March 20, 2023

Myspace Is Accused of Using Music Without Permission

Mr. Timberlake is a minority partner in the investor group that bought Myspace for $35 million in 2011, six years after News Corporation paid $580 million for it with hopes of dominating the social Web. Before long it was eclipsed by Facebook and fell into the dustbin of the Internet.

The new Myspace, which like the old MySpace lets people listen to huge numbers of songs free, has won early praise for its sleek design. But while it has said its intention is to help artists, it may already have a problem with some of the independent record labels that supply much of its content.

Although Myspace boasts the biggest library in digital music — more than 50 million songs, it says — a group representing thousands of small labels says the service is using its members’ music without permission.

The group, Merlin, negotiates digital deals on behalf of labels around the world. Charles Caldas, chief executive of Merlin, said in an interview on Friday that its deal with Myspace expired over a year ago, yet songs from more than 100 of its labels are still available on Myspace, including Beggars Group, Domino and Merge, three of the biggest independents.

“While it’s nice that Mr. Timberlake is launching his service on this platform, and acting as an advocate for the platform,” Mr. Caldas said, “on the other hand his peers as artists are being exploited without permission and not getting remuneration for it.”

Neda Azarfar, a spokeswoman for Myspace, said the company had decided not to renew its contract with Merlin, and that if songs from its member labels were still on the site, “they were likely uploaded by users” and would be removed if requested by the label.

In December, had 27.4 million unique visitors in the United States, according to comScore. That is far from its peak of 76 million in 2008, but for a music industry still struggling for all the business it can get, it is an audience that cannot be ignored.

The industry as a whole is largely supportive of Myspace, which is now seen as an underdog facing long odds. For small labels, though, the licensing situation has brought back memories of the introduction of MySpace’s first music service, MySpace Music, in 2008, when deals were cut with the major labels but most independents were left out for more than a year.

“The feeling is not good,” said William Crowley, the vice president for digital and mobile at eOne Distribution, an independent music distributor that is associated with Merlin.

“Unlicensed services are a source of grave concern,” he added, “especially high-profile ones.”

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Exxon Could Receive $555 Million in Cash from Venezuela

The arbitration award decided by the International Court of Arbitration, which is based in Paris, was valued at $907.6 million. In addition to the cash Exxon stands to receive, the oil giant will be released from the payment of debts totaling about $352 million. The ruling was dated Dec. 23, but Exxon said it did not receive the decision until Friday.

The Venezuelan government and Exxon both sought to portray themselves as victors in the arbitration, which stemmed from the 2007 nationalization of a heavy crude oil production project in the Orinoco Belt, considered one of the world’s richest potential petroleum reserves.

Petróleos de Venezuela, the state-run oil company, released a statement on Monday saying that Exxon had sought a much larger compensation and that the arbitrator’s conclusion showed that the company’s claims were “exorbitant” and “completely exaggerated and beyond all logic.”

The state oil company said that its “successful defense” in the case meant that it was required to make only a $255 million payment to Exxon.

But the state oil company’s statement acknowledged that Exxon would also receive about $300 million in cash from bank accounts in the United States belonging to the state oil company; those accounts were frozen by a court ruling after the nationalization. Exxon said the frozen accounts contained $305 million.

The government statement said that Venezuela has always been willing to compensate private interests for the nationalization of assets as long as the compensation was “fair and reasonable.”

In a statement Monday, Exxon said that the arbitration affirmed the state oil company’s contractual liability in its agreements with Exxon over what was known as the Cerro Negro project.

“Contract sanctity and respect for the rule of law are core principles used to manage our business over the long term,” Exxon said.

The nationalization of the Exxon project and other oil projects involving multinational corporations was a major step in a campaign of expropriations by the government of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez.

Exxon and Venezuela are involved in a second arbitration over the same project before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, part of the World Bank, which could increase the amount the company receives.

The country faces several other potential settlements with foreign companies over a spate of nationalizations that have taken place in recent years. One of those involves a project of the oil company Conoco Phillips, also in the Orinoco Belt.

The ruling appeared to lend weight to Venezuela’s argument that it should compensate companies for the amount they had invested, the so-called book value, rather than the market value that an asset would receive if it were put up for sale.

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