Thursday, 1 March 2012

Van Fans Versus the Web Sheriff

Every artist has a right to protect the art they have created.  A true Van Morrison fan would never just illegally download officially released albums!  We just wouldn't do it!  We love the man and appreciate his talent and skill.  Many readers of this blog are part of a large group of Van obsessives or Vanatics, as Pat Corley would say, that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.  We collect the albums, singles, EPs, videos, DVDs, or whatever else we can get our hands on in whatever format.  We promote Van to our friends and family, sometimes to the detriment of those relationships. 

Artists today are under threat from the illegal download.  Every worker is "worthy of his wages" as the Bible says.  Van seems more active than most in pursuing people who download his official albums for free.   The so-called Web Sheriff is his weapon of choice.  Perhaps he's been a bit zealous.  I don't know why Hayward's Van the Man info site and the Wavelength site were closed down because these two sites were all about promoting Van.  How many people has Wavelength's Simon Gee turned onto Van?  I bet it's in the thousands. 

I can't blame the attempt by Van to shut down illegal download sites.  For the true Van Fan or Vanatic, we want to have the album in our hands as we listen.  We want the cover art and any info in the booklet to digest.  Maybe that reflects our age.  Young people tell me they have thousands of albums and then I find out they're all illegal downloads.  It's not the same thing!  In the 70s I plonked down all I had on albums I liked.  A few dollars back then was everything I had.  It's not like today where middle class kids seem to have so much and then go ahead and steal the musical output of hundreds of artists.  They can afford to pay and yet just take.  Apparently, they have to save money on music so they can buy brand goods that give them some kind of artificial feeling of wealth or status. 

I better stop now.  I'm sounding as angry as Van. 

What follows is one fan's struggle with the Web Sheriff on the Ben Lomond Free Press blog.  The Web Sheriff reveals himself to be a person at pains to explain the actions he takes on behalf of his employer - anyone who hires him to protect his or her artistic output or other copyright issues.  It all starts when the the blogger begins to contemplate buying the latest Van album:
I got my sweaty palms on the new Van album today. Just what you’d expect from him i.e. the heroic struggle, the hurt, the disappointment with life, self obsession and gnawing self doubt. I love it. I notice that the drummer on the album is Liam Bradley who I saw in action with The Blue Nile in 2006.
*This is the first track on the album which from reading the lyrics, is Jesus Christ himself singing in the first person. It’s called How Can a Poor Boy? (no relation to the song recorded by Ry Cooder and others)

*The second track here is Van returning to his philosophical odyssey which has been going on for over 40 years. This is called Soul.

*Edit: These tracks have been removed at the request of Web Sheriff despite them having been uploaded from an entirely bona fide copy of the album. The web lawman has however provided links where you can access material from Keep it Simple.

 1.  WEB SHERIFF, on March 17, 2008 at 8:14 pm said:

Hi ‘Bigrab’,
On behalf of Exile Productions, Lost Highway and Polydor, we would kindly ask you not to post copies of “Keep It Simple” on your site (or any individual tracks from Van Morrison’s unreleased album – release dates US 1st April and UK / EU 17th March).

We do appreciate that you are fans of / are promoting Van, but Exile, Lost Highway and Polydor would greatly appreciate your co-operation in removing your links to the pirate files in question.

Thank you for respecting the artist’s and labels’ wishes and, if you want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, full versions of “That’s Entrainment” and “Behind The Ritual” (along with album track samplers) are available for you to link to on Lost Highway’s web-site at .

Up-to-the-minute info on Keep It Simple and Van’s 2008 shows is, of course, also available on and and, for the next few days, you can hear Van’s exclusive BBC sessions and interview at and .

As you will appreciate, this e-mail is written on a without prejudice basis and, as such, all of our clients’ accumulated, worldwide rights remain strictly reserved : please excuse this required formality.

With Thanks & Regards,

  2.  bigrab, on March 17, 2008 at 8:50 pm said:

Dear Web Sheriff,
You say this album is “unreleased”. I purchased a copy of the album today in Woolworth's in Helensburgh Scotland (£10.99) from which these files are uploaded. As Woolworth's are a reputable company I am confident that the files I have uploaded are not in fact “pirate” material. As your request relates to pirate material only I will therefore leave the tracks I have posted here.

Thank you for the additional links which I will leave here so that people who appreciate Van Morrison’s music and visit my blog will be able to access them.

This message is written on a without prejudice basis by a genuine, law abiding music fan who simply wants to share discussion of Van Morrison’s work in an honest, non-profit making way. I am confident that my so doing will not result in any loss for your clients.

On this new information, please let me know if I am breaking any laws and I will remove the tracks.

PS I do note a certain irony in the title of the album!

  3.  WEB SHERIFF, on March 17, 2008 at 10:33 pm said:
Hi Again ‘Bigrab’,

Many thanks for your reply / post … .. in answer to your query, just because you have purchased a copy of Van’s newly released album, this does not entitle you to publish / electronically distribute tracks from KIS on your site … .. which is akin to buying a copy and then deciding to run-off a few thousand copies for your friends … .. we know that you mean well, but would, again – at the request of the artist and labels – kindly ask you to remove these tracks … .. as before, you are, of course, welcome to replace them with links to the official preview tracks.

