Dejan Lazić’s demand for “right to be forgotten” results in international media attention.

Any professional musician knows that having their performances reviewed by the press is a necessary evil. A positive critique can work wonders for a musician’s reputation, but equally a bad review can be a devastating blow. In years gone by, anyone suffering a bad review could console themselves with the knowledge that today’s newspapers were tomorrow’s chip wrappers. However in the current age of the digital revolution, reviews published online can remain in the public eye in perpetuity.

Very little could be done about negative publicity lingering in cyberspace, until in May this year a new European Union ruling, named the “right to be forgotten” came into effect. This new legislation is intended to prevent individuals who have suffered unfavourable press online being “perpetually or periodically stigmatised”, but the idea of using this new legal power to expunge a bad performance review has only just surfaced.

Croatian pianist Dejan Lazić contacted the Washington Post to request a 2010 review by the newspaper’s music critic Anne Midgette be removed from its website claiming the review, which praised Lazć’s technical prowess but criticised his ineloquent choice of repertoire at his Washington debut, was marring his reputation by regularly topping google searches of the pianist’s name. However in an ironic twist the story of Lazić’s attempt to censor the newspaper, summarised in an article published by the Washington Post, has garnered international attention, not only because Lazić’s request was misdirected (the ruling only applies to search engines, not publishers, and only within the EU), but also because of the implications this case has for censorship of the public record. 

Dejan Lazic

It is a subject that has captured the imagination of many media outlets around the world who have used the story as a jumping off point to debate the ethical quagmire this EU legislation opens up – politicians removing reports of wrong doing or sleaze; corporations cleansing the internet of stories of discrimination and endangering the public; celebrities and public figures whitewashing stories of personal indiscretions and seedy goings-on have all been cited.

While his actions have ignited a useful and complex debate about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, for poor Dejan Lazić, his attempt to sanitise his own online record has resulted in the aforementioned negative review being seen around the world, receiving probably thousands more additional hits than if he had not sought to take advantage of the new EU law. Therefore in the interest of giving Lazic a fair hearing, we offer this recording of him playing Brahms’ Rhapsodie No 1 in B Minor.

What do you think? Should performers have the right to request negative reviews be removed from online searches? Let us know you thoughts in our comments section below.

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