Getting to grips with the MMA

Hailed as a major milestone and major opportunity for the music industry, the Music Modernization Act (MMA) of the USA was signed into law by President Trump on  the 11th October 2018.  The MMA also has a global impact due to the USA being a signatory to the Berne Convention which dictates that the copyright law of the country where music is played, performed, streamed, downloaded, etc regardless of the country in which it was created; is the applicable jurisdiction.   The MMA comprises three Bills previously introduced to the US Congress, which were enjoined and finally passed:   Title I: Music Licensing Modernization  This part of the MMA dictates how digital music providers (DMPs) of on-demand interactive audio streaming services e.g. Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon Prime, etc, will in future obtain a blanket mechanical licence for interactive streaming or digital downloads; and the creation of a Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) to administer the blanket license.  It also replaces the current legal standard for setting the statutory rate by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) with a new standard taking free-market conditions into consideration when determining rates.   The MLC will be a non-profit quasi-government agency which will (i) collect, distribute, and…

Tennessee moves to take action on workplace sexual harassment

EQUALITY All sectors, recorded music, live, music publishing   Two legislators in Tennessee, Representative Brenda Gilmore and Senator Jeff Yarbro, have submitted a new bill addressing sexual harassment in the music business. The pair have co-authored proposed state legislation HB 1984/SB 2130, which seeks to address the fact that independent contractors in Tennessee (including many people working in the music business) cannot file claims against their employers over verbal sexual harassment in the workplace, no matter how many how many hours they work.  In January, Rolling Stone Country published the findings of an extensive investigation that uncovered a climate of sexual harassment and misconduct in country radio. Now Nashville’s musical community, including Rodney Crowell, Lilly Hiatt, Andrew Combs, Katie Armiger and Lorrie Morgan, are lending their support for the proposed legislation.  One of the many challenges in this area in the music industry is that artists are not employees of their record labels. Instead, unless they have specifically detailed as such their contract, they are classified as freelance. That means that they can only report physical harassment (where that is a crime) and not verbal harassment.   “There’s been significant reporting showing real problems with harassment in parts of the music industry, and…

This is Spinal Tap, and this is going to be another copyright reversion case.
Copyright , Record Labels / May 2017

COPYRIGHT Film, recorded music   As we have previously reported, the original dispute arose in the actors behind This Is Spinal Tap and StudioCanal began when Harry Shearer, a co-creator of the cult movie, alleged that StudioCanal, Vivendi’s movie business had “wilfully manipulated certain accounting data…to deny [the] co-creators their rightful stake in the production’s profits”. If the co-creators are correct it wasn’t a small mistake either, $400 million is being claimed by the creators Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKrean and Rob Reiner.   Vivendi has been calling the lawsuit “absurd” for some time now. They have always insisted that the financial performance of the movie has been modest. However, things have taken a twist, a twist that seems all too common these days. Shearer is now attempting to reclaim the rights to all things “Spinal Tap” in the US. Shearer is attempting this by utilising the reversion right that is a part of US copyright law.   In a nut shell, US law states that a creator who has assigned his rights to a third party is able to reclaim the rights after 35 years. This law is around 35 years old now, and so the technicalities of the law are being tested…

US music industry asks Trump for a fair deal (but less fair use!)

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, music publishing   Nineteen US music industry organisations have come together deliver an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump (pictured left), pointing out that the likes of YouTube, Google and Facebook have thrived on ‘free’ music and what they term the “value grab”, and that “sophisticated technology corporations can do better” at fighting piracy, and and shouldn’t be able to hide behind legislation such as safe harbor – which has arguably allowed the technology and telecoms giants to grow and grow at the expense of the music industry. Amongst those signing are the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) and the Songwriters Guild of America, who have asked Mr Trump to work with them on behalf of “American music – one of our nation’s most valuable forms of art and intellectual property, and a powerful driver of high-quality U.S. jobs and exports” and group ask Trump to pass laws that would strengthen and enforce intellectual property laws in the industry’s fight against “infringers” while seeking fair compensation from “search engines, user upload content platforms, hosting companies, and domain name registrars and…

Prince’s estate takes on TIDAL

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, internet     A court battle over the streaming rights to Prince’s back catalogue is looming after the late singer’s estate filed a claim in the US courts against Jay Z’s Roc Nation and the TIDAL streaming service. The action on behalf Prince’s estate, fronted by NPG Records, claims that Roc Nation and TIDAL is streaming more than a dozen of the star’s albums without permission.  The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District of Minnesota court also names NPG Publishing as a plaintiff.   The law suit claims damages, and demands that unlicensed material be taken down: “Roc Nation to account for and pay to Plaintiffs their actual damages in the form of Roc Nation’s profits and Plaintiffs’ damages, or… statutory damages up to the maximum amount allowed for wilful infringement of copyright”. Prince removed most of his back catalogue from streaming sites including Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music in July 2015. A month later, he released a new album, HitNRun: Phase One exclusively on TIDAL. TIDAL claims it has licences, “both oral and written”, for a wide range of material and “the right to exclusively stream [Prince’s] entire catalogue of music, with certain limited exceptions”. in a statement at the time if…

Avenged Sevenfold face a trial – AND a competing ‘best of’ from their former label
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / November 2016

CONTRACT Recorded music, artistes   Avenged Sevenfold surprise announcement of the arrival of their seventh studio album, on Vivendi SA’s Capitol Records, after playing several songs on the roof of Capitol’s circular building in Los Angeles that was streamed online via a virtual reality app, may have come as some surprise to their former; record label, Warner Music Group, who sued the band earlier this year in California state court for breach of contract after the band left the label without delivering the final album that was apparently due under that deal. The Wall Street Journal says the battle centres on provisions in California’s state labor law that prevents contracts for “personal service” – and that includes recording artistes, actors and athletes –  from extending beyond seven years, but also explicitly permits record companies to sue acts for damages if the departing artiste fails to deliver the agreed-upon number of recordings during that time. Warner Music’s case against Avenged Sevenfold seems to be the first such suit claiming damages.   The surprise release of the new album, titled “The Stage,” by a rival label ahead of the trial could be a welcome development for Warner Music, as it will test the band’s current…

Turtles’ case against Sirius XM reaches New York’s appeals court
Copyright , Record Labels / November 2016

