songs on a mixtape, as long as that mixtape isn’t wack. Unfortunately, that’s not the sort of agreement that courts and cops usually honor.

Our Readers Say

Wow, the RIAA has police powers now! Scary!
The city dose have bigger problems than an stack of c`d`s !@#% Sad day!!!
That Cathy Lanier. Full of laughs. And likely just as unconstitutional as the Trinidad checkpoints.
What an infuriating waste of taxpayer resources. And for what?
Fair use would cover keeping library copies of his XM recordings, for example, or demo-ing them as part of a body of work. However it does NOT cover re-selling those works, which XM presumably paid him for as a work for hire (or retains rights to as the production facility), or re-selling any copyrighted work, in any form, without permission of the rights holder. Kind of a no-brainer.

And if an artist is under contract somewhere, it's just not his/her prerogative to make informal side deals with someone else. Sounds like this guy was just a leeeeetle too easily convinced otherwise.

And the city does NOT have bigger problems than the epidemic of felonious stupidity. You can't claim a right to rip off copyrighted material just because you don't know any better, which in 10000000% likelihood, this guy did anyway.

I'm sure he's a talented guy. Too bad he snorted his whole life away and had to start over.
So...you were doing something illegal. You admit to doing something illegal, and you have a problem that the police took action. Yeah, this is headline type news.
Ne Cede Malis, Jeremy!
Great article! I support Listen Vision all the way!!!!!!!!
Listen Vision is innocent!
Really interesting article. Target Squad and Terrorism? Yeah, right. Listen Vision is the least of people's worries. Wondering if anything will actually come of this...
"This place smells... better than a crackhouse." Good job, privatized police. This place makes great original music. Keep Rockin, LV!!!!!!!!
Tough situation. But all in all this place does a good job with the local artist they work with. Stay up!
They did the same to Drama over his Gangsta Grillz mixtapes...This is just the SS extension of Tipper Gore's old PMRC org. It's very Orwellian.
This really needs to stop. The RIAA needs to be disbanded, reorganized or at least called to task on every single one of it's actions. As far as I know almost every statistic they have used to show how much money they're "losing" has proven to be at best circumstantial.


http://pirate-party.us
"As Beaver ate carpet..." best line ever
I can vouch that this company has only the best interests of the DC hip hop community at heart.
WOW....The acts taken by the RIAA is insane...You should at least do your research throughly before entering someone's place of business especially at gun point and handcuffing people. Besides it's way more pressing issues right now then some damn cd's. If it was that serious, I'm sure someone could've filed a suit and took LV to court or something. The way things happened was beyond extreme, and to add insult to injury there were people of the RIAA playing instruments owned by the studio..All I want to know is....who actually thinks to do something like that at a time like dat. Just think about it...you have Dj Boom thrown to the floor and handcuffed, employees being handcuffed, and cds being removed from the studio...Did I miss something, because I don't get it. I guess they wasn't lieing when they said the music can hit u at any time (shaking my head). Anyways, LV keep your head up and keep doing what you do best and that's providing local dmv artists a professional place of business to create them hits.
really? mixtapes was the reason MPD came in with guns drawn like it was a Stallone movie? sad to see the police force being used against a company that is striving to help indie artists make a name for themselves around the community...its unfortunate that this took place, but i guess we can see the small glimer of light behind this attack against an upstanding company, free publicity! :D ... thanks for the publicity Mr. Smith...
Ok it seems as though theres a very valid point being missed there not a music store!I've recorded there several times and have never seen anyone in there buying music 99.999999% of their money im sure does not come from selling cd's. LV is a recording studio that in my eyes only has 1 main goal and thats to turn out quality music.
they dont never talk about the good things listen vision is doing like helping cardozo high school and hooking them up with a studio so the kids can fuck around in the studio and not being outside doing dum shit i know dj boom for about 6 years layed my first verse ever at lv never seen nothing illegal going on and so many main stream artist came through there to show some love fuck these mother fuckers go after them killers and shit not after people making beautiful music like my man boom .keep your head up boom
I just find it this whole thing disheartening. Say, they had found something. They would have reported back to the major labels which represented whichever copywritedd material was stolen. These major labels would have then sued this small studio for hundreds of thousands of dollars for selling mixtapes. As stated in the article, undocumented mixtape agreements are the standard in this industry. The RIAA represents the corporate beast that has infiltrated the expression of music and turned it into the "music industry." That's fine in this capitalist society until the corporate beast sabatoges musical tradition, in this case, mixtapes.

