New Spanish decision might offer support for direct licensing
Spain

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, live events sector     A Spanish court has ruled against collection society SGAE in favour of a venue which had negotiated to pay performance royalties directly to artists. The ruling, by Judge Pedro Macías in the commercial court of Badajoz in Extremadura, centres on two shows by veteran Spanish rock group Asfalto and comedian Pablo Carbonell at Badajoz’s 325 capacity Sala Mercantil in 2010. When SGAE (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores) noted that the usual fees for the concerts had not been paid, it announced its intention to collect, only to be told that  “the artists had reached a private agreement between them” and the Mercantil, according the venues legal team, OpenLaw. Judge Macías’s affirmed the composers “exclusive rights to the exploitation of the work, without any limitations other than those established by law”    “The owners of these rights are the authors, so they are the ones who should be able decide what to do with them,” comments OpenLaw’s Andrés Marín. “If a composer and performer negotiate directly with a third party and agree to give away or even collect their copyrights directly, the SGAE has no right to try to collect, or recover, the rights the…

When will I see my royalties again?
Artists , Contract , Music Publishing / March 2017
USA

CONTRACT Recorded music, artistes   Three members of The Three Degrees, the female vocal group who had hits with  “When Will I See You Again”, “The Runner”, “Woman In Love” and “My Simple Heart”, are suing Sony Music Entertainment, seeking to recoup decades of royalties they say were withheld by a former manager and his widow. The Three Degrees were formed in 1963 in Philadelphia. The group’s membership has changed over the years, but for purposes of the lawsuit it is current members Valerie Holiday (a member from 1967 to present) and Helen Scott (1963-1966, and 1976 to present) and the estate of Fayette Pinkney (a founder member, and with the group until 1976). Pinkney died in June 2009. They were discovered by producer and songwriter Richard Barrett, who produced the original line-up on their first song, “Gee Baby (I’m Sorry)”, for Swan Records, in 1965. Barrett also signed Shiela Ferguson, who went to to become a member. According to the complaint, the group has “never received one penny” of royalties under an oral agreement struck in the mid- to late-1970s with former manager Barrett, for a 75% share of revenues. The plaintiffs say Barrett’s widow, Julie, and her company, Three Degrees Enterprises, have instead kept…

Major labels take aim at mixtape app
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, internet   The digital platform that specialising in the distribution of unofficial hip hop mixtapes is in the sights of the US major labels, with the Recording Industry Association Of America accusing Spinrilla and its founder Jeffery Dylan Copeland of rampant copyright infringement. The record labels have, until now, seemingly turned a blind eye to smaller underground labels who release unlicensed mixtapes, which often include multiple unauthorised samples from their catalogues, but Spinrilla has attracted their attention and the Recording Industry Association of America’s complaint reads: “Through the Spinrilla website and apps, users with an artist account can upload content that any other user can then download or stream on demand for free, an unlimited number of times – although the site does have DCMA takedown protocols.  A substantial amount of content uploaded to the Spinrilla website and apps consists of popular sound recordings whose copyrights are owned by plaintiffs”.   Spinrilla is indeed a business – and has a nominally priced premium version available, and the Spinrilla app has appeared in a number of recommended music service lists recently alongside licensed platforms like Spotify, and licensed sites such as MixCloud and SoundCloud.  In a statement, the…

Duran Duran granted leave to appeal against Sony/ATV
UK

CONTRACT / COPYRIGHT Music publishing   Duran Duran have been granted leave by the High Court in London to appeal against the decision of Mr Justice Arnold in December 2015 when he ruled against the pop band in their dispute against Gloucester Place Music, which is owned by US company Sony/ATV. Arnold J found that the band would be liable for violating its contract with Sony/ATV by trying to avail itself of provisions in U.S. copyright law allowing Duran Duran to terminate license agreements after 35 years. Mr Justice Arnold ruled “not without hesitation” that the contractual interpretation suggested by Gloucester Place was the correct one.   On Friday, February 3rd, Duran Duran issued a press release outlining the details of the appeal. In a statement, Duran Duran founding member and keyboardist Nick Rhodes said: “It was enormously disappointing that Sony/ATV decided to mount this aggressive and unexpected action against us to try to prevent the simple principles and rights afforded to all artists in America regarding their copyrights after 35 years. We are relieved and grateful that we have been given the opportunity to appeal this case because the consequences are wide reaching and profound for us and all other artists. In his…