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, broadcasting   New York’s highest court has now heard oral arguments in the case brought by the owner of The Turtles’ 1967 hit song “Happy Together” against Sirius XM Radio. The issue at the heart of the case is  whether the copyright holders of recordings made before 1972 have a common law right to make radio stations and others pay for their use. The lawsuit was filed by Flo & Eddie Inc., the company controlled by two founding members of the band that owns the rights to the recordings. Sirius XM argues it’s not required to pay royalties for recordings made before the federal Copyright Act was changed in 1972 to establish limited protections for recordings. The case was referred to the Court of Appeals from the federal appeals court. http://www.wthr.com/article/court-hears-copyright-dispute-over-turtles-happy-together

SFX oppose Sillerman claims
Business , Live Events , Record Labels / November 2016

BANKRUPTCY Live events sector, recorded music   SFX’s founder Robert FX Sillerman, who stood down as CEO shortly after the firm applied for Chapter Eleven bankruptcy protection, has filed a claim for monies to cover legal costs and financial guarantees he made on behalf of the business. According to Amplify, Sillerman has requested just over half a million dollars o pay the law firm he has hired to represent him in litigation where both he and SFX are co-defendants. The Company has objected to the claim. Sillerman is also seeking over $15 million in relation to guarantees he made as part of deals between SFX and both Spotify and Chicago-based promoter React Presents. Here lawyers for SFX argue that there is no evidence that Sillerman has, to date, made any payments to the beneficiaries of the guarantees, arguing that his claims against the company are contingent on such payments having been made. As well as seeking to block the claims for legal fees and other cash, SFX are also opposing several requests made by Sillerman to indemnify himself from future lawsuits in relation to his former business. It also seems that SFX Entertainment has fallen out with another high-profile brand partner –…

Mobb Deep’s Prodigy looks to break free from UMG
Contract , Record Labels / November 2016

CONTRACT Recorded music   Having seemingly settled a legal action with Universal last November, Prodigy of Mobb Deep (Albert Johnson) is taking the industry powerhouse to court again, in efforts to completely break free from the major. HipHopDX reports that Prodigy’s attorney Corey D. Boddie said “This particular case involves Prodigy actually looking to get out of his contract based on what is called a ‘mutual mistake.’ There was a term in the actual agreement that was overlooked by both parties and because of that, Prodigy is looking to get out his contract.” The suit was filed in New York and Boddie told HipHopDX that the only motivation behind the new case is the expiration of the contract and that this particular legal action is targeted against the publishing side of Universal. “There is no motivation, in the contract there was what’s called a mutual mistake,” Boddie explains again. “That is a term of the contract that states that they were in the fifth option period. That fifth option period was exercised and over. They continued to refer to the fifth option period, so the lawsuit is basically saying ‘that’s a mistake, what option period are we in?’ We contend that we’re…

Russian Government looks to take over collection societies

COMPETITION Music publishing, recorded music   The Russian government is reportedly considering taking over some or all of the collective licensing regime in the country. The move comes in the wake of accusations of fraud  which have seen RAO General Director Sergei Fedotov arrested and jailed. There has been disagreement within the collecting society’s membership, with a group of members calling for a new  General Director to be appointed and a radical overhaul of the organisation’s constitution. According to Russian business newspaper Vedomosti, the Ministry Of Economic Development is considering the possibility of taking direct control of RAO. The RAO Authors’ Council, which is the main governing body of the society, continues to back Fedotov and responded angrily to the members seeking a radical overhaul. Producer and composer Igor Matvienko, newly elected as President of the Authors’ Council last month, had been critical of RAO but now opposes moves to overthrow Fedotov and the current management.   whilst there have been some dark mutterings in Europe from songwriters and self composing performers about the activities of CMOs, including Buma-Stemra and GEMA, who have been offering established concert promoters ‘discounts’ or ‘kickbacks’  on published public performance tariffs – and indeed in Spain the…

Sony says its Spotify position is all above board
Artists , Contract , Copyright , Record Labels / August 2015

CONTRACT / COPYRIGHT Recorded Music, Artistes     Sony has responded to claims made by 19 Management that criticised a number of its business practices, and according to the Hollywood Reporter has said that “taking equity in Spotify, keeping advertising income and not sharing the spoils of piracy lawsuits is all proper”. This blogger feels many artistes may disagree and the stance taken by Sony, and their latest response may well reignite the argument that says the business practices of the major labels in the recorded music sector are now so artiste unfriendly, a fiduciary duty should be imposed on labels to ensure that when they are negotiating ‘on behalf’ of their artistes, they actually put the interests of their artistes first. Initially after details of the Sony-Spotify deal were leaked, both Sony, and subsequently Universal, was quick to point out that at least with the advances they have received from Spotify and other streaming services (the so called breakage), then of course they would share breakage with artists. So, labels are nice guys ……….But back to the current case: 19’s lawyers had said in filings that the majors had “significant power to exert control over Spotify in order to not…

Pirate Bay domains to be seized

COPYRIGHT Online, recorded music, music publishing     The Stockholm District Court has ordered that two key domains used by the always controversial Pirate Bay – including the service’s flagship thepiratebay.se domain – should be handed over to the Swedish authorities. However the court rejected arguments from prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad that the owner of the domains. Punkt SE, should be held liable for the alleged misuse of domains in its control.   Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij is to appeal the ruling. Neij was previously found guilty by Swedish courts of criminal copyright infringement and banned from having any involvement in the future running of The Pirate Bay and this appears to be an attempt to escape an further repercussions. In all events the appeal will delay any handover.   http://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-founder-appeals-domain-seizure-decision-150525/

Timber plagiarism claim rejected

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Artistes, music publishing, recorded music     A U.S. copyright infringement action arising out of the international release of the track “Timber” by Pitbull and featuring Kesha has been dismissed by the District Court. The claim centred on the allegation that Sony Music Entertainment, which obtained license from co-owner of allegedly infringed work, a distinctive harmonica melody in the 1978 track “San Francisco Bay” performed by Lee Oskar Levitin, had nevertheless infringed the plaintiff’s copyright. The claim is that the “Timber” harmonica player was, in fact, specifically instructed to emulate Levitin’s harmonica riff.   The Plaintiffs also alleged that the domestic defendants made the song “available” to the foreign defendants, which, in turn, released “Timber” in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Australia, France and South Korea. All defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, and the foreign defendants also moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and on the basis of forum non conveniens. The court granted dismissal of only the claims against the U.S. defendants. Judge Paul A Crotty accepted the defendants argument that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim because the defendants had a license to use the harmonica…