Leave the small recording studio alone!!
I just find it this whole thing disheartening. Say, they had found something. They would have reported back to the major labels which represented whichever copywrited material was stolen. These major labels would have then sued this small studio for hundreds of thousands of dollars for selling mixtapes. As stated in the article, undocumented mixtape agreements are the standard with hip hop. The RIAA represents the corporate beast that has infiltrated the expression of music and turned it into the "music industry." That's fine in this capitalist society until the corporate beast sabotages musical tradition, in this case, mixtapes.

Leave the small recording studio and the art of hip hop alone!!
I'm an independent record label owner (Mysterio Records,LLC) and I can tell you our band "El Imperio" has recorded 3 great albums at Listen Vision Studio. I have recommended a numerous amount of artists whether local or national to DJ Boom's team and every last one of my referrals have been more than satisfied with the superb sound and quality of the final product. If anybody is serious about recording, I will strongly recommend that you get your project done at Listen Vision Studio. The skills that this recording engineers have is unmatched by others, and DJ Boom is a perfect example of the studio that has helped put DC on the map in terms of professional recorded albums. That is real work, Listn Vision the heart of DC's music Artists.
FACTS NOTICEABLY MISSING!!!!!

1) Massive success of The "Gray" Album (Jay-Z's "Black" album mixed with The Beatles "White" album), Funkmaster Flex's successful series, Tony Touch "50 MC's"

2) Best Buy, Target, Borders, FYE--- have dozens of cd's on their shelves without name and physical address on the back, where is their raid?

3)Mr. Beaver has done more for the DCPS system through the installation of state-of-the-art A/V equipment than the last three mayors combined. DC is 51st out of 50 states in terms of testing and educational performance (but 1st in per capita budget), DC certainly does have bigger things to worry about, there is your story City Paper.

(Earlier diatribe from "consumah" is obviously an RIAA response)

4)DC is desperately in need of creative, non-violent outlets for expression, at the entrance to Howard U and with The Listen Vision Academy, they do just that!

5) Everyone knows Dj Boom has produced some of the biggest names on the planet, I witnessed many of them with him at XM, even more at Listen Vision, and I'm sure plenty outside of both places. If you go to Listen Vision's website, any idiot can see pics, videos, and songs with these artists literally rapping about Boom; Is he not allowed to display his work from over the years???

6) Article very clearly written by someone who does not understand the music industry, personally dislikes hip-hop and ethnic diversity, and is bitter about not having the same "uncommon optimism" to help/change the city through the use of music and technology (or in his case journalism). Check the writer's blog where he blasts their peaceful, non-violent, non-criminal live internet radio show on Fridays. Even says: "WCP Dislikes RIAA" on his own twitter!

