Fans and critics alike anticipate the March 24th release of Lana Del Rey’s upcoming ninth studio album, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean blvd. Whether or not you are a fan, you can’t help but wonder how the release will go. Del Rey has been the victim of various leaks throughout her career, and this album cycle was no different. In addition to asking fans to refrain from listening to leaked music, artists, in theory, have opportunities for legal recourse given their copyright in the tracks or recordings of unreleased music.
Beyond the emotional trauma to artists of having their work stolen and sense of ownership damaged, leakers can post and monetize tracks for profit. Of course, with proper legal representation and documentation in place when recording music, artists are able to pursue legal remedies under copyright, but that can get quite expensive. And for smaller artists, such pursuits may even be more difficult. Often, artists are left seeking redress from the playback sites themselves.
For example, YouTube’s community guidelines allow rightsholders to request takedowns, but are notably driven by user requests for unreleased or leaked songs posted to the platform. Things are a bit more complicated on TikTok, where minimal copyright protections (other than user reported takedowns) and potential royalty arrangements between an artist’s label and TikTok provide different enforcement incentives. TikTok’s influence on the music streaming industry cannot be understated. There is great potential for virality, yet the platform has also drawn criticism from some artist with regard to music teasers and label pressures.
Trends on the popular social media app tend to hop to other social media, particularly music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Yet, problems arise when leakers pose as artists and post unreleased music, reaping royalty payments. Artists such as SZA, Beyoncé, and countless others have had “suspicious bootlegs and fraudulent uploads” in their name or by burner accounts, where streams racked up quickly before any takedown actions were initiated, and the artists themselves didn’t receive a dime. Leakers and fraudsters have various creative ways to exploit the system, creating problems such as fake songs uploaded under real artist profiles and real demos under fake profiles. Leakers have exploited weaknesses in the music distribution process, particularly at the stage of music distribution between artists or labels and streaming services. There have also been challenges associated with a lack of centralized music metadata practices that impair fraud checking at the major streaming sites. There have also been critiques regarding both distributor and streaming service authentication measures, lack of transparency on such measures in place through streaming services, and differential treatment for larger acts (who may or may not be on the same side as their label with regards to streaming releases). All of these problems cause real economic harm to artists, and create further costs when legal representation is necessary to challenge posts.
While Spotify and Apple Music both have an online form for copyright infringement takedown requests, there is significant room for improvement. Both music distributors and streaming services need to invest more in authentication and screening services to prevent fraudulent and leaked track uploads. Additional challenges arise given anonymity protections online. Intermediaries and streaming services in the digital music environment are best positioned to take ex ante measures to limit leaks and fraud amounting to copyright infringement and thus should be pressured to continue developing preventative measures to safeguard artists’ work. In the past few months, I’ve noticed old Lana Del Rey tracks from the early 2010s appearing on Spotify, both as tracks by “artists” with Lana-esque names and some uploaded as podcasts. Some of these get taken down within weeks, yet many remain up. As much as artists can try to protect their art, it should be the responsibility of market leading participants in the music industry to continually invest more in protecting artists’ integrity and security in their ownership.
 Lana Del Rey, https://www.lanadelrey.com/ [https://perma.cc/F9P2-G3S7] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://www.lanadelrey.com/].
 See Anna Gaca, Lana Del Rey To Fans Downloading Album Leaks: ‘U Little F–kers’, Billboard (July 9, 2017), https://www.billboard.com/music/music-news/lana-del-rey-to-fans-downloading-album-leaks-u-little-f-kers-7873066/ [https://perma.cc/9SDA-P7W4] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://www.billboard.com/music/music-news/lana-del-rey-to-fans-downloading-album-leaks-u-little-f-kers-7873066/]; Bindu Bansinath, Lana Del Rey Asks Fans Not To Listen To Leaked Music, Cut (Oct. 20, 2022), https://www.thecut.com/2022/10/lana-del-rey-asks-fans-not-to-listen-to-leaked-music.html [https://perma.cc/2FV9-3KWX] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://www.thecut.com/2022/10/lana-del-rey-asks-fans-not-to-listen-to-leaked-music.html].
 See, e.g., What Musicians Should Know About Copyright, Libr. of Cong., https://www.copyright.gov/engage/musicians/ [https://perma.cc/MDH7-3UM5] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://www.copyright.gov/engage/musicians/] (last visited Feb. 26, 2023).
 See Learn About Scheduled Copyright Takedown Requests, Google Support, https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/9167045?hl=en [https://perma.cc/CJS5-CTF3] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/9167045?hl=en] (last visited Feb. 26, 2023).
 Marco Alexis, Tiktok Music Copyright: Explained, Two Story Melody (May 23, 2022), https://twostorymelody.com/tiktok-music-copyright/ [https://perma.cc/9UJ4-2W3F] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://twostorymelody.com/tiktok-music-copyright/] (discussing TikTok’s lack of initial protections for Copyright and the evolution of partnerships and policies).
 Crystal Koe, Testing Unreleased Songs on TikTok—Why Some Love It and Many Do Not, MusicTech (June 2, 2022), https://musictech.com/news/industry/testing-unreleased-songs-on-tiktok-major-label-small-artists/ [https://perma.cc/M4T6-KJFW] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://musictech.com/news/industry/testing-unreleased-songs-on-tiktok-major-label-small-artists/].
 Noah Yoo, How Artist Imposters and Fake Songs Sneak Onto Streaming Services, Pitchfork (Aug. 21, 2019), https://pitchfork.com/features/article/how-artist-imposters-and-fake-songs-sneak-onto-streaming-services/ [https://perma.cc/3BZ7-AMNK] [https://web.archive.org/web/20230000000000*/https://pitchfork.com/features/article/how-artist-imposters-and-fake-songs-sneak-onto-streaming-services/].