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article imageIrony as Anonymous benefits from Sony royalties

By Anne Sewell     Mar 7, 2012 in Entertainment
In an ironic twist of fate, Anonymous has benefitted from royalties paid by Sony for usage of the song ‘Black Flags’ in a commercial for their Vita gaming Console.
Around the time of the Anonymous-led hacks of their networks during 2011, the Sony corporation needed to find music for use in a commercial for their Vita handheld game console. They decided to use the music of German industrial anarchists, Atari Teenage Riot.
According to RT, Alec Empire, the 39-year-old founder of the prolific and groundbreaking industrial group Atari Teenage Riot, writes in a blog post this week that not only did he get to stick it to one of the biggest corporate names in the entertainment industry, but at the same time he supported the loose-knit hacktivist collective Anonymous.
Atari Teenage Riot was founded in 1992 by Empire. Empire became an influential innovator in the field of digital hardcore music and helped many like-minded musicians to launch their careers.
Along the way, he also had trouble with the Sony Corporation. In a Tumblr post on Monday, Empire writes that in 1999, Sony wanted to use one of his tracks as the background for a camcorder ad that would be aired in South East Asia. Empire never actually extended permission for this, and the result left him a bit uneasy. “I have to admit, it hurt a little,” he writes now. “If you ever tried to fight a corporation like this in court and in another country, let me tell you…you want to do other stuff with that time and money,” he stated.
Empire continues that even though the matter was eventually settled, he “never felt they paid what they owed."
Over a decade later, Empire and the Internet’s largest collective of activists have finally received a worthwhile payback.
Recently Sony approached Empire again – this time to use his track “Black Flags” in a commercial for their Vita gaming console.
This time Empire happily obliged.
Why? Well its turns out the song had already been unofficially adopted by members of the Anonymous hacktivist group, who had re-cut the song and use it as a soundtrack to a series of Anonymous YouTube clips. One even includes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange offering his sympathy for the Occupy London movement and includes additional vocals from activist and singer Boots Riley, who in his own right has been a celebrity of the OWS movement.
Sony’s ad uses a version of the song with no vocals to promote the Vita console, which is a lucky move for them, given that the lyrics to the ATR original include such gems as “Corporations exploit the power of the state / to further enhance their power / and the real criminals / get away.”
Sony, apparently, didn’t bother to read the lyric sheet.
The entertainment company, which infamously became the subject of an Anonymous attack after the corporation sued a hacker that exploited a coding flaw in their PlayStation 3 platform, presumably has a pretty powerful research department.
Even so, the fact that Atari Teenage Riot previously preached in song lines such as “Fuck you and fuck your state! / I'm going to take it all on me / Destroy the USA!” should have raised a red flag. Instead, Sony got “Black Flags.”
“It’s the old question that is being asked again and again: What’s a song worth? When does copyright start, when does it end?” asks Empire.
The amount that Empire was paid for the tune is unknown, but Empire ends his anecdote by revealing that the proceeds didn’t go to recouping the legal fees he needed to combat Sony in 1999.
Instead, writes Empire, he extended it as a donation to FreeAnons.org, a solidarity network that provides financial and legal support for defendants across the globe that have been victimized through governmental prosecution over alleged involvement with Anonymous.
FreeAnons.org thank Empire on their website by saying:
"At Freeanons, we have united to stand against these investigations and prosecutions. Everyday, we return to do a little bit more. But today, in the midst of all the determination, fear, and obstacles, we received another kind message of support. To ATR, Alec Empire, and all the donors and supporters who managed, by whatever means necessary, to commit to us, Freeanons offers heartfelt thanks."
So all in all, the price of selling-out to Sony was a really good laugh had by Empire and financial benefits for a collective of thousands of online activists.
The original version of the "Black Flags" video:
More about Sony, Anonymous, Empire, Atari Teenage Riot, atr
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