7) LASTLY, words and facts can be chewed up and spit out, in order to paint the picture one wants to paint, surely an article ON the City Paper themselves, would turn up so many scandals surrounding slander, libel and twisting information, that they might be next in line for a raid. Omission, is akin to lying, just ask Dan Snyder.
Does RIAA have nothing better to do? really? because they should know wat real compyright infringement looks like some of the record labels they represent and many more brought a class action lawsuit against XM Satelliete Radio for it. XM was actually allowing people to record music into their Inno(portable recording device) from XM not giving a dime to the artist. XM was being sued for $150,000 per song for songs played between march 30th of 2006 and dec 6th 2010 and keep in mind XM plays about 160,000 songs a month. XM ended up settling for $5 million. Now thats compyright infringment! Jimmy chang made a good point they hardly make any money off of selling cds. Point is there are bigger fish to fry.
Publicity is the best form of advertising...and front page of the paper is the best of the best. Keep bangin' DJ Boom!
I been bangin with Listen Vision for years and have always given and received nothing but appreciation, professionalism and support. To hear about some stupid act of police "screw"tality over mixtapes is an embarassment only to the RIAA. Dear Police, SHAME!! Switch to decaf and fat free donuts ASAP before you end up publicly executing some poor street performer beating on his bucket made drumset for COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT!! Truthfully I feel it was an action taken against DC hip hop. For years LV has been a legit business advocating local hip hop and the culture by not only providing professional studio services but also through putting on live shows and indie radio broadcasts with actual DJ's/ Turntablists spinning records out front of the studio on Georgia Avenue for the annual festivals that take place. These guys actually take part in cultivating the scene not incriminating it. Despite the BS, after the smoke clears.....LV is still around and making great music! See you at the studio Boom! CHUUCH!!
I wasn't extremely upset to hear the news about the raid. Boom is doing an outstanding job.I support you all at listen Vision 100+,"keep on doing what your doing". They need to leave you all alone.
See you all soon, I will be out there to jam on front.
http://www.forthedmvonly.com/2008/11/greedy-n-public-service-announcement.html

they BEEN on blast.
Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. HA!
dj boom is the biggest crook in the game. ive known him for many years. they guy is facing a little karma for all the dishonest decisions he has made.
“My products and my beats have been stolen for years,” he says. “I’m more of a victim than anyone else. That’s the irony of the situation.” ~ What a joke!! That's Karma coming back on you, DJ Boom. Why don't you admit your guilt? Every action has a consequence and now you're facing yours!
It all just doesnt add up, trust me this guy is the classic snake. To claim to be the victim of the whole situation is rediculous. Looks like its all catching up to you Dj Boom! I hope you have trouble sleeping at night off of this. You deserve what you get, sit back and flip through your mind files and think of each and every person you jerked around and sold thier music overseas without thier knowledge..
KARMA in dat bootyhole boi!
1.) Real recording studios don't sell "mixtapes" and have neon signs in their window that read, "hot beats." Why anyone would record in this dank pit when there are real facilities like Night Flight, Depth Charge, House Studio (just to name three) in the area for roughly the same price, is beyond me.

2.) The RIAA has been doing this for quite some time. They have shut down shops all over the country for the past 10 years. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the music industry that Listen Vision would be a target for such a sting when they are clearly promoting the fact they sell mixtapes and are not engaged in legal wholesale activity with distribution outlets.

3.) The RIAA is the organization that gives me plaques. I like plaques and would have more of them if people would simply obtain their music through legitimate sources. It is rather convenient that those on this message board claiming the RIAA should "have better things to do," probably have never been in a professional situation with a recording company where bootlegging has a direct impact on whether they recoup their budget and make even a few dollars off their record.

In the early 90s there was a saying: "If you bootleg you get your leg broke." These guys are fortunate they are dealing with the RIAA in the present time instead of a few years ago when rappers would actually attack bootleggers on the street.
Jeremy "DJ Boom" Beaver is a crook. I hope they prosecute for all the people he could have helped and decided to take their money and product and sell it without them knowing. You dumb fuckers defending this slime, don't even know he is profiting off selling your music without you even knowing. You all just see what's in the store. Just like he wanted you to see and he knew you would be stupid enough not to know how he was ripping you off behind your back. Google his online shit and don't be surprised when you see your own name pop up and being sold under Listen Vision. The FEDS know how to handle smart asses like him that play dumb. Ignorance of the law is know excuse to break it.
To Copyright holder:
"Ignorance of the law is know excuse to break it." You sure can keep your copyright to this phrase! Oops, sorry, I just have used it! OK, I'll owe you a couple of millions.

Looks like RIAA and the Homeland Secu... Oh, sorry, it's the Hollywood Security now! Anyways, looks like they are coming closer and closer every day, perhaps even forming a new government body. Just lump together copyright and counterfeit and trademark ... Oh, sorry again, that has been done already!