Wu Tang will auction single CD pressing
Copyright , Record Labels / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   Rappers Wu-Tang Clan have set up a website to run the auction for their album, ‘Once Upon A Time In Shaolin’ which has been released with a single pressing of the 31 track, 128 minute record – the person places the highest bid will buy the lone CD and the box that contains it. And according to the record’s producer Cilvaringz, after a 88 year holdback – the owner of the physical CD will be assigned the copyright in the recording as well and could choose to release the album. Cilvaringz told Forbes: “After 88 years the copyright, which includes public and commercial rights, automatically transfers to the owner of the work. [But] it will still be his or her choice at that [point] to release it or not release it”. This week 200 people attended the sole public airing on the album at in a heated dome outside New York’s MoMA PS1. Guests and journalists were forced to put their cell phones in plastic bags at the front desk to avoid the 13-minute album excerpt from leaking.  According to Wu-Tang leader the RZA, bids have reached $5 million.   http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/inside-wu-tang-clans-first-last-only-listening-session-for-new-lp-20150303

Beastie boys seek $2.4 million costs in Monster claim
Copyright , Record Labels / February 2015

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   Having prevailed in their claim that energy drink Monster used a mix of Beastie Boys tracks in a promotional video documenting a snowboarding event it staged in 2012 without the band’s permission, and been awarded $1.7 million by a jury (upheld on appeal), the two remaining band members are now seeking legal costs associated with the litigation of nearly $2.4 million. According to Billboard, the musicians’ lawyers argue that the way the Monster company behaved during the legal battle added to those legal costs and, therefore, it should foot the bill. A legal filing last weekend cites Monster’s failure to engage in “good-faith negotiations” and its bid to have the original ruling overturned as reasons why the drinks company should be held liable for the group’s legal fees – otherwise the plaintiff’s success at trial “would become a Pyrrhic victory”.   http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/beastie-boys-win-1-7-million-in-monster-dispute/ http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6443697/beastie-boys-monster-energy-lawsuit-legal-fees

UK Government launches consultation on CRM Directive

COMPETITION Music publishing, recorded music   The UK government will shortly be launching a consultation on the implementation of the Collective Rights Management (CRM) Directive. This EU law was adopted last year to set consistent standards for the regulation of collective rights management organisations such as PRS for Music. The Directive aims to enforce minimum standards to the way collecting societies work and has three key elements: rules on governance, transparency/financial reporting and standards for multi-territory licensing. This government consultation is an opportunity for you to have your say on the implementation of the directive in UK law. The legislation will come into force on 10 April 2016. The Government has also halted a proposed move that would see the copyright protection certain unpublished sound recordings up to the year 2039 removed. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act protects copyright in unpublished recordings from 1957 – 1989 for the period up to 2039, at which point the works fall into the public domain. The proposed move came after lobbying on the issue from groups including CILIP, on behalf of libraries, museums and archives. The Government scrapped the reform after consultations with industry trade organisations including thr BPI and UK Music All…

Apple triumphs against claim that iTunes software updates were to shut out competitors
Competition , Internet , Record Labels / January 2015

COMPETITION Internet, recorded music   It took the jury in the Apple anti-trust case less than three hours to rule that the IT giant had not been anti-competitive with the software updates it made to the iPod back in the big bad days of digital rights management (DRM) protection on downloads. At the beginning of the case an Apple security expert defended a series of iTunes updates as protection from hackers rather than moves to shut out competitors, in a class action antitrust lawsuit in an Oakland federal court. At issue was the claim that Apple maintained a music player monopoly from 2006 to 2009 by releasing updates to its music store that made it impossible for iPods to play songs from competing stores such as Real Network’s Harmony. The Plaintiffs (and more on who they were later!) said this harmed consumers by making it costly to switch to other devices, and allowed Apple to charge high prices. The plaintiff’s argued that during synchronization with an iPod, iTunes software would generate an error message when it spotted music not purchased from Apple residing in the user’s iTunes library. The message would instruct users to reset their iPod to its factory…

Turtles’ pre 1972 copyright victory opens up a can of worms for broadcasters

COPYRIGHT Internet, broadcasting, recorded music   The Turtles, the 1960s pop band,  have  won a second victory against SiriusXM Holdings Inc. U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan rejected Sirius’ request to dismiss the lawsuit accusing the satellite radio company of playing pre-1972 songs from the band, best known for the hit “Happy Together” without permission or paying royalties. She said that unless Sirius raises any factual issues requiring a trial by December 5th, she will rule outright for the plaintiff, Flo & Eddie Inc, a company controlled by founding Turtles members Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, and begin to assess damages. The Judge said “Of course, the conspicuous lack of any jurisprudential history confirms that not paying royalties for public performances of sound recordings was an accepted fact of life in the broadcasting industry for the last century. So does certain testimony cited by Sirius from record industry executives, artists and others, who argued vociferously before Congress that it was unfair for them to operate in an environment in which they were paid nothing when their sound recordings were publicly performed…. That they were paid no royalties was a matter of statutory exemption under federal law; that they demanded…

Marvel man wins against Killah

COPYRIGHT Recorded music,   Jack Urbont, who created music for ‘The Marvel Super Heroes‘ television show in the ’60s has won a lawsuit over sampling. The three-year-old copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Urbont against rapper Ghostface Killah ended with a New York judge entering a default judgment in favour of the plaintiff. According to Urbont’s 2011 lawsuit, Ghostface Killah (real name: Dennis Coles) sampled the “Iron Man Theme” on two tracks of the rapper’s second album, Supreme Clientele. It was no easy matter suing Wu-Tang Clan member Coles – initially he could not be located and the court allowed service by a publication notice – and then his lawyer requested permission to withdraw from the case on the grounds he hadn’t been paid and that his client refused to communicate with him. Ghostface then failed to show up for a deposition, which led to a warning from the judge about sanctions and a default judgment. With Coles still AWOl,  Urbont sought a default judgment as well as fees and expenses, and this was granted by U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald. Urbont’s attorney Richard Busch said “As far as Mr. Coles (Ghostface) is concerned, we will now submit evidence on damages to establish…

