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Last.fm denies data handover to RIAA

'Whole story made up,' claims co-founder

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Last.fm has hit out at an uncorroborated report that alleged the music streaming website passed user data over to the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA).

The CBS-owned outfit responded angrily to a report posted late Friday by TechCrunch that cited an unsourced rumour, which claimed Last.fm handed over a “giant dump of user data to track down people who are scrobbling unreleased tracks" to the RIAA.

The move apparently followed U2's forthcoming album, No Line On The Horizon being leaked onto the interwebs ahead of its 3 March release.

Last.fm co-founder Richard Jones wrote on the website’s blog in the early hours of Saturday morning, in which he denied the unsubstantiated claims.

"I'm rather pissed off this article was published, except to say that this is utter nonsense and totally untrue,” he said. “As far as I can tell, the author of this article got a 'tip' from one person and decided to make a story out of it.”

TechCrunch reported on speculative chatter from an unnamed CBS worker who claimed the Web 2.0 music service had allegedly agreed to cough up Last.fm data about its community’s listening habits to the RIAA.

The org wanted the info to find out which individuals who were signed up to Last.fm had unreleased tracks on their computers, it was claimed.

Last.fm’s systems architect Russ Garrett also grumbled about TechCrunch’s coverage. "I'd like to issue a full and categorical denial of this,” he wrote on the Last.fm forum. "We've never had any request for such data by anyone, and if we did we wouldn't consent to it.

"Of course we work with the major labels and provide them with broad statistics, as we would with any other label, but we'd never personally identify our users to a third party – that goes against everything we stand for. As far as I'm concerned Techcrunch have made this whole story up."

Garrett also reiterated to TechCrunch that it only hands over aggregate data to record labels about their artists, but insisted that no information that links users and plays is ever dished out to third parties.

CBS – which bought Last.fm in 2008 – wasn't immediately available for comment at time of writing. The company issued a terse statement on Friday in which it said: "To our knowledge, no data has been made available to RIAA."

An RIAA spokeswoman dismissed TechCrunch's report. She told El Reg: "Simply put, it's not true."

Meanwhile, Jones has posted a new entry on Last.fm's blog in the past hour in which he has accused TechCruch of being "full of shit". ®

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