Will Prince’s musical catalogue return to Tidal?
USA

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Recorded music, streaming     There is speculation that Prince’s catalogue will come flooding back to Tidal, as details of the dispute between Prince’s estate and Tidal, the music streaming service owned by the rapper Jay Z and a number if other artistes including , Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Jack White and Madonna have surfaced.    In November, reports say that the Bremer Trust, the interim administrator of Prince’s estate, sued Tidal via Prince’s NGP record label and publishing business. The lawsuit claimed that Tidal’s deal with Prince, which was made prior to the superstars’ unfortunate death, gave Tidal the rights to exclusively stream his penultimate album and not his whole catalogue. Tidal and Rock Nation, also owned by Jay Z, claimed that oral and written agreements had been made between Prince and themselves for use of the catalogue.  In January, Tidal and Roc Nation filed a claim against Prince’s NGP and Bremer Trust. In this claim they alleged that it was agreed that Prince would deliver four albums, for which an advance was paid. ‘Hit and Run: Phase 1’ and ‘Hit and Run: Phase 2’, the superstars final two albums, were expected…

Now BMI takes on the US Radio industry
Copyright , Music Publishing / February 2017
USA

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing    Last month, Irving Azoff’s US collection society, Global Music Rights (GMR), launched a legal attack on the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), which represents over 10,000 commercial radio stations in the United States. The suit followed an action by the RMLC that moved that GMR be enjoined from licensing its catalogue of songs for more than a rate that represented the pro-rata share of its catalogue against those of the other PROs (primarily BMI and ASCAP, and SESAC) while its broader antitrust action is aimed at establishing an appropriate mechanism for determining those rates in the future – and forcing the rights agency to submit to independent arbitration to set the rates broadcasters must pay to play the songs it represents. Azoff formed GMR in 2013 to compete with ASCAP and BMI, which together control approximately 95% of music copyrights. The other independent and privately owned PRO in the USA, SESAC, recently entered into a settlement of with RMLC, following an antitrust action similar to the one filed against GMR.   Against a background of many songwriters and music publishers believing that commercial radio stations in the USA and elsewhere are paying far too little to use their work, GMR’s lawsuit accused the RMLC of…

McCartney files against Sony/ATV to reclaim song copyrights
Copyright , Music Publishing / February 2017
UK
USA

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, has filed a lawsuit against Sony/ ATV in the federal court in New York.  The lawsuit is aimed at reclaiming the copyright in 267 of the songs that he wrote with John Lennon throughout the 1960s when they were members of the Beatles. The first steps to reclaim the copyrights were taken back in 2008 when McCartney first filed to reclaim the rights in the song ‘Love Me Do’. Since then McCartney has upped the pace; in 2010 he filed for the reversion of copyright in 40 songs in a single claim. As of today, the total number stands at 267 songs this includes hits such as “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “All You Need Is Love”.  Not surprisingly Sony/ ATV have remained silent as to the transfer of the copyright back to McCartney. The lawsuit is based upon the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, specifically the reversion element found within. This allows songwriters that have assigned their works to a third party to reclaim the copyrights following a 56 year period for tracks written before 1978. Reclaiming the copyrights is not as easy as simply taking them…

Sirius XM triumph in New York appellate court
Copyright , Music Publishing / January 2017
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, broadcasting   New York’s highest court has ruled that Sirius XM does not have to get permission, or pay compensation, to the owners of pre-1972 music recordings in order to play their tracks in the case brought by the owners of The Turtle’s 1967 hit “Happy Together.” The Court of Appeals determined that New York common law does not recognise a “public performance right” in their decision in Flo & Eddie v. Sirius XM Radio. The Court of Appeals’ ruling comes in response to a certified question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which inquired in April whether New York’s common law provides copyright protections for recordings not covered by federal law. Southern District Judge Colleen McMahon had denied Sirius’ motion for summary judgment in 2014, finding that New York common law did provide a public-right performance   The ruling comes weeks after a settlement between the Turtles members and SiriusXM in a related lawsuit in California. That settlement, which also covers class action claims on behalf of other performers, called for payouts of up to $99 million (an amount that is likely to be reduced as a result of  this ruling). U.S. District Judge Phillip Gutierrez ruled…

