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09 October 2009

Frightdoll's Plight

*reposted from Side-Line Magazine* Had to post this one- this deserves reposting!   

Electro act Frightdoll's career made impossible due to ongoing feud with United Arab Emirates based company

Electro act Frightdoll's carreer made impossible due to ongoing feud with United Arab Emirates based, company
If there's something that we wish for every electroband at Side-Line, it's the chance to develop, to be supported by hardworking labels and the opportunity to get to the next level. All of this seems an almost impossible dream for the female fronted solo electro act Frightdoll who is having more than just one problem to handle since she naïvely signed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) based, company NetManagemenzt FZE back in 2007. Unknown to you? Well, this is the legal company behind the German NMMV label, home to Noisex, Schattenschlag to name just the bestknown acts on it.

Since a few years now, Frightdoll is involved in an ongoing feud with NetManagemenzt FZE about the copyright of Frightdoll's recent music releases since she took legal steps to leave the label due to what she calls "material breaches of contract from NetManagement's part". The latest move by the label is the removal of Frightdoll's recent Halloween single "Cackling 'round the Cauldron" from iTunes. "She signed an exclusive label agreement for two albums plus all songs (singles) during the contract lifetime", so NetManagemenzt FZE says.

But what is the real reason that NetManagemenzt FZE is so much after Frightdoll? According to Andre Springer, who says he is 'just' the director of the company but not the owner, it "was the board of directors which decided to enforce the contracts" on Frightdoll. So far NetManagemenzt FZE claims they have spent over 18.000 US$ making copyright infringement claims against Frightdoll. All this for a band which didn't even sell 1000 copies... Weird, because according to the band's frontwoman the copyright lays with Frightdoll: "I had all of my songs copyrighted under my name prior to even meeting Mr. Springer of NetManagement. He was given publishing rights, to which he needs to acquire the individual transfer of rights for the individual songs first before he can register them. He has registered the songs without the transfer of rights, by searching endlessly through the internet for all the songs I have ever written. He was only given the rights towards publishing for all of the songs on "Reference Version", and the collaboration with Empusa, "Unpreventable"".

Still under contract?
According to NetManagemenzt FZE, the band is still under contract although Frightdoll claims she has undertaken all necessary legal steps in order to leave the label due to what she calls "material breaches of contract from NetManagement's part". Springer however seems to be doing his utmost best hunting down every output (music and otherwise) by Frightdoll in order to prevent the band from releasing any new songs. As a result all new material that gets released by Frightdoll is taken down after copyright infringement claims by NetManagement. iTunes, MySpace and even her hosting company; they all took Frightdoll's music and website down after complaints by Netmanagement. Springer also apparently singlehanded torpedoed the band's promotional activities in Germany for her new album, something he does not deny.

Springer also says that "she never told us (about) any material breach", Side-Line however has copies of all the registered letters sent to NetManagemenzt FZE. Every time her attorney pointed out material breaches, Springer simply replied to saying he disagreed with them says Frightdoll: "So what can be done if he just says, no, I don't accept your points as material breaches of contract even though they are? I don't have the funds to hire another attorney in UAE and take further legal action against him."

So far only 2 companies have resisted the legal machinery that NetManagement has launched: Amazon and Youtube. Both companies do not agree with the claims by Springer and are offering Frightdoll's recent material. Mind you, YouTube only just recently accepted Frightdoll's counter DMCA notice against NetManagement's claims. You can see the restored video below. And be fast because Springer told Side-Line that he will again take action here as well: "Regarding Amazon and YouTube. As both companies fall under the law of the USA and therefor the DMCA, our claims need to be supported by legal action which we are at the moment preparing. So you will see the results in some days/weeks."

Nightmares and advance payments
Frightdoll released her debut album "Reference Version" on FrightDoll Records which was part of the NMMV label in 2007. When she left the label, she started up her very own label, Quantum Release Records, through which she released the excellent "Assimilation Illusion" album.

In a first contact with Side-Line in early September, Springer said that FrightDoll had signed and was still bound to publishing and license agreements with NetManagement. She would also have received advance payments for the releases and for the copyrights. Incorrect according to Frightdoll who says she did not receive any manner of advance payment towards the releases or copyrights: "The only mention of an advance on the Publishing contract (editor's note: which Side-Line has a copy from) was 500 EUR towards a plane ticket so that I could go on tour in Europe in the summer of 2007. So for just a plane ticket, he is claiming to own everything I have ever written and will ever write until I have 3 albums released by a MAJOR record label. Mr. Springer even claimed that the album Reference Version, which was released directly through his own label, does not count towards the minimum commitment of his own contract." Note that several industrial music label owners consider the "major record label" part to be more than weird in a contract for an industrial act to be signed to a company based in the Gulf.

