back to article Open-source dev and critic of Beijing claims Audacity owner Muse threatened him with deportation to China in row over copyright

Audacity's new owner Muse Group has been accused of threatening to land a developer in legal hot water, a move that could result in the programmer being forced to return to China to face a government of which he has been a vocal critic. The developer in question, Wenzheng Tang, has expressed anti-China sentiments on his GitHub …

  1. myxiplx2

    Is this really news?

    Is this actually news? The Register seems determined to paint Muse as an evil company, but the story behind most of the articles seems to say they're actually trying to be reasonable, invest time and effort into improving the quality and usability of the software, and making sure everything is legal, above board, and in agreement with licensing terms that existed before they bought the rights.

    Huge long, lenghtly articles rambling on about this topic, developers forking it, open source people up in arms about a project that's still available in open source form.

    I really don't understand why this is featuring so prominately, and whether either party is actually right or wrong here. It seems to be that Muse want to make the software better, the original owner agreed enough to sell them the rights and give them control of the project, and now a segment of the open source community has decided that the decision of the original maintainer and this new owner is totally wrong and they're trying everything they can to counter it, including painting the company in a bad light on the register.

    Is this news, or is this somebody using The Register to spread their point of view?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Is this really news?

      Bringing up someone's immigration status and home government in an argument over APIs and copyright seemed newsworthy enough to the Reg team, nothing more, nothing less.

      C.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this really news?

      If Muse don't fire Ray, then yes, they are an evil company.

    3. all ears

      Re: Is this really news?

      Youi're conflating the controversy about Audacity with the controversy about Musescore, which is what this article is about. And it sounds like you don't understand either one of lthem.

      Read the article carefully, try to understand what it's about, and then see if you can post a thoughtful comment. Hint: it has nothing to do with "making the software better."

    4. elregidente

      Re: Is this really news?

      You don't give people the death penalty for parking offenses.

      You do not send critics of China to China for copyright offenses.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is this really news?

        sadly, it appears we live in times when 'anything goes' to get even the most trivial advantage...

    5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: they're actually trying to be reasonable

      Oh yes, putting a paywall on stuff they don't actually own is eminently reasonable, of course.

      Did you actually read the article, or are you a manager at Muse ?

  2. ryokeken

    This was a clear and unambiguous threat to his life

    This was a clear and unambiguous threat to his life, what’s not to understand? There’s no other way to read it, have doubts? Do what i did, ask other people around what they think it was.

    If you have to explain why it isn’t a threat then you have your answer

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This was a clear and unambiguous threat to his life

      I call male bovine excrement, not just on your comment but on some (*) of the others as well, and I'm dismayed by the tone of the article itself, exemplified by the selection of the headline!

      We are living at a time where the western governments and their media fronts are constantly bombarding the public with anti-chinese hysteria (**), so I can see where that mental image of a "death threat" is coming from.

      However, consideration of legal action against (supposed) infringing activities should not be dependent on whether as a consequence the accused might potentially suffer additional hardship due to for example his status as a foreign citizen.

      If he were found guilty by a court then the courts(!) would have to decide about a deportation, if such were suggested by the applicable law.

      The plaintiff would have no say in that decision, and therefore the headline claim that "Muse threatened him with deportation" is utter hyperbole and (admittedly successful) clickbait.

      Of course, conditioned by said hysteria and having their Pavlovian reflex triggered, some commentards then have to come out and exaggerate even more by fantasizing about a "clear and unambiguous threat to his life", while failing to provide any evidence for the allusion that deportations or extradictions of "dissidents" to China inevitably or even routinely result in their untimely death.

      (*) Incidentally, for the first time ever a post by that man from Mars did make sense to me!

      (**) Believe it or not, I am not a fan of chinese politics, but the shitstorm thrown at China can not be seen as based in rational reasoning. Instead it seems to stem solely from the realization that "the west" is no longer able to unilaterally rule the world, that a war might be necessary to regain that ability and that extensive propaganda is needed to get the western populations to support such a war. That the latter part does seem to work is rather frightening.