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

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…

PRS led investigation results in prison term for chart pirate
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / January 2017
UK

COPYRIGHT Internet, recorded music   A Liverpool man has been sentenced to a 12 month prison sentence after pleading guilty to illegally distributing UK chart hits online, which PRS for Music says potentially cost the music industry “millions of pounds and depriving the creators of the content fair remuneration for their work”. The sentence was the result of a joint investigation between PRS for Music and the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and is the first custodial sentence to arise from the two organisations working together.   In October Wayne Evans pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing an article infringing copyright and one of possessing or controlling an article for use in fraud – Evans had been illegally uploading the UK’s Top 40 singles to various torrent sites as they were announced each week by the Official Charts Company. The 39-year-old was also distributing tracks through his own website, including ‘acappella’ music to be used for DJ-ing and remixing. He admitted using his computers and the website deejayportal.com for use in or in connection with fraud. Before sentencing Judge Alan Conrad, QC, agreed that a pre-sentence report was a necessity,  and said the sentencing judge would require assistance,…

Music copyright owners target FaceBook
Copyright , Music Publishing / January 2017
UK
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   Universal Music Group is leading a pack of music companies who are issuing takedown notices against FaceBook in an effort to remove unlicensed covers of popular tracks – unsurprising given that FaceBook currently doesn’t pay to use music to the likes of PRS for Music. But there some significant casualties – a number of unsigned artists for whom the fallout is causing major headaches. MBW highlights Samantha Harvey, the British singer/songwriter who has attracted 1.97 million ‘Likes’ on her official Facebook page: In a video update to fans originally posted on December 10th, Harvey explained that Facebook had started removing her cover performances on copyright grounds. This, she said, was “on the instruction of publishing companies” saying  “There isn’t a [licensing] deal in place at the moment like there is on YouTube which allows people like me and thousands of others on Facebook to record covers of artists we absolutely love.” Harvey’s manager said that 45% of Harvey’s cover videos have now been removed from Facebook as a result of publisher notifications. Since the takedown notifications began to pour in, the artist has been busy encouraging her Facebook fans to migrate to YouTube – where her official channel now has more than…

Beyonce faces copyright claim over logo chain
Copyright , Music Publishing / January 2017
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, artwork     Beyoncé is facing a law suit in the U.S for alleged copyright infringement in the video for ‘Drunk in Love’. According to Billboard and TMZ, Dwayne Walker, who claims to have designed the Roc-A-Fella logo,  has filed a suit against Beyonce  for holding Jay Z’s chain in her hand in the video, alleging she does not have permission for “prominently displaying” the image. Walker previously filed a $7 million suit against Jay Z and his former label partners Damon “Dame” Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, as well as Roc a Fella’s current owner Universal Music Group, claiming royalties for the logo. He alleges that his designs were the basis for the final logo. The defendants disputed the claim, saying the image was designed by the in-house Roc-A-Fella art director. In September, a federal judge in New York dismissed the lawsuit, saying Walker had waited too long to bring his copyright claim and that the existence of the contract — which Walker claimed he lost in 1998 — could not be definitively proved. His lawyer, Gregory Berry, said Walker planned to appeal the decision. In Walker’s new suit against Beyoncé, he is asking the court to compel the…

French songwriter arrested in plagiarism row
Copyright , Music Publishing / January 2017
France
Russia

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   A French musician and his Russian lawyer have spent a night in a Moscow police station after a Russian pop star accused them of attempting to extorting one million euros from him in a plagiarism row. Didier Marouani, who first came to tour in the Soviet Union in 1983, and his lawyer Igor Trunov were detained at a bank where they said they were to sign an out-of-court settlement with Filipp Kirkorov, one of Russia’s biggest pop star. Marouani claims one of Kirkorov’s songs, “Cruel Love,” contains music he wrote many years before. Both were released. Kirkorov  told the LifeNews website that there was no agreement to settle the dispute out of court and that he was “forced” to contact the police after Marouani began to attempt extort money from him. 63-year old Marouani, who was one of the rare Western musicians to perform in the Soviet Union before perestroika, denied the accusations saying “I have been coming to Russia for 33 years ….. and now I’m saying for the first time that my song was stolen, and music experts agree with me.” A civil case appears to be progressing in the Moscow City Court and no charges appear to…