Dancing Jesus pair receive prison terms

COPYRIGHT Internet, recorded music   The two men behind the Dancing Jesus file sharing forum have been sentenced to prison terms. Kane Robinson, 26, of North Shields, the site’s owner and creator, was sentenced to 32 months and 22-year-old Richard Graham, from Leicestershire, to 21 months at Newcastle Crown Court. Graham, who uploaded 8,00 songs to the site, had earlier pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty when the evidence was presented.. The two men were subject to a private prosecution led by record industry trade body the BPI after an investigation by the City Of London Police. Robinson pleaded guilty to copyright crimes before trial. Of the 8000+ tracks Graham shared via the Dancing Jesus site, about two-thirds were pre-release.  Commentators said that the sentences were similar to those found in criminal copyright convictions relating to the manufacture and sale of bootlegged CDs or DVDs. Commenting on the sentences, David Wood, Director of the BPI’s Copyright Protection Unit, told reporters: “Today’s sentencing sends a clear message to the operators and users of illegal music sites that online piracy is a criminal activity that will not be tolerated by law enforcement in the UK or overseas. Piracy –…

Ek talking up Spotify in battle with Swift

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, internet   Spotify’s Daniel Ek has responded to Taylor Swift and other critics in a lengthy blog post reigniting the debate prompted by Swift pulling her catalogue from free (freemium) streaming services. Ek begins by saying “Taylor Swift is absolutely right” (referring to remarks the singer made in a Wall Street Journal  and Yahoo interview) adding “Music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it. We started Spotify because we love music and piracy was killing it. So all the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time”. Ek then detailed how the Spotify payment model works and revealed that Spotify has now paid out $2 billion to the music industry since launching in 2008, $1 billion of that in the last year and that Spotify now has 50 million active users, 12.5 million of whom are paying subscribers – an increase of ten million and 2.5 million respectively since the last lot of official figures released back in May of this year. However Ek somewhat failed to address why a relatively small share of these streaming royalties are shared…

Federation of Small Businesses says concerns remain with public performance licensing

COPYRIGHT Live events sector, retailing, music publishing, recorded music   The Federation of Small Businesses has said that the music industry’s performing right collecting societies still have some way to go in improving the way they work with small to middle sized enterprises, despite acknowledging some improvements in recent years. The UK government has, in recent years, put some pressure on collecting societies including PPL and PRS for to adopt ‘minimum standards’ of service to licensees and both PPL and PRS had already updated their own codes of conduct to bring them in line with post-Hargreaves standards back in 2012. But citing its own research, the FSB said last week that it had found nearly a quarter of its members with a collecting society licence had made a complaint of some sort about the collective licensing system. The Federation added: “The findings also show the lack of progress towards achieving greater transparency and simplicity of charges over the past twelve months. Without such progress, trust amongst small businesses in the current system will be undermined”. FSB National Chairman John Allan told reporters: “Although collecting societies have a strong code of conduct in place, we are not convinced they are making…

Music creator group calls a ‘fair trade’ in music streaming

COPYRIGHT Internet, recorded music, music publishing, artistes   A new report launched by the International Council Of Creators Of Music, or CIAM, has called for a more equal distribution of streaming royalties between the respective music rights owners – overhauling of the streaming royalty system which is increasingly seen as favouring record labels above music publishers, songwriters and artistes. CIAM is a global body that sets out to “protect the rights and assert the cultural aspirations of music creators”, while its report also has the backing of CISAC, the global grouping of music publishing collecting societies, as well as Music Creators North America and Canadian collecting society SOCAN. The report was written by Professor Pierre-E Lalonde, and it says: “The split in revenues between the different sets of rights holders is imbalanced. A combination of regulatory constraints, market imbalances and situations where major record labels negotiate with digital services for all categories of rights holders, has led to a significant disparity between the revenues paid to record labels and to creators”. He goes on: “In the business of streaming, the split of monies from streaming platforms is geared more favourably towards record labels and performers vs songwriters and music publishers”,…

Universal exec pleads guilty to £650,000 fraud
Criminal Law , Record Labels / October 2014

CRIMINAL Recorded music   A former Universal Music executive has admitted in court to stealing almost £650,000 from the major music company. Duncan Schwier, who worked for the production music division of Universal’s publishing business, admitted to taking £643,697 from his employer. The fraud was only uncovered when Schwier was promoted last year and his successor, John Clifford, discovered a number of invoices that had been paid to non-existent companies. Schwier has enjoyed a long career in the music production business, originally joining Atmosphere Music in 1984. That company was subsequently bought by the original BMG, the publishing side of which was acquired by Universal in 2007. Becoming a General Manager for Universal Publishing Production Music, he had been very involved in the firm’s alliance with the BBC. Pleading guilty to the fraud, Schwier, without legal representation, told Hammersmith Magistrates Court that ill-health had led to him stealing from Universal. According to the Daily Mail, he said: “The background for this is a series of cancers for which I have medical reports”. Prosecutor Caroline Mungal said: “The Crown invite the court to commit this matter for sentence. You can see the value of the monies involved, in excess of £600,000. The…

DIY Grooveshark cannot claim DMCA ‘safe habor’
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / October 2014

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels   A federal judge in New York has ruled that Grooveshark, the controversial online music service, has infringed on thousands of their copyrights. Grooveshark came under fierce attack from the recording industry for hosting music files without permission. Grooveshark (Escape Media Group) streams music uploaded by its users and Grooveshark’s defence has long been that it is legal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the federal law that protects websites that host third-party material if they comply with takedown notices from copyright holders. The company relies on advertising for its revenues .Granting summary judgment in a case filed in 2011 by the three major record companies, Judge Thomas P. Griesa of United States District Court in Manhattan ruled that Grooveshark was liable for copyright infringement because its own employees and officers — including Samuel Tarantino, the chief executive, and Joshua Greenberg, the chief technology officer — uploaded a total of 5,977 of the labels’ songs without permission. Those uploads are not subject to the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with the judge saying “Each time Escape streamed one of plaintiffs’ songs recordings, it directly infringed upon plaintiffs’ exclusive performance rights”.  According to Reuters, evidence against the executives included…

Suspended sentence for Italian file-sharing operator – and his mum and dad
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / August 2014

