VEVO CEO Tries To Explain Their Hypocritical Act Of Piracy At Sundance

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Yesterday I reported on a bizarre incident I witnessed at Sundance last month: VEVO, the music portal owned by some of the biggest record labels in the US, had a pirated NFL playoff game playing on screens throughout its ‘PowerStation’ venue.

The incident was immensely hypocritical, given that VEVO is owned in part by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment (with EMI licensing its content to the service) — the same music labels that have made a habit of attacking consumers over alleged acts of piracy.

Now VEVO CEO Rio Caraeff has written a post to the VEVO blog, where he tries to explain what happened. In it, he writes that the game was accessed and streamed by a guest of the event without VEVO’s knowledge.

A guest of our lounge asked for an NFL game to be aired. We said no. There was a laptop hooked up to VEVO.com that fed into the large TV screens around the bar. Unfortunately, the laptop was easily accessible to the public. That was our mistake for not making sure the laptop was more secure. While VEVO staff was in other areas of the venue, the game was put on – via a website transmitting ESPN’s broadcast of the NFL game – without our permission or knowledge.

As soon as we realized the game was airing to the room, we removed it and went back to playing VEVO videos. The game was not aired in its entirety. Rest assured, we rectified this mistake as soon as we became aware what was going on.

What happened was unfortunate and we can’t take back what happened.

I don’t have any proof to indicate that what Caraeff writes is incorrect, but I’m raising my eyebrow at this explanation. The game was playing the entire time I was at the PowerStation — this wasn’t just a brief blip — and it was playing on several screens, so it was hard to miss, too. After all, one of the key aims of this event was to feature VEVO videos, it wasn’t as if these screens were hidden in a corner.

Likewise, this wasn’t a case of someone launching the stream and walking away — I saw the mouse cursor appear onscreen at least twice, and someone was pretty clearly doing their best to make sure it was watchable. That said, as you can see toward the end of the video below at around 1:39, the computer was potentially accessible to non-employees. But it was hardly inviting, and I have a hard time believing a random guest could just commandeer the computer without any employees noticing.

In any case, imagine what the music industry would say were it on the other side of this. Is there any doubt it would dismiss these explanations and, lawsuits in hand, cry foul over such an overt act of piracy?

Furthermore, this seems no different than an accused pirate explaining that they left their Wifi open, only to have it used by someone else to download content illegally. Which happens to be a defense the RIAA has previously fought vigilantly against, when it sought to make owners of ISP accounts liable for any infringing activity, even if the owner had no knowledge of it. Hypocrisy, indeed.

Below you’ll find Caraeff’s whole post.

You may know we had some fun at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah last month. Our VEVO Powerstation & Sorel Suite was a popular spot for celebrities to get warm, pick up some gifts from our friends at Sorel and Fresh and, most of all, to relax with a drink and play their favorite VEVO videos. We were excited that LMFAO, James Mardsen, Lil Jon, Tommy Lee, Isla Fisher, Josh Kelley and many others all came down to watch some music with us.

But with all the snowy fun we had, there has unfortunately been a report that something other than VEVO music videos was played at the Powerstation. We feel it important to explain exactly what happened so we hope you’ll take a minute to read further.

A guest of our lounge asked for an NFL game to be aired. We said no. There was a laptop hooked up to VEVO.com that fed into the large TV screens around the bar. Unfortunately, the laptop was easily accessible to the public. That was our mistake for not making sure the laptop was more secure. While VEVO staff was in other areas of the venue, the game was put on – via a website transmitting ESPN’s broadcast of the NFL game – without our permission or knowledge.

As soon as we realized the game was airing to the room, we removed it and went back to playing VEVO videos. The game was not aired in its entirety. Rest assured, we rectified this mistake as soon as we became aware what was going on.

What happened was unfortunate and we can’t take back what happened.

Let’s just make this clear. VEVO is not in the business of streaming illegal video content. We work really hard to give our fans access to the best HD music videos and original programming – legally. VEVO takes intellectual property and copyright issues very seriously. We have always supported our artists and content owners and have the same respect for all content creators in every industry and of every art form. So we are very sensitive to what happened at Sundance and the issues it has raised.

Thanks for reading.

Rio D. Caraeff