The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) today sent a demand letter to the attorney representing the notorious (and now offline) web site called HitPiece that has been selling music-related NFTs, demanding the site stop infringing music creator intellectual property (IP) rights, provide a complete listing of site activities and revenues to date, and account for all NFTs and artwork auctioned off.
RIAA's chairman and chief operating officer Mitch Glazier explained the association's decision to move so quickly: "As music lovers and artists embrace new technologies like NFTs, there's always someone looking to exploit their excitement and energy. Given how fans were misled and defrauded by these unauthorized NFTs and the massive risk to both fans and artists posed by HitPiece and potential copycats, it was clear we had to move immediately and urgently to stand up for fairness and honesty in the market."
RIAA's chief legal officer Ken Doroshow added: "HitPiece appears to be little more than a scam operation designed to trade on fans' love of music and desire to connect more closely with artists, using buzzwords and jargon to gloss over their complete failure to obtain necessary rights. Fans were led to believe they were purchasing an NFT genuinely associated with an artist and their work when that was not at all the case. While the operators appear to have taken the main HitPiece site offline for now, this move was necessary to ensure a fair accounting for the harm HitPiece and its operators have already done and to ensure that this site or copycats don't simply resume their scams under another name."
The letter authored by RIAA senior vice president, litigation, Jared Freedman further explains: "Your clients' operations have been variously described in recent days as a 'scam,' a 'complete sham,' 'immoral,' 'unethical,' and a 'fraud.' All of these criticisms are of course accurate. Although it appears that your clients now contend that they did not actually include any sound recordings with their NFTs (which, if true, likely amounts to yet another form of fraud),it is undeniable that, to promote and sell their NFTs, your clients used the names and images of the Record Companies' recording artists, along with copyrighted album art and other protected images, the rights to which belong to the Record Companies and their artists. Your clients' outright theft of these valuable intellectual property rights is as outrageous as it is brazen."
HitPiece, which was apparently built on top of Spotify's API, was blasted by countless artists for the unauthorized NFT listings, including former VAN HALEN bassist and current MAMMOTH WVH frontman Wolfgang Van Halen.
"So it seems this fucking NFT scam site, HitPiece, thinks [it] can auction off everyone's music through Spotify data," Van Halen wrote on Wednesday (February 2). "Fuck everyone involved in this. Enjoy getting destroyed by literally everyone you dumb fucking idiots."
He added: "I just don't want to live in a world where people like this don't get what's coming to them. I also wouldn't be surprised if they saw no consequences for this blatant level of thievery. Truly disgusting shit here. Everyone at HitPiece should be ashamed."
On Tuesday (February 1),HitPiece issued a statement on the company's Twitter account. "Clearly we have struck a nerve and are very eager to create the ideal experience for music fans," the post reads. "To be clear, artists get paid when digital goods are sold on HitPiece. Like all beta products, we are continuing to listen to all user feedback and are committed to evolving the product to fit the needs of artists, labels, and fans alike."
The company told Billboard that "the ability of artists or owners to be paid is a functionality that HitPiece is developing." It insisted that it "never used or sold any copyright music without permission and [HitPiece] will not do so." A representative explained: "The metaverse is a new frontier, and HitPiece allows users to create a digital display of album artwork associated with their favorite music, with a one-of-a-kind, non-fungible token ('NFT') of the artwork. HitPiece's mission is to create a fun experience in the metaverse for music fans and a new revenue stream for artists and owners."
HitPiece's web site currently only contains the message: "We Started the Conversation and We're Listening." However, not everyone is interested in a dialogue. "Nah... I'm pretty sure this conversation is over, you gargantuan pieces of shit", Wolfgang wrote.
Image above is an archived screencap of the HitPiece web site