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, internet   As Italy steps up its actions against illegal file-sharing, an Italian man behind a now defunct file-sharing operation that used the domains Scaricolibero.com and Filmgratis.tv has been handed a 22 month suspended jail sentence for this role in running the copyright infringing business. His parents also received suspended sentences because of their role in receiving the operation’s advertising  revenue into their bank account – in effect a charge of money laundering: at the time the sites were said to be making around $300 a day from advertising. Authorities in Italy seized the two domains back in 2012 under a court order, following complaints from copyright owners, and also ordered internet service providers to block the service’s IP addresses and took control of bank accounts receiving ad revenues from the file-sharing operation   http://torrentfreak.com/parents-pirate-site-admin-sentenced-money-laundering-140628/

Sony try NOT to explain the digital deal
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / August 2014

CONTRACT Record labels, artistes   The legal battle between 19 Entertainment and Sony Music in the US could result in some judicial consideration of the ongoing digital royalty debates in the music industry – although Sony seemingly would rather avoid this, after  it emerged that the major had filed a motion to have the case dismissed last month. 19 Entertainment is suing Sony on behalf of various ‘American Idol‘ winners who scored Sony Music record deals via the show, says it found “systemically incorrect calculations” on two separate audits of royalty payments made by the major, adding that the record company then failed to allow 19’s auditors to access all the data they required to do a full audit. The 19 litigation also includes disputes over the way digital royalties are calculated – and the question of  whether labels should be paying lower record sale royalties or higher licensing revenue splits on download and streaming income. The Hollywood Reporter also notes that 19 Entertainment is also asking if the major labels are obliged to share with their acts damages received from successful file-sharing litigation. In its motion to dismiss Sony argue that it isn’t obliged to share with artists the multi-million…

ReDigi chief speaks to Congress
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / July 2014

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels   The founder of the sometimes controversial MP3 resale platform ReDigi has given evidence to a congressional committee on intellectual property and the internet: the House of Representatives’ sub-committee on Courts, Intellectual Property And The Internet has been examining the USA’s ‘First Sale Doctrine’ and  ReDigi’s John Ossenmacher argued that the right t re-sell a legally purchased MP3 is just as valid as re-selling a CD – But that the content industries have been doing their best to water down the First Sale Doctrine for some time, most recently by exploiting terms and conditions nobody reads to claim that when a customer clicks a ‘buy’ button on a digital content platform, they aren’t actually ‘buying’ anything. Says Ossenmacher: “Consumers are given the option to ‘buy’ music, movies, and books on their screen and the ‘buy’ button looks identical for digital and physical items alike, but in the largely unintelligible legalese (that no one reads) the rights of ownership are watered down or worse, dissolved all-together for these digital purchases. Content holders are attempting to take away a fundamental consumer choice by styling what they call a long-term lease/license into their less-than forthright marketing strategies”. The content…

Eagles’ Don Henley defends legal action against Frank Ocean and Okkervil River

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, recorded music sector, artistes   In what might be a misguided move, The Eagles’ frontman Don Henley has taken aim at Frank Ocean and Okkervil River for reworking his band’s music, prompting Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff to respond in an article in Rolling Stone saying that copyright law is “strangling and depleting our culture”. Ocean used the instrumental version of The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ as the basis for the track ‘American Wedding’ on his 2011 free download album, ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ -a clear breach of US copyright law,  Writing on his Tumblr blog ahead of a performance at Coachella in 2012, Ocean said: “[Henley’s label Warner/Rhino] threatened to sue if I perform [‘American Wedding’] again. I think that’s fuckin awesome … They also asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr Henley, along with my assistance pulling it off the web as much as possible. Shit’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as fuck? Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything, I’m paying homage”. In a new interview with Australia’s Daily Telegraph, Henley admitted that he had initiated this action, saying: “Mr…

Indies bring in the EU over YouTube negotiations
Competition , Record Labels / July 2014

COMPETITION LAW Recorded music   The independent label community will today step up its campaign against Google owned YouTube by calling on the European Union to intervene, having already criticised the way the YouTube is negotiating with the record companies in a bid to launch its much mooted and rather delayed audio streaming service, a new Spotify and Amazon competitor that will sit alongside YouTube’s vast music video catalogue – with what appeared to be an initial threat from the dominant YouTube – to remove all of the Indie’s material from YouTube if they didn’t sign up to what were perceived to be unfavourable terms all of their content on the Google site could be blocked. The royalty rates paid by YouTube when music videos are streamed on its site were already becoming contentious in the music industry, as the audio streaming services which pay higher rates started to stress that the free-to-view video site was hindering their attempts to woo more mainstream consumers. The rates subsequently offered for YouTube audio were similarly criticised once they were on the table – although the three major labels have done deals with YouTube, albeit on unknown terms. The threat of removing material…

Digital royalty rates under the microscope in the USA
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Artists, record labels   Elsewhere in the USA, A2IM, the organisation that represents indie record labels have criticised Sony and Universal Music Group in “the fight over digital dollars”. The American Association of Independent Music, whose artists include Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift and Adele, argues that Universal and Sony are in effect a de facto “duopoly”— and use their dominance to grab a disproportionate share of streaming music royalties. Streaming services just have to deal with Sony and UMG, who control well over 50% of the recorded music sector (and yes – EU and US regulators let that happen!). The group, which represents around 325 indie labels in the US, has been lobbying lawmakers to take a fresh look at music licensing and outlined its issues in a filing submitted to the federal Copyright Office: The New York Post say that A2IM contends that the streaming music business “is essentially a zero-sum game: The music majors use their distribution muscle to extract the lion’s share of dollars from services such as Spotify and Pandora, leaving the indie labels to settle for whatever is left”. SoundExchange is making a push to change how pre-1972 recordings are treated is the U.S, The Washington D.C. based collection society…

Partial settlement of “Blurred Lines” copyright dispute but Thicke battles on…

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, recorded music, artistes Guest post by by Lale Kemal, solicitor   The copyright action brought by musicians Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr (T.I.) against Marvin Gaye’s family and the owner of Funkadelic’s catalogue Bridgeport Music Inc (Bridgeport)  relating to the chart topping hit “Blurred Lines” has been partially settled.   Specifically, the Gaye family has settled its claim against Sony/ATV, owner of music publisher and producer of “Blurred Lines” EMI April. The complaint was initially filed by Thicke and others in the Californian District Court in August 2013 in reaction to multiple claims made by the defendants that the song “Blurred Lines” had the same “feel” or “sound” as Marvin Gaye’s critically acclaimed track “Got to Give It Up” and Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways”. The plaintiffs claimed declaratory relief against the Gaye family and Bridgeport on the basis of their respective rights to the copyright in the songs. At all material times, the plaintiffs denied copyright infringement and use of elements of “Got to Give it Up” or “Sexy Ways” in “Blurred Lines”. The plaintiffs sought a declaration from the Court confirming that the track did not infringe either song or otherwise violate the Gaye family…

