A new NFT platform called HitPiece launched a beta site this week. The site was selling thousands of song and album artwork NFTs; however, created them using information from Spotify’s API without permission from the artists or their record labels. Unsurprisingly, this caused outrage in the music community, and now the RIAA is threatening legal action, calling HitPiece’s actions “outright theft.”
As Billboard reports, the RIAA sent HitPiece a demand letter on behalf of major labels, claiming intellectual property rights infringement. “As you are no doubt aware, your clients, through the HitPiece website, have been engaged in the systematic and flagrant infringement of the intellectual property rights of the Record Companies and their recording artists on a massive scale,” RIAA senior vp litigation Jared Freedman wrote.
The letter goes on to point out that the recordings and artwork for sale as NFTs are “owned or exclusively controlled by the Record Companies” that the association represents and calls the platform’s business model “outright theft” that “is as outrageous as it is brazen.”
The site has since been taken down due to artist backlash, but the RIAA believes HitPiece is still “liable to the record companies and their artists for damages” for the short time it was live.
“As music lovers and artists embrace new technologies like NFTs, there’s always someone looking to exploit their excitement and energy,” said RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier. “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.”
“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,” added RIAA’s Chief Legal Officer Ken Doroshow. “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.”
A representative for the platform, which was founded by entrepreneur Rory Felton and investor Jeff Burningham, explained its side to Billboard earlier this week, explaining that “the ability of artists or owners to be paid is a functionality that HitPiece is developing” and that the company “never used or sold any copyright music without permission and [HitPiece] will not do so … HitPiece’s mission is to create a fun experience in the metaverse for music fans and a new revenue stream for artists and owners.”