More Blurred Lines: Has ‘Uptown’ been funked up?
Copyright , Music Publishing / December 2016
UK
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing     This guest blog is by Jonathan Coote   2014’s ‘Uptown Funk’ by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson is a 70s and 80s collage of influences, a knowingly reverential homage to the songwriters’ musical amours. However, for eighties electro-funk band Collage, this knowing veneration seems to sit too close to home. They are suing Mars and Ronson alongside co-writers, Sony’s Music Entertainment, Sony’s RCA Records, Warner/Chappell Music, and Atlantic Records for copyright infringement of their 1983 track ‘Young Girls’. The band are following in the well-trodden footsteps of other forgotten gems including ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ from the Gap Band (who were given song-writing credits alongside Mars and Ronson in 2015) and the unrealised lawsuit from The Sequence for ‘Funk You Up’.   Pitchfork obtained a statement from Collage, which says that there are clear copied elements “present throughout the compositions […] rendering the compositions almost indistinguishable if played over each other and strikingly similar if played in consecutively”:   “Upon information and belief, many of the main instrumental attributes and themes of ‘Uptown Funk’ are deliberately and clearly copied from ‘Young Girls,’ including, but not limited to, the distinct funky specifically noted and timed consistent guitar…

Prince’s estate takes on TIDAL
USA

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…

Turtles settle ‘Pre-1972’ case against Sirius XM
Copyright , Music Publishing / December 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music     Members of 1960s rock group The Turtles have settled their action against Sirius XM over what the band claimed were unpaid royalties for the use of ‘Pre 1972’ copyrights. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The filing of settlement papers was noted by both The Hollywood Reporter and National Law Journal. New York’s highest court had heard oral arguments in the case, which was brought by the owner of The Turtles’ 1967 hit song “Happy Together” against Sirius XM Radio. The issue at the heart of the case was  whether the copyright holders of recordings made before 1972 have a common law right to make radio stations and others pay for the use of the recordings (in the US, federal copyright law does not allow for the collection of what is called ‘needletime’ for post 1972 sound recordings. 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. US District Judge Philip…

The sound of music: YouTube and GEMA finally settle
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / December 2016
Germany

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, internet     It’s been one of the biggest stand-offs in digital music history – but now it appears that YouTube and German collection society GEMA have finally reached a licensing agreement – meaning German consumers can now finally (legally) use YouTube to stream music videos   Someone must have blinked, although the blank screens in one of the world’s major economies clearly helped neither side. Now the platform and the collection society say they had reached a new deal for compensating music publishers (and songwriter artists), resolving a dispute that began in 2009. The resolution comes against a backdrop of European officials reviewing the region’s copyright rules – potentially giving more power to record labels, publishers and other content producers over the likes of Google, which owns YouTube, and Facebook. The labels, music publishers and more recently recording artistes have accused YouTube of grossly under paying for using sound recordings and music. YouTube declared the settlement as a victory for musicians, saying they could reach “new and existing fans in Germany,” while GEMA said its 70,000 members would receive “fair remuneration” when their works were played over the platform. But neither side published the details of the agreement….