      1. sev.monster Bronze badge

        Re: This was a clear and unambiguous threat to his life

        Absolutely. Ultimately Muse Group will have 0 involvement on whether or not Tang is deported to China or not. Ray has made it very clear by now what his intentions were with his posts, and rather than call him a corporate shill, I think it's worthwhile to see his words and take them at face value. I've had my eye on Muse Group for a while and I have not seen enough to tell me that they are deliberately acting in a malicious manner, both the company itself and the included individuals in this particular incident.

        If there were any hidden words at all, I think they would be Ray trying to spin Chistyakov's obvious second-language word salad from his original email to Tang in a better light; either that, or there was some intended malice/threatening there on Chistyakov's part.

        But as far as I'm concerned none of this really matters. At the end of the day Muse Group is a corporation and they are beholden to the licensing agreements and contracts they have signed with the music groups that have agreed to upload their sheet music on the platform. Whether or not Muse Group or its representatives come off as malicious or not, it is still their job to protect those agreements, and it has been said that they are responsible for acting on behalf of the licensors to protect their intellectual property. Every company with IP to protect works this way. Muse Group is not somehow special for doing the same thing everyone else does. If anything, they are an outlier, since this whole thing has been made public and they are still continuing that public discussion, where other, larger groups would likely force things into the shadows with as much legal grunt they can muster, as we have seen in the past.

        Something undeniable is that there is a clear legal threat from Muse Group to Tang that action will be taken if he does not rectify the situation, either by Muse Group themselves or by one or more of the licensors of the sheet music that Muse Group is offering. It is also undeniable that Tang is acting in a manner that results in the violation of the intellectual property rights of said licensors, and that he is doing this knowingly and willingly. However, we armchair Internet users are, if I can assume, not lawyers, and it should be left up to a court to determine his fate for his actions. If the court deems it so, then he will be charged for his actions. If he is charged, there is also a chance he will be deported. That is not anything Muse Group has any control over.

        Additionally, Muse Group (specifically Ray) has been hesitant to push the envelope, and has given Tang multiple opportunities to take down his repositories and cease his actions, without resorting to litigation. I can tell you for a fact that Disney, the MAFIAA, BMG, and other such pond scum would not have given so many chances. That in and of itself is worth something in my eyes... even if it's possible that the reason they have not acted legally yet is because it came to light publicly. But even then, why would they sit on it for a year and change without filing? Would it just be too much of a hassle?

        I think it should also be stated that the understanding of this situation does not equate to a lack of symapthy for Tang, despite his actions, and it does not somehow validate the actions of the CCP. We should attempt to separate the two. Fuck the CCP, fuck their cronies, and if I had my way no one would ever be deported back there. But it isn't my decision, it's the court's, and based on their actions so far, it's clearly it's not something that Muse Group (or at least Ray) want to put Tang to—for publicity reasons or otherwise.

  3. Robert Grant Silver badge

    This might be a silly question, but how can an extension get through API security? Is there no login?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Flame

      No. They're technically inept so instead of fixing an API they threaten people with "nice residency there, be a shame if something happened to it and they deport you back to a despotic regime that by some fluke of circumstance you were born under".

      I didn't know much about Muse to form an opinion about them before but I know enough now.

    2. Boothy Silver badge

      Not silly at all.

      If you're not authorised to use an API, you shouldn't be able to use it. If unauthorised users can access an API, then they need to fix the APIs authentication.

      Also on a related note, why is the older API 'discontinued' but still available?

      If it was just deprecated, and still available as legacy, then okay, but if its discontinued, it should be physically removed, or at the very least disabled, with perhaps a permanent 404 response.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Binraider Bronze badge

    Muse has made its intentions and motivations clear enough. Fork immediately and choose to work on the fork instead.encoirage others to use the fork. Good luck when Muse tries to unsuccessfully claim copyright on something under GPL.

    Organisations bent on yelling threats to get their own way smack of certain other commonly considered evil corporations.