Sirius XM Will Have to Defend Multiple Lawsuits Over Pre-1972 Music
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / January 2014

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   Sirius XM have failed in an attempt to move a $100 million class action lawsuit in California for distributing and performing pre-1972 sound recordings to New York, where the broadcaster is facing another action. The satcaster is also facing two more actions brought by major record labels and a fifth lawsuit from SoundExchange, the digital performance rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of sound recording copyright owners. The California lawsuit is being led by members of The Turtles who say that Sirius cannot rely on section 114 of the US Copyright Act for protection – as pre 1972 recordings are subject to state law – which may arguably mean that Sirius plays songs recorded before that date without permission. Sirius argued that the plaintiffs were playing “lawsuit lottery” alongside the actions in New York and the third in Florida and sought to have the case transferred to New York and perhaps consolidated. But U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez denied Sirius’ motion saying “it seems at this point that although the three suits share a common factual core, they are legally distinct and will turn on the separate interpretations of California, New York, and Florida…

Bragg blasts labels for low streaming payments
Artists , Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / December 2013

COPYRIGHT Internet, artistes, recorded music   Billy Bragg has sent out a message to his fellow artists via Facebook saying that the low royalties being paid to artistes for streaming  is really the fault of the record labels – not of Spotify. Bragg was responding to the various artists who have recently hit out at Spotify and the streaming service business model  such as Nigel Godrich, Thom Yorke and David Byrne – who have said that the royalties paid out by these services are just too small, and if streaming is to ultimately replace both CD sales and iTunes-style downloading, then that’s a problem. But, Bragg notes, all but a handful of indie labels (most notably Ministry Of Sound) remain supportive of Spotify et al, which suggests that, in the main, they are doing very well from the growth in streaming music. CMY Daily reports that the issue for artists receiving tiny royalties  is that labels are not sharing enough of the loot with their acts, by applying royalty splits from the CD age, even though record companies do not have the costs or risks that were involved in manufacturing and distributing physical product in the digital domain. As this…

New Zealand collection societies offer combined licence

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, music publishing   The two music collection societies in New Zealand – APRA on the publishing side and PPNZ on the sound recordings side – have announced the creation of OneMusic, a new joint venture that will offer a wide-ranging combined public performance licence for businesses and organisations that play recorded music in public spaces, administered by APRA. PPNZ boss Damian Vaughan says the new venture, which will surely be watched with interest by rights bodies around the world, came in response to public demand and that customers were telling the collection that the international norm – the two-licence model – “was frustrating and confusing”. The initiative has been welcomed by various trade bodies representing music users and licensees, with the CEO of New Zealand’s Restaurant Association, Marisa Bidois, saying: “We support anything that means compliance issues don’t get in the way of business. This new process means our members can get a music licence quickly and easily and we’re very happy APRA and PPNZ have heard us on this issue” and CEO of the New Zealand Retailers Association, John Albertson, says OneMusic will mean fewer businesses accidentally operating outside of the law.   http://www.apra-amcos.com.au/news/allnews/NewZealandIntroducesSingleMusicLicence.aspx

Walhberg, Usher, Public Enemy and RUN-DMC all face sampling claims
Copyright , Record Labels / November 2013

COPYRIGHT Record labels   Now successful actor Mark Wahlberg (then Marky Mark), Usher and RUN-DMC are amongst a list of recording artists being sued for copyright violation in the US District Court in Illinois. The artists are being sued by Twilight Records and Syl-Zel Music in a wide reaching lawsuit which claims that the defendants sampled the 1967 track Different Strokes without permission. The original track was sung and recorded by Sylvester Thompson, a/k/a Syl Johnson. The claimants allege that Wahlberg, as part of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, sampled the track in the 1991 release The Last Song on Side B, and that Usher infringed copyright in his 1993 song Call Me a Mack. Run-DMC allegedly sampled the song in its single Naughty as well as Beats to the Rhyme. The lawsuit also claims that Public Enemy – another defendant in the case – sampled the song in a number of its singles including Fight The Power and Fear of a Black Planet. Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music are also named as defendants, The claimants are seeking accounting compensation, a permanent restraint against further sampling and unspecified damages. The lawsuit comes just two years after the record…

CCI costs unearthed
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / November 2013

COPYRIGHT Internet, recording industry   TorrentFreak has managed to unearth some financial details for The Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the not for profit organisation set up to administer the US’s ‘six strikes’ regime. When the scheme stated  the founding content owner members (primarily the MPAA and the RIAA) agreed to share the costs with ISPs. The company’s first eight month tax filing shows that  ISPs and copyright holders paid a total of $1,377,633 in membership dues, putting the yearly budget around $2 million per year. So where is all the money going? Well here’s a breakdown, via TorrentFreak: (i) – The CCI pays Executive Director Jill Lesser – the only key employee working there – a modest $43,750 during the first eight months of 2012 BUT (ii) Lesser indirectly earns a bit more from CCI from her consulting firm JAL, which the CCI paid $193,750 during the same eight-month period. (iii) – Around $144,093 was paid to PR firm Glover Park Group and (iv)- Resource Global was paid $125,691 for its consulting services, as well as $102,928 in legal fees. The costs do not cover the cost of copyright actions by copyright holders and the costs ISPs incur when tracking down infringers and processing the notices…

Judge curbs Curb’s copyright claim against McGraw
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / September 2013