Ahhh, screw RIAA and its "cops for hire"!
I love DJ Boom like a brother. He and I had a radio show at GW. We threw parties together. He produced my songs. He got a raw deal.
When someone emailed me this article I could do nothing but smirk! I have read comments on this site and others! But most don't know the truth! From years of tax evasion to yes actual theft of others production,vocals,and songs! This guys time has come to the light! Wonder how and why he only spent two years at XM? This guy has raped the culture and spirit of dc and hip hop! Ask dj p cutta about his fiascos and phony contracts! His employees are come and go..dj boom I wonder how u sleep at nite knowing that u sell dreams to hard working artist in the DMV area! This guy is not self made...he represents nothing in hip hop..no hardwork or dedication no morals values or integrity! Name one artist he has gotten signed to a major label?? There are alot of people that know the real truth...sorry beaver this time your money is too short...no fast talking...phony contracts...or wolf ticket album deals! Being a native new yorker...I wonder would he ever tried this in his home state of new york? I'm not gonna dry snitch but thus ends a legacy of theft across the street from lovable Howard university! This is not cops for hire, this is the riaa doing a wonderful job! Contracts lmao he has no contracts with these artist he so called met! Does Scotty beam still work at XM?? Oh I guess he quit or got fired when the heat came on! He doesn't care about y'all hardworking and loyal boomites..he does the same thing behind your back too! W P do a real article with the real people that has done business in his establishment! Not people that he owes favors,beats or studio time...WAKE UP DC! They smile in ya face!!!
*1) Massive success of The "Gray" Album (Jay-Z's "Black" album mixed with The Beatles "White" album), Funkmaster Flex's successful series, Tony Touch "50 MC's"*

There was a cease-and-desist against Dangermouse for 'The Grey Album' - he then offered it up as a FREE download. I'm pretty sure that may have had something to do with it's popularity. As for Flex's successful 'mixtape' series - those were on Loud Records.

*2) Best Buy, Target, Borders, FYE--- have dozens of cd's on their shelves without name and physical address on the back, where is their raid?*

Please name 3 for us. No. I'll make it easy for you - name ONE.

*3)Mr. Beaver has done more for the DCPS system through the installation of state-of-the-art A/V equipment than the last three mayors combined.*

I would imagine philanthropy is MUCH easier when you're not paying your artists or income taxes.

*5) Everyone knows Dj Boom has produced some of the biggest names on the planet, I witnessed many of them with him at XM, even more at Listen Vision, and I'm sure plenty outside of both places.*

Producing bumpers for a radio show that may focus on a particular artist is not producing for the artist. It is producing for the radio station.

*If you go to Listen Vision's website, any idiot can see pics, videos, and songs with these artists literally rapping about Boom; Is he not allowed to display his work from over the years???*

I have a picture of George Clinton and myself shaking hands. Going by your 'logic', I should have free reign of Parliament/Funkadelic's entire back catalog.

*6) Article very clearly written by someone who does not understand the music industry*

Pot, kettle.
Kettle, pot.
PMG will continue releasing digital mixtapes and will continue distributing download cards at events in the DMV. After all, we are criminals let the MPD tell it... So why not break the law to break good records?
it is well known within DC/MD/VA hip-hop circles that DJ Boom is a complete fraud and a crook who steals people's beats and resells them as his own. Shout outs to DJ DC who posted this link

http://www.forthedmvonly.com/2008/11/greedy-n-public-service-announcement.html

Read the comments on that article and see if you feel any sort of sympathy for this scumbag who for years has been a leech on the local hip-hop culture. I have heard multiple stories about this guy ripping people off and getting away with it, it was only a matter of time before karma came back to crush this ignorant roach of a man.

Check out this link too, from the Ripoff Report

http://www.ripoffreport.com/recording-studio-record-producers/listen-vision-record/listen-vision-recording-studio-b6327.htm

Expose this culture vulture for the fraud that he is!

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