    1. martyn.hare
      Facepalm

      This isn’t looking good for Musescore

      If they don’t have a feasible business model without being able to artificially restrict what adds up to a majority of otherwise free content then they won’t survive for much longer. Clearly the proprietary analytics tool which is part of the Pro subscription can’t be worth that much if they’re getting upset about the (mostly free to use) scores being publicly available sans-account.

      The irony is now they’ve upset people, you can bet a bunch of folks will step up to get a proper fork popularised as a way out. This, along with Audacity will become the next “OpenOffice incident”

  6. Ace2

    Jerks

    Trying to monetize freely-available content (looking at you, Gracenote) is what you stoop to when you have no legitimate way to make a living.

    Nice job making the world worse.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Jerks

      It is not making the world "worse" from their (very singular) viewpoint - in their (myopic) belief, they will make the world better because someone will be making money! And if it's THEM making money, all the better!

      The rest of us wish them DIAF.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jerks

      Yes, I immediately thought of Gracenote too, but that didn't really contain copyrighted data, more pure user generated submissions (which made monetizing them even more evil, that is until Facebook came along).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    extradition to another country for copyright violations

    The fine print of the terms and conditions of my Samsung BluRay player threaten similar actions if I were to attempt to RE the device or its firmware.

    (I believe that's what it said, but IANAL)

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge
    1. Vometia has insomnia. Again.

      I didn't know about that and was duly appalled, especially that there was seemingly no censure for the massive headline-grabbing overreaction in response to his "crime". Which is why this sort of shit still happens, I suppose. :|

  9. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Xi Zuz Qrist

    > another repo of his – 'Fuck 学习强国'

    I had to look this up.

    > 学习强国

    > Xuexi Qiangguo is a Chinese app primarily designed to teach Xi Jinping Thought.

    > It is designed by Alibaba Group. As of October 2019, it has more than 100 million active users and is now claimed to be the most downloaded item on Apple's domestic App Store,

    And looks like it's just the official app for the much larger whole-society campaign of brainwashing, Xi worship, etc.

    Yeah. I'm with Wen-Tang Clan man. Fuck that shit.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Xi Zuz Qrist

      And looks like it's just the official app for the much larger whole-society campaign of brainwashing, Xi worship, etc.

      Yeah. I'm with Wen-Tang Clan man. Fuck that shit. ..... W.S.Gossett

      Are you equally enthused in support of opposition to the same sort of daily telegraphing BBC shit, W.S.G., endemic and pervasive in the UKGBNI and throughout its foreign services channels which has all manner of tall tales told in the threadbare clothes of breaking news for believing by the ignorant masses could be true rather than realised that all is constantly made up [every morning/afternoon/evening/night] in a desperate defensive rearguard action to try and retain and maintain a corrupt and perverse and now rapidly failing status quo system of clearly not admirably internetworking protocols/Great Game type Plays, although great in that particular context is obviously a howler of a misnomer ‽ .

      To neither imagine nor accept that a radical fundamental systemic change is required to avoid a rapidly arriving and rabid catastrophe which will specifically target and crush all those truly responsible, is that which practically guarantees its sudden inescapable stealthy arrival as does the Virile Virtual Viral Activity of IT's Intangible Invisible Advanced Autonomous Relatively Anonymous IntelAIgent Drivers ‽ .

      But that's perfectly normal and a healthy sign of fabulous fabless progress and Revolutionary Evolution too.

      And somewhat Dominic Cummingsy too if the truth be told ? :-)

      1. Lon24 Silver badge

        Re: Xi Zuz Qrist

        Turing Test: Failed.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Xi Zuz Qrist

          Turing Test: Failed. ....Lon24

          I submit much more demonstrably Turing Test Failed Safe .... and Immeasurably Secured, Lon24.

