Bandcamp against freedom of speech?

Pièce jointeMerdümgiriz is an independent music label, doing almost everything hand-made and often host artists that are controversial and offensive. The subject of interest, in this case, is the band Viranesir, the bandcamp page of which is indeed blank as of now, allegedly taken down by bandcamp themselves. If it’s true that they talk about taboo, controversial and offensive subjects, they aren’t being serious about it. Let me quote Emir Toğrul, of the band Viranesir (complete press release at the end of this post):

All I ever did was to pull these taboo subjects out of their untouchable contexts and open them up for discussion, because they are very stupid and personally through a sense of humor, better be opened up for discussion in my opinion.

The guys at bandcamp might’ve thought that this was a prime example of hate speech, and even though I’m no law expert, I’m pretty skilled with Wikipedia so I’ll write here my ill-informed and worthless opinion on the subject matter.

In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.

However, in the United States of America, the First Amendment states that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Therefore, there is no – to my knowledge – law that could act on the bandcamp company because they have hosted artists doing hate speech. Even if, in this case, the subjects are not taken or brought up in a serious matter, I am aware that it is impossible to tell the intentions of the artist without personal communication. In fact, recommendations have been made concerning the matter by the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Agency) in 1992 stating that “the best way to fight hate speech was through additional speech promoting tolerance, as opposed to government regulation.” So, it seems that bandcamp acted only following their ideological views and effectively violated the First Amendment for the band Viranesir. And even though I’m on the same page as bandcamp and Viranesir, here: I’m pretty much the exact opposite of being a neo-nazi, racist, sexist, pedophile or abusive person. However, the freedom of speech is an important thing to me, and bandcamp definitely should not have deleted this artist’s page.

Edit: apparently, the U.S. legal system is still a mystery to me, and a private company cannot violate the First Amendment. They are well within their right to pick who can and who cannot speak on their own platform. In any case, I express here my discontent concerning the issue.

It reminds me of a thing that happened recently in video games. There was that game, Hatred, which was very controversial and offensive to many people before its release. It eventually got banned by Steam, a company hosting video games, much like how bandcamp hosts music artists, but quickly got put right back up: they realized they made a mistake, and did their best to make amends for it. It was not their role to restrict artistic freedom, as it is not bandcamp’s role to play the restrictive parent. In the end, Hatred came out, turned out to be an under-average game, and much more harmless than foreseen.

I strongly expect bandcamp to rectify the situation and put Viranesir’s music back on their website. I don’t want to have to boycott this otherwise great platform for music.

Here is the official press release from the band:

Press release about the Bandcamp incident available."You may or may not noticed that Merdumgiriz Records artist…

Posted by Viranesir on 1 septembre 2015

Update: Bandcamp’s terms of use do state that “[they] may terminate your access to all or any part of the Service at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice”, and that “[artists] shall not (and shall not permit any third party to […] upload […] any content […] that is unlawful, threatening, abusive, […] tortious, obscene, offensive, or profane”. Creating an account on bandcamp means that you agree to these terms. While it is then totally logical for them to have taken action – they are well within their right -, we can still ask if we, as customers and users of the platform, are willing to agree to these terms. If profane or obscene, which are subjects of choice for some genres of music, are banned, are you still interested in using this service? Now, gore-grind is a very slim portion of my listening pie, but I do believe that the choice of the subject matter in music shouldn’t be restricted by any platform’s policies. That’s where I should have put my aim in this article, not on the legal side of things because the company is totally right to have acted as it did, but rather on: what do we want them to offer us. Thanks to everyone who corrected me, and I apologize for my lack of knowledge on the U.S. legal system.

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