I Take the Dice – Duran Duran seek to reclaim their copyrights
Contract , Music Publishing / December 2016
UK
USA

CONTRACT Music publishing     Duran Duran have begun their action in the High Court in London in a case that will test the ability of UK songwriters to exercise their reversion rights under US copyright law.   The band are fighting Sony/ATV ownedEMI Music Publishing. EMI is seeking to block the band’s songwriter members from taking back control of the rights to songs on their early albums. Duran Duran members Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Roger Taylor and John Taylor, and former member Andy Taylor had put EMI Music Publishing subsidiary Gloucester Place Music on notice of the reversion of the American copyrights in songs on their first three albums and the James Bond theme ‘A View To A Kill’ in 2014. The publisher has argued that under the band’s (English) contract there is no option to reclaim American rights. According to the Press Association, EMI’s  lawyer, Ian Mill QC, said: “My clients entered into contracts and agreed to pay these artistes sums of money … in return for which the artistes promised to give them rights to exploit, subject to the payment of those sums, for the full term of copyright” and that  “these writers have agreed that they will…

US appeals court revisits ‘safe harbor’
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / November 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Internet, record music, music publishing   A U.S. appeals court has agreed that former members of the EMI Group can pursue additional copyright infringement claims in a long-running lawsuit over defunct online music storage firm MP3tunes. In rejecting an appeal by MP3tunes founder Michael Robertson, who was ordered to pay $12.2 million after a federal jury in 2014 found him liable for copyright infringement, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York revisited the ruling by  U.S. District Judge William Pauley that MP3tunes was eligible for safe harbor protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by meeting a requirement that service providers adopt and implement a policy for terminating repeat infringers: Pauley had narrowly defined “repeat infringer” to cover only those users who upload infringing content, rather than ones who downloaded songs for personal entertainment. “In the context of this case, all it takes to be a ‘repeat infringer’ is to repeatedly upload or download copyrighted material for personal use,” U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier wrote saying that the trial judge’s view that only “blatant infringers” need to be subject to banning doesn’t match with the text, structure or legislative history of the DMCA. Whilst MP3Tunes terminated 153…

200+ Artists Support the “Blurred Lines” Appeal
Copyright , Music Publishing / October 2016
EU
UK
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   Some 212 musicians have attached their names to a brief supporting Pharrell, Robin Thicke and TI’s appeal in the “Blurred Lines” copyright case, including Earth Wind & Fire, R Kelly, John Oates, Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, film composer Hans Zimmer, Tears for Fears’ Curt Smith, Juicy J, the Go-Go’s, Frank Ocean collaborator Malay, Jennifer Hudson, Train’s Patrick Monahan, the production duo Stargate, Aloe Blacc, Jean Baptiste and Kiesza. The amicus brief echoes the concerns many artists and commentators have voiced since a Los Angeles jury determined that “Blurred Lines” plagiarised Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” – that the songs were not actually similar (even if the sound recording ‘vibe’ was and “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” have completely different melodies and song structures, and do not share any lyrics or “a sequence of even two chords played in the same order and for the same duration.” The brief reads: “The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works ” and “All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre. By eliminating any…

Authors against music piracy: German sentences online service Uploaded to pay damages
Copyright , Music Publishing / October 2016
Germany

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   German collective management rights organisation GEMA has won its case in the Regional Court Munich against file-sharing host Uploaded. The decision confirms that file-sharing hosts are liable to pay damages if they do not prevent the upload and distribution of copyright-protected contents. The Regional Court in Munich ruled  (10 August 2016) that online services whose business models are based on large scale copyright infringements are liable to pay damages. “The Regional Court has decided in the interest of our members. Their ruling confirms that file-sharing hosts play a significant role in the proliferation of music piracy” said  Dr Tobias Holzmüller, GEMA’s General Counsel, welcoming the decision. “Online service providers have previously only been obliged to remove contents infringing copyright from their platforms. By pronouncing the liability to pay damages for file-share host Uploaded, composers, lyricists and music publishers at least get a small compensation for the rights infringements of their works that have been committed on a massive scale.” File-share hosts such as Uploaded provide their customers with storage space so they can upload files. They create links to the uploaded files which are then disseminated as publicly accessible collections of links. The regional court Munich classifies Uploaded as a service which constitutes a specific…

Court uphold fractional licence in BMI case
Competition , Music Publishing / October 2016
USA

