Who is behind ‘Scam’ Music NFT Website HitPiece?

NFT music website HitPiece had already shut down last week when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) declared it a “scam operation” and sent him a letter threatening legal action and demanding that he stop infringing on musicians’ intellectual property.

But who is behind HitPiece, and what was the “scam”?

Artists such as indie-rockers glass beach and Mammoth WVH bandleader Wolf Van Halen have spoken out against the site surrounding the revelation that HitPiece was attempting to sell artists’ NFTs using their names, images and cover art. album for which he had not obtained the rights, nor even attempted.

glass beach tweeted February 1, “Hey @joinhitpiece, remove anything with our name on your site, period. … We don’t want anything to do with the site, no matter how you try to run it.”

February 2, Van Halen called him “it’s criminal shit”, to add he “wouldn’t be surprised if they saw no consequence to this egregious level of theft. Really disgusting shit here. …Hitpiece should be ashamed.”

In one open letter that week, before the RIAA got involved, HitPiece said, “We’ve clearly hit a nerve and are very keen to create the perfect experience for music fans. To be clear, artists get paid when digital products are sold on HitPiece. … We are continuing to listen to all user feedback and are committed to evolving the product to meet the needs of artists, labels and fans.”

Who is behind HitPiece + what happened?

HitPiece was founded in 2021 by music executive Rory Felton and investor Jeff Burningham. Felton also co-directed and was formerly the CEO of The Militia Group, a record label which until 2012 released albums by emo and pop-punk bands such as The jealous sound, rocket summerRufio and more.

According to Los Angeles Times, Felton claimed to have raised $5 million in seed money. Other HitPiece executives include Michael Berrin, better known as MC Serch of 90s hip-hop group 3rd Bass, and Utah investment firm partner Blake Modersitzki, as shown on the company’s LinkedIn profile.

HitPiece intended to create NFTs of “every song”, according to Billboard. He used Spotify’s API to retrieve artist information, then uploaded NFT listings of a wide range of musicians to sell on his site without obtaining consent from those artists. NFTs are said to work on HitChain, a private Ethereum sidechain, according to HitPiece’s FAQ section.

The site closed on February 2. Regardless, the RIAA still sent HitPiece’s attorney the letter demanding that the site and its founders stop infringing on music IP addresses. He also asked HitPiece to provide a list of site activity, account for all the NFTs he auctioned off, and disclose how much he earned, according to Engadget.

RIAA attorney Ken Doroshow explained: “While the operators appear to have taken HitPiece’s main site offline at this time, this decision was necessary to ensure a fair accounting of the damages that HitPiece and its operators have already suffered. caused and to ensure that this site or its imitators don’t just repeat their scams.”

What are NFTs?

NFTs – non-fungible tokens – are essentially digital certificates of authenticity that point to a file, such as an image or video, and exist on a record blockchain in a way that makes them uniquely identifiable. unique and can be sold and exchanged with cryptocurrency. Positioned by some as the latest online craze and heralding a decentralized web known as Web3, some NFTs have recently sold for millions and many celebrities seem to be embrace the trend.

NFT reviews point out that someone who buys one usually doesn’t own the underlying file, just the token itself. This is often the case with digital art, because the NFT essentially functions as a link to that file on the internet – the original copyright remains with the creator. Yet anyone could save and copy this file (although they wouldn’t own it on the blockchain), and the NFT’s link could be changed at any time to no longer point to the file. There are also environmental concerns.

As with any new technology in commerce, NFTs quickly became music. In 2021, artists like Avenged Sevenfold and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda started making or “hitting” their own NFTs. Even late rocker Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana has become the subject of an NFT series. In September, HitPiece announced its arrival on the Internet, saying in a Twitter post, it was a platform that “allows users to buy and sell NFTs from musicians.”

Why do people hate NFTs?

HitPiece Fraudulent Seizure is just the last red flag when it comes to the world of NFTs. The speculation boom around the craze could already be likened to a pyramid scheme, because Atlantic reported. A virality Twitter feed speculated that HitPiece planned to illegally insert itself between artists and consumers before eventually brokering deals to make it legit.

Last week, RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier said, “As music lovers and artists embrace new technologies like NFTs, there is always someone looking to harness their enthusiasm and energy. and artists posed by HitPiece and potential imitators, it was clear that we needed to act immediately and urgently to uphold fairness and honesty in the marketplace.”

Doroshow added, “HitPiece appears to be little more than a scam operation designed to trade on fans’ love of music and the desire to connect more closely with artists, using buzzwords and jargon to cover up their utter failure to secure the necessary rights. Fans were led to believe they were buying an NFT genuinely associated with an artist and their work when that was not the case at all.”

What are the environmental impacts?

Concerns about the carbon footprint of cryptocurrency abound. Mining Ethereum is an incredibly energy-intensive process because Wired noted, and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions as any energy creation can. Overall, it can be said to come on top of climate change at a time when the UN has already declared a warmer future is inevitable, according to The New York Times.

Last year, The edge said “there are probably a lot of greenhouse gas emissions related to NFTs. … If NFTs significantly increase the value of Ethereum, miners could try to profit by increasing the number of machines they use More machines usually mean more pollution.”

It remains to be seen if the NFT bubble will burst or if the trend championed by celebrities and crypto enthusiasts continues. But the negatives that already accompany the craze became more glaring after HitPiece attempted to scam artists and their fans.

RIAA Letter to HitPiece – February 4, 2022

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