Thanks again for your understanding and co-operation.

Once again and as you will appreciate, this e-mail is written on a without prejudice basis and, as such, all of our clients’ accumulated, worldwide rights remain strictly reserved : please excuse this further formality.
Kind Regards,

  4.  bigrab, on March 17, 2008 at 11:24 pm said:
OK lawman, you win and I have removed the tracks as you have asked nicely. However, your comparison analogy of illustrating a fans’ pleasure at buying an album with two streaming tracks on a blog and running off thousands of copies is, if I may say so, ridiculous.

  5.  almax, on March 18, 2008 at 7:53 am said:

Yikes.  I’d never heard of Web Sheriff before – he seems to be the Lone Ranger of the information super-highway.  

  6.  Alan, on March 18, 2008 at 8:15 am said:

Sounds like a scam to me.

  7.  bigrab, on March 18, 2008 at 9:34 am said:

Alastair, I am immediately tempted to upload (from my legitimately purchased copy) Van Morrison’s “Who was that masked man?” from Veedon Fleece. However I have no wish to upset The Web Sheriff any more than I have already.
Sadly Alan it is no scam. Web Sheriff acts directly on behalf of artists, so whilst Van has “No guru, no method and no teacher”, he sure as hell has a lawyer. I note from my research that the first two clients of Web Sheriff were Prince and , heaven help us, The Village People. I think one of them wore a tin badge too.
As Private Eye once was moved to point out (regarding a firm of solicitors protecting the trade mark “Portakabin” from being used to generically describe temporary buildings) “What a pathetic way to make a living.”

  6.  Alan, on March 18, 2008 at 11:42 am said:

Fair enough Rab. Their website looks naff and out of date, still, never judge a book by its cover! But I can’t help thinking that the artists concerned can’t have it both ways boys. Either file sharing is good for your career or it’s bad.  Arctic Monkeys anyone?

  7.  bigrab, on March 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm said:

It’s not even file sharing though! these tracks were not for download, only streamed for listening to.  Arctic Monkeys are not for me I must admit.

  8.  Helpless Dancer, on March 18, 2008 at 12:05 pm said:
Ah the good old Web Sheriff, I had the same issues with Lost Highway when trying to promote Cat Power’s “Jukebox” album, I was so annoyed I told them I would never buy another Lost Highway release again.  Didn’t know that Van The Man was releasing his album through them though!!!

  9.  bigrab, on March 18, 2008 at 10:39 pm said:

“Vanfan” I inadvertently deleted your message posted earlier. I have cut and pasted the message from my email alert as follows:

“I wonder if they realise how much they alienate genuine music fans. Thanks bigrab I managed to hear the tracks yesterday before deletion and will purchase the album today.  The Belfast Cowboy hires the Web Sheriff!

 10.  WEB SHERIFF, on March 18, 2008 at 11:09 pm said:

WEB SHERIFF  Protecting Your Rights on the Internet
 Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013         Fax 44-(0)208-323 8080

Hi Bigrab,

Many thanks for your removal of those streams (which, for your info, are actually capable of ‘capture’ / ‘download’ by very many people ). … .. anyway, thanks also for your kind words (in the main) … .. again, much appreciated.

To Alan and Helpless we’d add that – at the end of the day – it’s always an artist’s right to decide how they distribute their music on-line (i.e. whether through official channels or via free file-sharing), as it’s THEIR MUSIC !!
All The Best,

 11.  bigrab, on March 19, 2008 at 7:35 am said:

Web Sheriff,

Thanks for that. I realise of course that a determined individual could download the links I had posted or indeed the feeds for the links you have posted. I’m sure though there will be many other Russian sites, file sharing outlets etc where this could more easily be done.

 12.  MrMattBlum, on April 26, 2008 at 7:38 pm said:
For whatever it’s worth, it seems to me that either Van or his lawyers are being rather over-zealous in their pursuit of copyright infringement, especially when it means that fans can’t interpret the songs in a public forum such as YouTube where there is no financial gain involved. I posted a video at YouTube of myself playing a version of Caravan that was pulled down at the request of Exile, so I created a video response at Perhaps someone here will enjoy it.

 13.  bigrab, on April 27, 2008 at 6:38 am said:

Thank you Matt. I have featured your video on the blog.

  14.  auld son, on August 1, 2008 at 3:21 pm said:
 A sign of getting old is when you can go into Tesco and buy van Morrison CDs for £3! I bought a lynyrd skynyrd CD today for £3.  When I was younger it was Bing Crosby and the like that were sold cheap.   btw I saw Van the Man live when he played with Them.   just another reminiscence.

 15.  youtube, on July 2, 2010 at 6:54 am said:

which subtly reminds you that you’re being watched. Post a track, video, or even a photo, and you get told to cease and desist.

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