          For Greater IntelAIgent Games Transfers and MetaPhysical Applications. Mega Multi Media Programming with AudioVisualised Presentations ....... Grand Global Reveals in Many Applications with Virtually Advanced IntelAIgent Operating Systems ...... https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2020/11/02/application_level_gateway_flaw/#c_4139068

          Heavenly Tasked and Supremely Attractive and ACTivated in the Provision of Alms for the Granting and Remote AIMentoring and Monitoring of Immunity and Impunity Freely Demonstrating Intentional Direction ...... Selected Paths of Future Travel in Quantum Communication AISystems is one of the Best of Programming Projects Available. And at Source, Supplied Free for Heavenly Applications .... thus resulting in an Almighty Powerful EMPowering Net Zero Cost Device to Driver in Any Good Direction of One's Choice.

          I submit, in any language you might like to choose, a Failed Turing Test that was not whenever there are Device Drivers for Immediate Commanding Control of COSMIC* FORGE Powers and their EMPowering Grids/Dark Webs.

          *COSMIC* .. Control Of Secret Materiel in an Internetional Command

          FORGE ..... Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution .... [a US Space Force Program]

      2. DrSunshine0104
        Headmaster

        Re: Xi Zuz Qrist

        Use your words...

      3. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Xi Zuz Qrist

        Good sir, I think you need to re-calibrate the settings in your 'morals' configuration.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Xi Zuz Qrist

        Right. The number of downvotes says much more to those in the real know than, maybe, the message itself.

        -What does the Club say?

        - Nothing.

        (Tears of Joy)

        Signed: RWS_Hobo

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Because to Muse's threats, could Mr. Tang ask for a status of political refugee in Canada?

    Whatever Ray's explanations, his company was threatening a man, of being jailed at best, and maybe be tortured and/or executed. That's the main 'key fact'.

  11. elregidente

    I think Audacity has had it, then.

    Muse just can't seem to get anything right.

    If you look at the string of cock-ups so far, there's been enough you can't imagine things are suddenly going to turn around.

    This is it - this is what you get - and this isn't going to fly.

    Community needs to pick a fork and go with it - that's the hard bit though - getting everyone to go in roughly the same direction.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: I think Audacity has had it, then.

      It certainly looks as if Audacity maintenance has ground to a halt - Fedora, and so other RH distros as well, are already at least one release behind Audacity's current state, IOW Nobody at Muse can be arsed to do a proper job of distributing binary updates.

      AFAICT work on fixing open bugs has stopped too.

    2. Lon24 Silver badge

      Re: I think Audacity has had it, then.

      "Muse just can't seem to get anything right."

      Even worse their Audacity PR disaster is now backfiring to damage their core product musescore.

      I don't think anything short of a grovelling apology and divesting Audacity is going to save either.

      Well the developers probably have the final vote. Where is that vote going atm?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think Audacity has had it, then.

      you call it a cock-up, others will call it a 'business strategy'...

      p.s. I hope they will rot.

    4. PassiveSmoking

      Re: I think Audacity has had it, then.

      Audacity (the software) will be fine, it will be forked and continue development under a different name (OpenOffice is dead! Long live libreOffice!). Audacity (the brand), however, has been tarnished, possibly irrecoverably, in an unbelievably short amount of time by its new overlords.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: tarnish brand

        I depends if word gets out beyond the bounds of the development world. Does the average user read tech articles, ones that cover the dirty dealings of the new management? Maybe, maybe not. We can hope yes, but can't say really.

        1. Lil Endian

          Re: tarnish brand

          Most or maybe all musicians I know are highly oriented towards promoting human rights, freedom of speech, live and let live and against suppression.

          I've no doubt they'll have eyes on this.

          Yep, all bloody hippies on the inside!

          I <3 my friends :)

  12. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    Taken seriously.

    Whatever happens, Tang needs a diplomatic shield because when Muse is backed in a corner, they will act out of spite.

    So Tang, you should choose friends very carefully and go hangout with them - and with a lawyer handy, or present.

  13. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Illegal bootleg of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme

    I posted an arrangement of a piece of music from the 50s and it was swiftly taken down because, however obscure, the copyright still had a few years to run. So this is policed already.

    The rules for musescore.com are rather vague but sort of imply that you can upload copyright material provided it isn't shared with other people and there is a login/account system that allows you to control the public visibility of scores.