CONTRACT Artists, record labels   A federal judge in Tennessee has dismissed a copyright lawsuit filed against Tim McGraw in his ongoing battle with Curb Records. The country star has been fighting Curb since 2011, when he was accused of violating the terms of his contract by turning in his album Emotional Traffic before the 18-month gap between projects had passed. Curb refused to release the disc, while MCGraw argued that the fifth and final album would have fulfilled his contract with the company. MCGraw countersued and last year he was granted permission by the courts to release new music through Big MAChine Records. His latest project, titled Two Lanes of Freedom, hit music retailers in February, but Curb then lodged new papers in U.S. District Court in Tennessee in April (13), claiming the tracks were recorded before their original contract was dissolved and therefore amounted to copyright infringement. However, U.S. District Judge William H. Haynes administratively closed the latest case insisting he cannot rule on the copyright allegations until the contract case is settled.   http://www.contactmusic.com/story/judge-dismisses-tim-mcgraw-copyright-infringement-lawsuit_3808763 and see our previous Updates here http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=5408 here http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=5102 and here http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=4509

Turtles probe the murky soup of pre-1972 US copyright law

COPYRIGHT Sound recordings, record labels, artistes   The Turtles are leading a $100 million lawsuit against SiriusXM, arguing that the satellite broadcasting company has infringed on millions of older recordings from thousands of artists, and that Sirius cannot rely on section 114 of the US Copyright Act for protection – as pre 1972 recordings are subject to state law – which may arguably mean that Sirius plays songs recorded before that date without permission. The suit, brought under the California Civil Code, and led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (later known as Flo and Eddie whose company leads the action and owns copyrights in a number of Turtle’s sound recordings) was filed on August 1 in the Los Angeles Superior Court and is proposed as a class action. Are the Turtles’ “Let Me Be” (1966), “You Baby” (1966), “Happy Together” (Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 in 1967), “Elenore” and “You Showed Me” (both peaking at No. 6 in 1969) and their well-known 1965 cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” protected against unauthorised plays by Californian state law (Californian Civil Code S980(a)(2)?  Sirius does currently pay compensation for the use of sound recordings (unlike terrestrial stations in…

Thom says its time to pay: Spotify in the spotlight as acts complain of low royalty rates
Artists , Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / August 2013

COPYRIGHT Internet, artistes, record labels   One of the most important posts I have ever read about how the music industry might function in the future has been published on the CMU Daily website – I say ‘one’ – its actually two posts looking at the Spotify business model – and why its good for tech start ups and their record label partners – and very bad indeed for artists who are currently receiving a (usually) tiny share of revenues from their labels for digital uses – and in the case of two of the three majors, Sony and Universal, the very same labels who co-own Spotify Now Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich have taken to the net to formally express displeasure in the all-you-can-eat streaming business model. To prove their point they announced that their respective solo albums, and the long-player from their collaborative venture Atoms For Peace, had all been removed from Europe’s highest profile streaming service. Announcing what he dubbed as a “small meaningless rebellion”, producer Godrich said via a string of tweets: “We’re off of Spotify. Can’t do that no more man. Someone gotta say something. It’s bad for new music. The reason…

Ed Money and the Doobie Brothers settle digital royalty claims
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / August 2013

CONTRACT Record labels, artists   Both American rocker Eddie Money and the Doobie Brothers have reached out of court settlements with their record labels, Sony Music and Warners respectively, regarding the payment of royalties on digital revenues. The cases were two of the many that US heritage artists have brought against all of the majors following the landmark ruling in the case between FBT Productions and Universal Music over whether download money should be treated as record sales or licensing income – artists usually get a much bigger cut of the latter than the former. Doobie Brothers frontman Michael McDonald used lawyer Richard Busch (King & Ballow), who won a landmark digital royalties decision in 2010 when he represented rapper Eminem’s producers FBT against Universal (F.B.T. Productions v. Aftermath Records).  Busch has led the charge in the songwriters and recording artists  assault against labels over royalty money and Busch has reportedly negotiated confidential settlements for such clients as Peter Frampton, Kenny Rogers and Roy Thomas Baker, who produced albums for Queen, The Cars and others. Busch filed a $5 million royalties suit in April for “Weird Al” Yankovic, which is still pending. Having commented on Spotify and digital royalties in…

Former Jackson family lawyer sues Sony Music
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / July 2013

CONTRACT Record labels, artists   Sony Music is facing a legal action from a former co-manager of the Jackson brothers and an attorney for the Jackson Family. Richard Arons claims that Epic Records, now part of the major label, has failed to pay him the royalties he is due on Jackson’s early recordings when he was co-manager of the Jackson family’s business affairs. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Arons says that he became attorney to the Jackson family way back in 1969, and three years later became co-manager for the Jackson brothers alongside their father Joe. It was during this time that The Jackson Five left Motown and signed with Epic Records. Arons says that as co-manager of the Jacksons, he took 7.5% of all the brothers’ income, half of the 15% management fee. The management partnership with Joe Jackson ultimately broke down, but in a 1981 settlement it was agreed that he would continue to receive a 7.5% cut (but only of the Jackson brothers’ sound recording revenue) on sound recording output of the Jackson brothers from the early 1970s up to Michael Jackson’s first two solo albums, ‘Off The Wall’ and ‘Thriller’. A brief dispute with Michael himself…

Early Axl Rose tracks pulled from YouTube
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / July 2013

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artistes   A 1983 demo by Axl Rose’s’ pre-Guns N’ Roses band Rapidfire that turned up online last week has been pulled from the web, due to a copyright claim filed by Axl’s lawyer. The snippet of the demo of the band’s recording on “Ready to Rumble” was posted on YouTube but is no longer playable. Instead it has a note that says, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Mark Music & Media Law, P.C.” “Whenever there’s unauthorized Axl Rose or Guns N’ Roses audio, video or merchandise, we take aggressive efforts to have it removed from the marketplace,” Doug Mark of Mark Music & Media Law told Yahoo! Music. Prior to the filing of the copyright claim and take down, the folks behind the release of the Rapidfiredemo were still hinting that that there could be an official release of the five demo tracks. “Over 72,000 hits! Keep ’em coming so we know there is enough interest to release!,” they posted on the Rapidfire 1983 Facebook page.   http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/stop-the-presses/axl-rose-pre-guns-n-roses-demo-pulled-204303367.html

