MUSO: Fighting Album Leaks

PPiracy is a crime or is it? Both sides of the debate have their proponents. Dotted Music had a tete-a-tete with Andy Chatterley, a Grammy-nominated songwriter/producer, who founded MUSO, an online anti piracy company circa 2008.

MUSO specializes in online cataloguing of illegal download sites and reporting for subsequent takedowns thereby reducing aveneues for potential downloaders to get their files for free. Andy expounds on the virtues of such a service and the future of ani-piracy.

  • Dotted Music: What motivated you as an artist/producer to fight online piracy? Or rather what was your muse to form MUSO?


Andy Chatterley: There was an album that I was involved with that leaked before the release date a few years ago. When you are involved in making a record, you live it and breathe it for a long time before it sees the light of day. Through the songwriting process, recording and mixing, through every artwork discussion, pr reports and so on and so forth. It takes an enormous amount of effort by a lot of individual people all pulling together towards a release date. When the record leaks, before the release date, it feels like you have been burgled.

So when that album leaked, I was manually trying to find the illegal files and manually sending DMCA’s out to cyber-lockers asking them to remove the them. It was virtually impossible – it is not something you can effectively do manually and with that the idea for MUSO was born.

  • Given the current culture of open source, the demand for transparency from the audience, and economy, do you think anti-piracy has a long term future? Don’t people just want things for free?

Things aren’t free. Music, Film, Books and Software can cost huge amounts of money to create and get ready to be put out in the marketplace. If people don’t want to pay for the work done by all the people involved (not just the artist), then those people simply won’t be able to afford to create things and we will see the rise and rise of mediocrity.

I love the idea of legal streaming services like Spotify and Deezer, I am all in favour of new ways for people to get paid for their endeavours, but straight up piracy is stealing and not in line with an open source culture.

  • The existing models of IP security like DRM have not been successful to the point of stopping piracy, both online and offline. Taking cues from the cyber underground “warez” scene, which has remained the main arbiter for all sorts of piracy, and relatively recent services like The Pirate Bay, how much of the battle is fought successfully, from your perspective? Case in point like the infamous Sony Audio CD DRM Rootkit case, which gives a chilling tale of how far the corporate is willing to invade the end user systems to control content leak. Where do you think the line can be drawn?

Andy Chatterley

I have never been a fan of DRM. The case you refer to happened in 2005 when the industry was trying desperately to combat a newly developing situation. The current DMCA law that is widely used by most sites is an effective tool for removing illegal content. Most torrents and cyberlocker sites, with a handful of exceptions, are very compliant in removing illegal content when they are notified. So our strategy has always been to notify the host and have the content removed quickly or often instantly, it’s a totally non evasive but effective.

  • Do you think that your current model of anti-piracy works better than your competitors, or is it in the experimental stages?

We have a global leading anti-piracy product and protect thousands of labels, film companies, authors and software houses. We think it’s the best on the market. It is ever evolving and adapting to the piracy landscape. We are always developing and system and adding new features to help our rights holders.

  • Right now MUSO attacks the distribution channels, namely torrents, P2P links, and download sites, as well as SEO infringing links removal from Google. This whack-the-mole approach is different from the extensive tracking and arresting the source members of such activities used by intelligence agencies. Two main points come to foray from this: A) Technical inadequacy/ignorance of the downloaders, B) Not directly attacking the source, so that remains active for the entire duration.


  • a) Most of the user base looks for easier sources to download their stuff from due to their technical inadequecy. So extensive Warez Scene “Top Sites” access or using the Dark Web or UseNet or even Tor enabled protocols and encrypted VPN are not exactly the purview of pop chart audiences. However, a large force of technically adept pirates will always find a way to subvert this system check thus enabling the continuos flow of illegal bytes available for download. So the success of MUSO should depend primarily on the takedown of the popular distribution channels which the user base is “aware” of. It seems more like a Botnet takedown operation like in the Anti-Virus companies. However, in this case the people and teams and the tools required are all over the place. Would you like to share your thoughts on this point?

There are always going to be deep, dark places to hide. We have a piracy database of over 2.5 billion web pages that deal directly in piracy. It’s very effective.

  • b) Is there a method by which all this data can be used to indict the crackers?

We don’t really have an interest in legal / criminal aspects of individual users. On the simplest level we find the illegal copies and remove them. We represent our rights holder and present them with any easy way to protect their copyright material we are not in the business of indicting people.

  • c) Will country jurisdiction laws be a major hindrance in this? Another country may not help fight anti-piracy in their turf. However with global internet access this very turf may well be the Mecca of all piracy.

We deal with sites from most countries who all are very compliant with DMCA takedowns. Piracy is always going to exist somewhere in some capacity, we simply make it easy for rights holders to take action for themselves, quickly and quietly in the background.

Our recent agreement with (Russian Facebook) is a good point in case. We found VK to be very helpful and compliant in helping us find and removal our clients illegal copies hosted on their site.

  • Can you explain the underlying technologies that are the foundation of MUSO?

It’s a fairly complex algorithm that searches continuously for our clients titles and releases across our own internal piracy database of over 2.5 billions pages. We then allow the client to review the files and remove them from the host, often instantly with one click.

Our Google takedown tool operates slightly different in that it recommends strategic takedowns to google when a host is not compliant or doesn’t remove content within a 3 hour period. We don’t believe in bombarding Google with D-List notices, it’s not a well thought out strategy to do that.

  • Do you think that educating the users rather than attacking the sources or channels might be more productive in the long run? Do you think they will ever buy it? Does mind control technology seem appealing to you? (that was a joke)

Education is to be an important tool. The reality is that the new artist that you love who has made his or her debut album on a Major probably won’t currently sell enough albums to make a second album on that same label if his / her album is stolen and not paid for.

I also hate the argument that the artist can make money from live, as that doesn’t account for hundreds of people further down the chain at record labels, studios, mastering houses etc that can’t make money from live income and in reality only a handful of artists right at the top ever really make money from live.

You can’t force somebody to buy something, but you can make it very hard for them to steal it and then if they want it badly enough then they will hopefully buy or stream it from a licensed service.

  • Given that Media giants have made billions selling 5 cents of plastic for 15 dollars, is this drive to prevent piracy motivated purely financially, or is there another agenda? Technically speaking, all of the world changing inventions and engineering marvels are open source and for public consumption. Technical support seems a valid industry, given that most people don’t have the acumen or time to deal with every other kind of issue, however does Art command a price, or does the commerce command it?

It doesn’t cost 5 cents to make a CD – depending on the music and production style it can cost tens / hundreds of thousands / millions in recording costs, then marketing costs, videos, pr, pluggers, mastering etc etc etc.

Also you don’t need to buy it, you can legally stream it, but don’t steal it!

  • Are there other financially valid models apart from aggressive distribution channel takedowns that can be merged into the existing MUSO model?

We have a whole variety of new anti-piracy solutions coming in 2014 including more revenue based models.

  • What are your future plans for MUSO and related initiatives?

As I mentioned above we are expanding our range of products to make a 360 degree solution for our rights holders.

We already work across all media industries including TV and live sports events, Music, Film, Software and book publishing and as we continue to expand our client base then we need to make sure we supply them with all the tools they need to protect their copyrighted works.