In the music industry, leaks seem as inevitable as they are unavoidable these days. Leaks have often forced labels to rush the release of their records months before intended. Such was the case recently with Ninja Tune, the London-based electronic imprint founded by Coldcut and DJ Matt Black, who issued Toddla T's upcoming album, Watch Me Dance, early when the songs began surfacing prematurely on BitTorrents. Ninja Tune didn't stand idly by, however. They named the music journalist and the magazine tied to the leak.
The journalist in question is Benjamin Jager, who writes for the Germany-based magazine, Backspin. While Ninja Tune presumably can't prove that Jager himself was the one who actually uploaded the tracks, they can verify it's the same copy they sent to him.
Jager and Backspin aren't taking the allegations lightly. In a statement issued yesterday, Jager claimed that neither he, nor anyone else at the magazine, was responsible for the leak. Additionally, he claims the leak happened days before the alleged torrenting of the file. Backspin, meanwhile, is reportedly seeking legal consul in effort to mitigate the potential damage to the magazine's reputation.
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Ninja Tune responded this morning with a statement of its own, reiterating their claim that the leaked tracks came from Jager's copy of the album and asserting that Backspin's supposed timeline is wrong and the links being referred to are dead.
As Orwellian as this all sounds, the practice of digital watermarking for tracking purposes has been employed by big and small record labels for years. Still, most imprints haven't gone to the effort of publicly outing a journalist. While they've stopped servicing them with promotional CDs and complained privately, rarely, if ever, has there been a case in which they pointed the finger directly at the accused.
A few years ago, music writer Erik Davis documented his accidental leak of a Beirut record, but although a publicist was rather infuriated with him, even then, the PR flack didn't release his name publicly.
If Backspin indeed seeks legal recourse against Ninja Tune, it will on the grounds that the label attacked its character and ruined its reputation as a quality and reliable music news source. The magazine could also claim defamation if Jager is found not to be guilty of the leak, based on the fact his reputation was soiled, as well, resulting in other labels being reticent to send him review materials.