    If I read this article correctly, there is another route to access scores that bypasses all access controls which has been exploited to download "private" scores. If there is such a route, it is entirely the fault of MuseScore. Apart from any consequences for their relations with publishers it affects my privacy too. If a third party can access my private files without my permission or password, it's not the fault of the third party.

    If there is such an egregious backdoor, it would be entirely inappropriate to threaten the third party in any way, let alone this way.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Illegal bootleg of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme

      Yes and no.

      Imagine you leave the terrace doors open and go to work. Sombody sees it and tells a burglar, who pays you a visit and steals the Mona Lisa that you had on loan from the Louvre. It still is theft. You will have problems, like "gross neglect" or whatever the legal term is, the insurance won't pay, and the owner will hold you accountable for the loss, etc. Both you and the thief will land in deep doo-doo, and the person telling the thief about the painting being in your house and the doors left open will also be held accomplice (I guess).

      I fully agree that having the private / copyrighted / restricted data being available through an API call without any access control in place really is gross neglect, but telling world and dog about it is wrong as well[0]. And obiously just because you can access apparently copyright (or otherwise) proteced data does not mean you should download it as well. I don't think that anyone looks particularly good in that story, neither Tang nor the Muse.

      [0] some conditions apply, look at discussions about how to handle security related bugs in software and how to disclose them, but this is not applicable here

      1. Elledan Silver badge

        Re: Illegal bootleg of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme

        Even copyright infringement is not theft.

        Yes, I would totally copy that car. Then drive away in it and feel pretty smug about it.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Illegal bootleg of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme

        But it's not theft. Theft is clearly defined (in the UK at least) as "intentionally depriving the rightful owner of their property". He hasn't done anything like that - the files are still there.

        It's more akin to leaving your back door open, and someone pops in and takes photographs of your artwork hung on the wall. You still have your artwork, it's just that someone else now has photos of it.

        As to the original article ...

        I'm divided on this. Muse are in a difficult position - they are required to try and protect their own and others' intellectual property, amongst other reasons because otherwise copyright holders will rightly tell them where to go. But I think it's quite restrained in pointing out the error of Tang's ways to him without involving the law - and lets face it, many other businesses would have gone into "full on lawyer mode" for less. And I'm inclined to suggest that Tang needs to be careful given the situation he is in - whether anyone likes it or not, if he is found to have broken the law then he faces having to leave.

        Poking a hornets nest in his home country (especially knowing what China is like with dissidents), and then poking a hornets nest in his current host country, doesn't seem like a good course of action to me.

        Not picking sides, simply commenting on what I see.

        1. keith_w Bronze badge

          Re: Illegal bootleg of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme

          I have to disagree with your "not theft" premise. if you take away someone's ability to earn from something, you have taken something of value, which is indeed theft.

          1. Snake Silver badge

            Re: Illegal bootleg of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme

            A copyright is an authorization of ownership of intellectual property. It might not be baryon property, one you can physically touch, but it does have value even if all you can do it think about the structures. It is easy to dismiss property you can't physically hold in your hands, but does that make it "worthless" enough to allow others to use your creations without compensation?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Muse Group hit the headlines in May

    they do appear to try very hard indeed to impersonate a stinky, steaming pile, don't they? Or was it their default shape, only that some current made them float to the surface for anyone to admire?

    1. Fred Goldstein

      Re: Muse Group hit the headlines in May

      It's a Russian company. They're merely acting in a manner consummate with their dictator's own style.

      1. ardum

        Be civil

        This comment is no better than what Daniel from the article does. It merges the actions of the government and private companies. Sure, both are vile, but because the company comes from a country with a troublesome government, there's no need to vocalize that. Some may find that offensive because they are from said country.

  15. PassiveSmoking

    Remember when El Reg posted an article about how great it was that Muse were buying up Audacity and that the open source community would be in good hands? That's an article that aged well.

  16. Janne Smith

    Time to fork Musescore (the score editing software itself)? I understand that MuSE, the sequencer package that Musescore was originally a subset of, is already maintained by a team completely independent of Muse Group.

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