COMPETITION Music publishing     In a win for Broadcast Music Inc (BMI), a federal judge has thrown out a recent determination by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) that performance rights organisations cannot undertake so-called fractional licensing. Not only had the DoJ had refused alter the 70 year old anti-trust ‘consent decrees’ that both ASCAP and BMI operate under, the DoJ insisted that the societies had to introduce 100% licensing, which allows one party to license a whole song even without that licensor owning 100% of the copyright. BMI decided to pursue the litigation to reverse the DoJ’s decision. BMI was seeking a declaratory judgement that the consent decree did not require 100% licensing or what is called “full-work” licensing. In a six-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan rejected the DOJ’s consent decree determination who said: “The consent decree neither bars fractional licensing nor requires full-work licensing” adding  “If a fractionally licensed composition is disqualified from inclusion in BMI’ s repertory, it is not for violation of any provision of the consent decree”   A separate consent decree governs ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and this is administered by rate court Judge Denise Cote of the United…

Russian Government looks to take over collection societies
Russia

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…

Judgment against Cox opens up ISP liability in the USA
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / September 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, internet   Cox Communications has been ordered to pay a $25 million dollar penalty for copyright infringements to the music rights management company BMG by a federal judge. The ruling follows a jury decision which found Cox liable for illegal movie and music downloads by its customers.   The Eastern Virginia District Court dismissed Cox’s appeal of the earlier verdict, and ordered Cox to pay BMG $25m in damages for copyright infringement – a ruling which may have widespread repercussions for online copyright infringement in the US. The court decided that Cox did not do enough to stop users pirating music from BMG, and therefore did not qualify for Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) ‘safe harbor’ protections. Crucially, BMG provided evidence that its agent, Rightscorp,  had identified individual infringers and then alerted Cox to their wrongdoing – which Cox then failed to act on.  In a statement, Rightscorp said: “For nearly five years, Rightscorp has warned US internet service providers (ISPs) that they risk of incurring huge liabilities if they fail to implement and enforce policies under which they terminate the accounts of their subscribers who repeatedly infringe copyrights.” adding “Over that time, many ISPs have taken the position that it…

200+ Artists Support the “Blurred Lines” Appeal
Copyright , Music Publishing / September 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing     Some 212 musicians have attached their names to a brief supporting Pharrell, Robin Thicke and TI’s appeal in the “Blurred Lines” copyright case, including Earth Wind & Fire, R Kelly, John Oates, Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, film composer Hans Zimmer, Tears for Fears’ Curt Smith, Juicy J, the Go-Go’s, Frank Ocean collaborator Malay, Jennifer Hudson, Train’s Patrick Monahan, the production duo Stargate, Aloe Blacc, Jean Baptiste and Kiesza. The amicus brief echoes the concerns many artists and commentators have voiced since a Los Angeles jury determined that “Blurred Lines” plagiarised Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” – that the songs were not actually similar (even if the sound recording ‘vibe’ was and “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” have completely different melodies and song structures, and do not share any lyrics or “a sequence of even two chords played in the same order and for the same duration.” The brief reads: “The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works ” and “All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre. By eliminating…

Appeal filed in ‘Blurred Lines’ case
Copyright , Music Publishing / September 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   It comes as no surprise that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and TI have filed their appeal against the verdict in the ‘Blurred Lines’ case that saw them ordered to pay $5.3m (reduced from the orginal $7.3 million) and pay over 50% of songwriting and publishing revenues to the family of Marvin Gaye, after a jury ruled last year that their song copied Gaye’s 1977 hit ‘Got to Give It Up’. Lawyers for the trio filed their opening brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on 24th August, arguing that “if left to stand, the Blurred Lines verdict would chill musical creativity and inhibit the process by which later artists draw inspiration from earlier artists to create new popular music” and at the heart of their appeal is the argument that the Judge and indeed the jury should have simply considered the sheet music – the “deposit copy” filed with the US copyright office – and not been influenced by the actual recordings of either song. The “Blurred Lines” writers assert that when the court examined the two songs before the trial,  Judge John A. Kronstadt should have ruled that the case was not worthy of trial….

