Amoebas San Francisco store
  • Hjboyd/Wikimedia Commons
  • Amoeba’s San Francisco store

Missouri rock group the Banastre Tarleton Band began releasing music in the late 70s, and some of its albums are available from CD Baby. Its front man and namesake, 62-year-old Banastre Tarleton, also sells physical copies of selected releases from his decades-long discography on his own website, including vinyl copies of his group’s hard-to-find debut, Electric Women, which came out during their brief stay in Chicago. This week I stumbled upon that album in Amoeba’s Vinyl Vaults, the California record chain’s newish digital store for downloads of rare and out-of-print records.

Since Variety reported on Amoeba’s entry into the digital marketplace in January, the Vinyl Vaults have become a subject of particular interest to anyone concerned with intellectual-property law—the store has been uploading and selling some of these rare recordings without the consent of the copyright holders. Amoeba has been open about this; the Vinyl Vaults section of its customer-support page says that the folks at Amoeba have tried to get in touch with “as many of the rights holders as we could find,” but contained in that statement is an admission that they haven’t been able to find everyone. Amoeba says that all the money recouped from downloads of albums belonging to copyright holders that the store cannot locate will get placed in an escrow account until the matter is resolved.

Unfortunately it’s far from clear that Amoeba has made a real effort to contact everyone. Banastre, for instance, had no idea Amoeba was selling Electric Women until I tracked him down and broke the news. He wasn’t furious about it, but he found the situation irritating, in part because Amoeba’s FAQ page explicitly says the store has tried to get in touch with copyright holders. Given how quickly I found him, why couldn’t the store do the same?