The RIAA-fueled charges against Aphilliates members DJ Drama and DJ Don Cannon have left the mixtape community reeling, but their arrests are just the latest and most publicized. In this SOHH exclusive Marc Ferman and DJ Chuck T talk about their legal battles over mixtapes.
Miami native and current owner of hip-hop clothing site keepitclassic.com, Marc Ferman started selling mixtapes as early as 1993 and moved his business online to mixtape.com in 1998. Business was booming, until one day in November 2000.
"My office door opens, cops comes in, the RIAA comes in, the federal post office inspector comes in, they put me in handcuffs. They froze my bank accounts, they took my money, they confiscated everything. I was watching the news about Drama and it looked very familiar," Ferman told SOHH.
Like DJ’s Drama and Cannon, Ferman was only jailed for one night before posting bail, but his legal nightmare would last for six months.
"My lawyer cost a fortune, all my money was taken. I was dealing [with] the labels at the time, they were sending us music to put on the mixtapes, no one backed me on that — the mixtape DJ’s — I didn’t rat them out, but I was still brushed off afterwards. No one really supports each anyone in this business. Once you get pinched you’re on your own," Ferman said. "I was the first person in Florida to be charged with what I was charged for. I pleaded no contest, I have no criminal record; it’s been expunged. I got one year probation, they kept all the money they seized and I can no longer sell mixtapes."
Two years ago DJ Chuck T was fined by South Carolina police after raids on bootleg operations turned up a number of his mixtapes.
"The RIAA never got involved in my situation. The Goose Creek city police came through, ran up in the spot, seized the CDs and charged us with fraud. In 2005 I was charged with 1 count of fraud for every illegal or pirated CD they found in my possession. Failure to disclose origin of the manufacturer, that’s the actual law that they used to levy the fraud charges, that’s one of the ways they define pirated CDs," Chuck T revealed.
"It’s been a problem since the inception of mixtapes, but a lot of DJ’s didn’t take it seriously because mainly stores got hit. This is the first time a big DJ who is endorsed by all the record labels has been arrested. DJ’s feel like if the stores get hit they’ll rather just find another store than take a stand. It’s a double-edged sword - we get the music from the labels and the permission from the labels and the record reps to put their labels music on our CDs, but until we get written permission it’s not legal. It’s a double standard," Chuck T said.
"All it takes is one person to make a complaint. I had a very successful company and within five minutes it was gone. It was hard to see myself shut down as all these other sites popped up, just sitting there watching it, wondering why I was busted and nobody else was," Ferman added
"This thing with DJ Drama was only a matter of time. A store that he sold to could’ve gotten busted- they could’ve had his information, phone numbers… Now he just got raided, they took his computers, with all the addresses and phone numbers he might have, the RIAA would have everything they would need to go after whoever they needed to," Ferman said.
DJ Chuck T is hoping to prevent future problems for DJs by organizing a union.
"A lot of the DJ’s looked to me to start it, because I was one of the few to be hurt by the law, but we were having trouble finding big name DJs to stand behind it because a lot of them feel like they were above the law. This proves that nobody is safe - one of the key points in the union was getting mixtapes legalized, we know they’d have to be regulated, but we’re cool with that. We also want to go about getting mixers and radio DJs fair wages and health benefits. We are still trying to get members for the DJ coalition and anyone that wants to sign up can email DJChuckT@aol.com"