Andre Springer also says that Frightdoll has been releasing media (CDs and online) on her own and has not been paying royalties to the agencies (government and government appointed agencies). The truth? Not really according to Frightdoll: "All of the songs have been registered through all necessary agencies on my part, including ASCAP, RIAA, and the Library of Congress. Unlike when labels have to release songs by other artists in which they have to pay an advance for mechanical fees to the agencies, when the songs are written and released by the artist themselves, there is a clause that these fees do not have to be paid, when only a certain number of CDs are pressed/printed, which I complied by." Both parties wave with documents, Frightdoll with one dated 2007, Springer with one dated 2009. It's up to laywers to decide which one is actually the only legal one. At Side-Line we did find it rather odd though that Springer is changing his reactions each time Side-Line rpesented him new facts. A matter of being not complete or is there something else at hand there?

Springer also says that he has met Frightdoll's German lawyer by accident at the German customs office in Hamburg. Springer: "We had a discussion about 20 minutes about the situation, legal situation and possible ways out for both sides. He was very open in what he said about her and I offered on behalf of NetManagement that we are open for discussions and negotiations. But he told me that she doesn't want to negotiate anything and that he will try to talk with her again. Nothing heard from him since then." In a reaction Frightdoll says: "At this point, no. I do NOT want to negotiate anything with him. He has already proven to be completely untrustworthy in all matters, mentally ill, stalking, obsessed, and downright dangerous. I know a lot of Europeans don't like American politics, but for this instance, I will quote our goverment: "We don't negotiate with terorrists"."

For Frightdoll the whole situation has become more than stressfull:
    "This scene is made by us and for us. We have built this scene based on our passion and deep appreciation for our music and art. It is hard work and effort by the artists, the spirit of independence that we have established, as well as the support from our scene that keeps this scene going. It is disgusting to see a person trying to infiltrate our scene who has no appreciation of our culture, and no understanding of our music scene other than just seeing music as a "marketable product", while on top of it not having any manner of respect for general business ethics. There is no business logic to the actions that Mr. Springer, the sole owner of NetManagement is taking. If Mr. Springer spent even just a 4th of the time and effort that he spends obsessively hunting down every last step I take with my project in helping his own artists, perhaps 5 years wouldn't have passed without Noisex releasing a new album. He uses his company registrations being in the United Arab Emirates as a filter to block communication, and as a legal shield to protect his unethical business practices. One cannot have a relationship with a label like this, where the label is simply acting as a one way dictatorship. The attorney's firm in Germany whom I hired to represent me has attempted to deliver letters to his physical office in Hamburg, Germany and Mr. Springer himself simply refuses to accept all letters. When the attorney that I hired in Germany would attempt to call him, he would simply hang up. Meanwhile, even though I have informed NetManagement multiple times that all correspondence is to be sent directly to the attorney's firm, he continues to send letters directly to my home, which is deliberate harassment."
A personal vendetta?
When asked why NetManagement so far would have spent 18.000 US$ on a small artist such as Frightdoll - which according to Springer sold not even 1000 copies - Springer gave us this explanation: "We have invested a lot of money, time and connections to support FrightDoll in her career and are not used after more than 22 years working in the scene to deal with such an artist. But also we have to stick to contracts and work along them, even if we are not happy with the result. We also dont want to wash dirty things in public because we have a reputation for being loyal and conmitted to our artists." Springer also denied that this is a personal vendetta. In a reaction we received late last night from Frightdoll she says: "Had he spent that much money in 'supporting' my project instead of sabotaging it, I'd be a superstar by now despite the fact that the music I have released thus far is barely above mediocre. (...) How is this profitable or logical for him in any way? There is no business incentive behind his actions."

Also several people from inside the industry wonder why someone is willing to spend all that money and effort on a small band. As one label owner pointed out, if it's not working out with an artist and on top of it that artist barely sells, the best thing is to end the relationship with that artist and cut the losses. Not so with NetManagemenzt FZE and Andre Springer.

Unlike what Mr. Springer has insinuated in various of his communications to Side-Line, the magazine itself will not choose side as far as the legal elements are concerned - this is stuff for laywers - but we do have serious questions as far as the motives and tenacy of Andre Springer regarding this dossier and the elements and documents brought up by Frightdoll are worth further investigation as they contradict the claims by Springer. That is also the reason why Side-Line decided to cover this story. We also asked Mr. Springer to cease all actions against Frightdoll and bury the hatchet once and for all, destroying a career for a promising musician should never be the outcome of any action, legal or illegal.

You can read more on Frightdoll's blog.