R.E.M. Archive Blog Preemptively Shut Down by Universal

Label disputes post featuring the band's earliest demo cassette

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Paul Natkin/WireImage
R.E.M., circa 1984.
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The digital archivist who restored the singles catalogs of the Smiths, Joy Division and New Order in a series of blog projects is being strongly discouraged from starting a similar project collecting R.E.M.'s earliest work. In a blog post on the nascent R.E.M.cycle site, the blogger known as Analog Loyalist explained that Universal, the record company that owns the band's IRS Records catalog, issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice for an R.E.M. post on the writer's sister site The Power of Independent Trucking featuring a restored version of the band's first cassette demo, with early renditions of "Radio Free Europe," "Sitting Still" and "White Tornado."

"Tell me, what role does the IFPI (of which Universal is obviously a member) have to do with unreleased material recorded when the band had no record contract?," Analog Loyalist writes, referring to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. "These were demos freely given away by the band. On low-fi C45 cassettes. And the IFPI thinks it's their business how?"

The blogger is now reconsidering the wisdom of pursuing the project. "So you can see why I'm very hesitant to move forward with this blog, only because I don't want to see my efforts as a writer/archivist/engineer wasted," he writes.

The site would in fact be a very labor-intensive process. As explained in the sidebar for the R.E.M., Smiths and Joy Division/New Order sites, the tracks used are "taken from the best/earliest possible sources to avoid modern mastering techniques which crush the dynamics," and the artwork is "scanned at the highest possible resolution and the type was reset when possible using the original fonts." All works featured in these projects are from out-of-print sources, and some tracks have never been commercially released or reissued.