Surface Unsigned Festival’s PR Idiocy

Back in March of this year, Danny Smith wrote about Surface Unsigned, a battle of the bands kinda thing, on Created In Birmingham. His fairly innocent post has provoked a bit of fuss over the past couple of days. Here’s the story in a nutshell:

  1. On 18 March, Danny posts about Surface Unsigned.
  2. CiB regulars diss Surface Unsigned in the comments. Danny defends Surface Unsigned.
  3. Danny comes back from the gig and, having done a bit of digging into the Surface Unsigned business model, reports that some aspects of the Surface Unsigned business model aren’t to his liking. On 20 March he quotes a single paragraph from the info pack Surface Unsigned give to bands.
  4. Danny reiterates that he had a good time and that, from a punter’s point of view, it was good value for money.
  5. Two months later, on 15 May, Surface Unsigned Festival Limited send Danny a letter threatening prosecution if the post is not taken down by 22 May.

You can see the email on Pete Ashton’s blog along with a bit more detail on the events. To my mind his analysis is spot on but I’d like to add a few extra thoughts of my own.

  • There’s no copyright infringement. Danny didn’t quote a whole or substantial part of the information pack and if you tell me that the market value of that document was diminished by Danny’s post I will laugh at you, and you won’t like that. If anything it could almost be a confidentiality matter, but frankly that’s just grasping at straws.
  • Surface Unsigned don’t just want the ‘offending’ paragraph removed, they want the whole post deleted. Their ‘copyright infringement solicitors’ would do well to find a court willing to order that. Makes me think it’s Danny’s digging in the rest of the post they’re worried about, not just their T&Cs.
  • If Surface Unsigned had asked nicely then there’s a much better chance that a paragraph on a long-forgotten post would have been removed/paraphrased as a courtesy. Oh, but I forget – it’s the rest of the post they’re concerned about.
  • As Danny said in the inital post ‘Surface don’t seem to do any promotion’. With PR pratfalls like this you can see why.

So what have we at Created In Birmingham done? Well, we’ve left the post up, obviously – we’re not going to stand for being bullied. As a compromise Pete’s gone and rewritten the post in LOLspeak (yes, I know translation of copywritten works is unauthorised, you’re missing the funny).

As Pete points out, the real problem for Surface Unsigned is to do with Google search results. In particular people linking to the original CiB post and using Surface Unsigned as the anchor text like I have here – Surface Unsigned.

It’d be interesting to hear what you, your friends and maybe even your forum buddies think about this whole thing.  Link back to the ‘offending’ blog post and chances are I’ll notice and give you a mention on CiB on Thursday.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

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