Unpaid intern brings class action against Warners

EMPLOYMENT Record labels   A former intern of Warner Music’s Atlantic subsidiary in the US is suing for unpaid wages as part of a class action which could extend to others in the same circumstances Justin Henry says he worked at the label for no wage between October 2007 and May 2008 in violation of New York labor laws. He also suggests that the practice of not paying interns had not always been company policy at Atlantic, and only began in June 2007. The lawsuit claims minimum wage for all hours worked, plus overtime, interest, unspecified damages and costs. Henry states that in his role tasks included answering telephones, photocopying and collecting lunch for permanent staff, which Henry and his lawyers argue this must constitute employment under New York law and doesn’t fit the regulations for classifying staff as unpaid interns. The lawsuit estimates that over 100 others could be due back pay under the class action and is calling for more former interns to come forward. http://www.americanlawyer.com/digestTAL.jsp?id=1202607028814&Intern_Litigation_Spreads_with_Warner_Music_Class_Action&slreturn=20130519070520

Tenenbaum damages upheld on appeal
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / July 2013

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet The First Circuit Court Of Appeals has rejected the appeal by file sharer Joel Tenenbaum and has upheld the original damages awarded to the Recording Industry  Association of America (RIAA) against the post graduate students of $675,000, rejecting the argument that being ordered to pay $22,500 in damages for each of the 31 songs that were illegally uploaded was excessive. The US Supreme Court had refused to consider the case. The court said: “Tenenbaum carried on his activities for years in spite of numerous warnings, he made thousands of songs available illegally, and he denied responsibility during discovery. Much of this behaviour was exactly what Congress was trying to deter when it amended the Copyright Act”. http://dailyfreepress.com/2013/06/26/tenenbaum-appeal-rejected-at-u-s-court-of-appeals/

Curb v McGraw – and this time it’s federal
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / June 2013

CONTRACT Artists, record labels   Having lost its contract claim against country artist Tim McGraw at both first instance and on appeal in Tennessee, US label Curb Records is going federal in its ongoing legal dispute. The near two decades long relationship between McGraw and Curb ended in legal action in May 2011, with both sides suing the other. At the centre of the litigation was whether McGraw’s album ‘Emotional Traffic’ fulfilled his contractual commitments to the label regards new recordings, whether he was due an advance on it, and whether he was now out of contract with the record company. It was complicated, but ultimately the State courts sided with McGraw. With McGraw’s ‘Two Lanes Of Freedom’ now out (with the court’s permission) Curb Records has launched litigation in the federal courts, accusing McGraw and his new label Big Machine of breach of contract and copyright infringement.  The new lawsuit seeks ownership of the master recordings, compensation and an injunction stopping McGraw from recording until the ongoing dispute is resolved.   http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/tim-mcgraw-sued-by-label-449200

There was always something there to remind me — but was it protectable?

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, record labels, artistes   The Metro carried an interview with Sandie Shaw, a 1960s pop star who has reinvented herself many times over the years as, among other things, a psychotherapist and a litigant. As her Wikipedia entry states: “Shaw also embarked on a successful legal battle to establish ownership of her entire recording catalogue and began working with contemporary acts and producers, reworking much of her 1960s and 1980s material. In 2003, Shaw licensed her recording catalogue worldwide to EMI, continued to develop her Arts Clinic, and began executive coaching and mentoring”. The Metro article alludes to this, as the following exchange shows: “[Andrew Williams]: Did you have problems with legal aspects of your career?  Yeah but I’ve always fought them and I’ve always won. I’d never take on anything I didn’t think I could win. I’m focused and never give up and if I don’t get what I want immediately I’ll stick at it and win in 15 years. There’s no reason for musicians to get ripped off any more. Artists now have an advantage because the middlemen have been cut out with the advent of digitisation”. From this it sounds as though Ms Shaw, now 66, has a fairly…

Universal counter artist digital royalty demands with confidentiality claim

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Artists, record labels   The issue of commercial confidentiality has been raised  in the ongoing legal battle between Universal Music and a consortium of its legacy artists in America over what digital royalties the major should be paying its acts, as the plaintiff artists try to gather information together to help justify their litigation being a class action. The mega-major continues to fight moves to give the case class action status (in addition to its efforts to have the entire claim dismissed). The main action, led by Rob Zombie and the estate of Rick James.  Are seeking to make their case a class action, which would mean that any artist signed to Universal  with a standard record contract would be able to claim higher digital royalties if the Zombie/James lawsuit was successful. Universal  treat income from downloads as “sales” instead of “licenses” allowing for substantially lower payments to be made to artists. The plaintiffs want access to digital accounts from Universal, outlining what kind of revenue different artists are receiving, both in terms of percentages and quantum of payments.  Understanding that such terms and data will be confidential,  the Zombie/James legal team say that only the plaintiff’s…

RIAA calls for DCMA ‘safe harbor’ and takedown review
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / June 2013

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   Back in November 2011 the 1709 blog mentioned that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) wanted “DCMA clarity” from Congress  – and now the recording industry’s trade organization has urged Congress to overhaul the safe harbor provision of copyright law that shield websites from infringement actions provided they remove infringing material after being notified, saying the law is too burdensome for copyright holders. Congress is planning a comprehensive review of copyright law in the digital era, and RIAA Executive Vice President for Anti-Piracy Brad Buckles said in a post on the organization’s website that “the balance is off” in the current system and  “it’s time to rethink the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA” , going   on to outline the various ways that the DMCA isn’t working. In The blog, titled “One Year, 20 Million Links To Illegal Songs Sent To Google: This Is How It’s Supposed To Work?” Buckles says “We are using a bucket to deal with an ocean of illegal downloading” in a post to mark the 20 millionth takedown notice the trade body has issued against Google, requesting that it remove from its search engine a link to unlicensed…

EC approve UMG and Sony divestments

COMPETITION Record labels, music publishers   The European Commission has granted approval for the sale of the Parlophone Label Group to Warner Music. When it acquired EMI last year, Universal Music was forced by competition regulators to sell the Parlophone Label Group – which includes the UK-based Parlophone frontline label and catalogue, some more British EMI archive, and EMI operations in various other European markets – and it was announced that Warner would buy it in February in a £478 million deal.  Beggars boss Martin Mills told Music Week: “This is good news for the market, and goes some way towards mitigating the concerns raised by Universal’s EMI acquisition, which we are already seeing become reality. As the clearance says, the strengthening of both Warners and the independents, as a consequence of Warner’s agreement with IMPALA and Merlin, should go some way to counter the power of Universal – and the existing duopoly of Universal and Sony – to unilaterally determine the shape of the marketplace. The consequent strengthening of the independent sector as a whole should be especially welcomed”. And BMG’s acquisition of the EMI publishing catalogues Sony/ATV was forced to sell has also been approved by European regulators….