ABC Records: some concerns and a call for your views

Some time ago, we came across China-based ABC Records, a label that issues music in a range of formats including studio master tape, and whose catalogue of almost a hundred titles spans an eclectic mix of vocal, instrumental and Chinese music. A fair old perusal of the company’s website gave the impression that the company is a bona fide one. While much of the website is written in its native Chinese language, a good amount is also provided in English. And, while the structure and layout of the site are somewhat chaotic and the English is far from perfect, such shortcomings are far from unusual. More important was the encouraging amount of information, with details of recording equipment and processes, and names and photographs of senior technical personnel including collaborators in the USA, Australia and Europe. So we decided to dip a toe in the water and order a tape or two, with a view to reviewing them for thereeltoreelrambler.com. We were offered a small discount for review copies, sent our payment, the tapes were delivered and the transaction went smoothly. And the tapes sounded extremely good indeed!

But to date we haven’t reviewed them and, for now, we don’t plan to. This for two reasons, which we feel we ought to alert readers to…

1. Breach of website copyright

While our order for the tapes was in process, we began to notice some contradictions in ABC’s web text about their recording processes. And then we realised something odd: we felt as if we were reading text that we’d seen somewhere else before. Then it dawned on us that the reason we’d seen it before was that we wrote it – for another company! Some of the text about recording processes had been copied verbatim from the website of another recording label, for which we’d previously done some web copywriting and translation work. Then we found more copied text, from another European label whose work we knew well. What’s more, we noticed that all of the English text on ABC’s website seemed to be published as image files, such that it couldn’t be scanned by international search engines. So we contacted ABC to inquire, and to politely point out that the use of the text was a breach of copyright. Their response was (and we quote): “Yes… many of our website texts are copied and translated from other company’s website without their permission. And we know this is not illegal and unethical.”

A long email dialogue followed, in which we (again, politely) pointed out the error of that understanding. To cut a long story short, ABC initially expressed an interest in working with us to rewrite the English text, but each time we sought to move forward with the project, or indeed with our reviews of their tapes, by asking the necessary questions about their recording processes, things went very quiet. In the end we gave up. And the copied web text is still online.

2. Potential breach of music copyright

More recently, it has come to our attention that one of ABC Records’ CDs includes music by a recording artist known to us. Since we had no knowledge of the artist in question having worked in China or with ABC, we dropped her a note to check. As suspected, the recording was used without her or her label’s knowledge or permission and would therefore seem to be a breach of copyright law. This is currently being investigated.

Now, the aim of thereeltoreelrambler.com is to encourage and support those who are creating and enjoying all things tape, but we can’t support overt illegal activity. That said, we’re not about to launch into unfounded accusations either. It could be that ABC Records is a bona fide company that has unfortunately let a couple of errors slip in here and there. Or, they could be a bunch of pirates with no respect for copyright whatsoever. Or something in between. The fact is, we don’t know. All we can tell you is that which we do know, and that’s the two incidents related above.

If you’ve had any direct experience of dealing with ABC Records, whether good or bad, please drop us a line. Perhaps then we can build up a clearer picture.