Sony buyout of Sony/ATV gets EU consent
Competition , Music Publishing / September 2016
EU

COMPETITION Music Publishing   MBW reports that Sony Corporation has been granted unconditional permission by the European Commission to complete its buyout of the Jackson Estate’s 50% stake in Sony/ATV. The deal faced opposition from quarters including Warner Music Group and indie label body IMPALA, but EU regulators have now ruled in Sony’s favour saying “The transaction will not materially increase Sony’s market power vis-a-vis digital music providers compared to the situation prior to the merger.”  Sony/ATV is the biggest publisher in the world in terms of the volume of copyrights it controls. Across both its own repertoire and its administration of the catalogue of EMI Music Publishing, Sony manages over 4.2m songs. Opponents to Sony’s acquisition of Sony/ATV argued that its subsequent ‘control share’ in europe would distort the music marketplace. Back in 2012, both Warner and IMPALA lobbied against Universal Music Group’s £1.2bn ($1.9bn) acquisition of EMI Music in the EU. Although the deal ultimately went through, UMG was forced to sell Parlophone Label Group which included the catalogues of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Blur, Kate Bush and Coldplay –and which Warner Music Group brought for what now looks like the bargain price of £487m ($740m). And in 2012, the European Commission made Sony…

IsoHunt founder finally settles with the Canadian content industries
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / August 2016
Canada
USA

COPYRIGHT Internet, film, recorded music   One of Canada’s longest-running copyright infringement lawsuits has ended with a judge in Vancouver announcing a $65 million settlement in the IsoHunt case that dates back to 2008. According to various reports, Gary Fung, founder of isoHunt Web Technologies Inc, which was found to have infringed music and film companies’ copyrights in both Canada and the USA , shared music files via isoHunt, a network of BitTorrent file sharing sites.  In the US, a federal district court found isoHunt liable for copyright infringement against the Motion Picture Association of America for sharing illegally downloaded movies. In 2010, more than 20 Canadian and international music companies sued isoHunt and Fung for “massive copyright infringement. In 2013, the US federal court of appeals upheld the 2009 ruling, isoHunt and Fung entered into an agreement to stop all international operations and agreed to a $110 million settlement. The British Columbia Supreme Court has now ruled against isoHunt and Fung, ordering him to pay $55 million CAD in damages for copyright infringement and an additional $10 million (CAD) for punitive damages, and ordering Fung to agree to never again be involved in a service that provides stolen or pirated…

Stairway to Heaven decision to be appealed
Copyright , Music Publishing / August 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   The estate of musician Randy California, of L.A. rock band Spirit, intends to appeal the jury verdict last month that found that Led Zeppelin did not lift music that formed the basis for the group’s hit “Stairway to Heaven” from an earlier Spirit instrumental, “Taurus”. The appeal against the unanimous verdict in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles will challenge the conclusion that even though Zeppelin songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant may have heard “Taurus” before they composed “Stairway,” the songs were not musically similar enough to rise to the level of copyright infringement. The claim came four decades after the songs were written. Immediately following the verdict, Led Zeppelin’s  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant released a statement saying that they were glad to see the issue resolved saying “We are grateful for the jury’s conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favour, putting to rest questions about the origins of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and confirming what we have known for 45 years,” they said. “We appreciate our fans’ support, and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us.” Plaintiff’s attorney Francis Malofiy later claimed he lost his case on a technicality, insisting…

Apple suggests new royalty rate for streaming music
Australia
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, internet, artistes     Apple has filed a new proposal with the US Copyright Royalty Board which it says it hopes will “simplify” songwriting royalties in the States by 2018. Apple has suggested that all on-demand streaming services should pay songwriters a statutory rate of 9.1 Cents every 100 plays – a per-stream rate of $0.00091, or $910 per million streams, or $910,000 for a billion – thought to be more that Spotify’s ‘free’ ad supported platform would generate.   And in Australia, commercial radio broadcasters will have to pay a licence fee for songs streamed over the internet after a Copyright Tribunal ruling. The long-running legal battle between the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) and Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) finally reached a conclusion after nearly seven years. CRA had previously argued that as it already pays a licence fee for music for radio and shouldn’t have to pay again for making  that broadcast available over the internet. Now the Copyright Tribunal has finalised the terms of the scheme where commercial radio broadcasters will pay simulcast licence fees for songs streamed over the internet.   And Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has reached agreement  with performers for the broadcasting, repeats and…

Were Sony’s MFN deals with Rdio anti-competitive?
Competition , Music Publishing / August 2016
USA

COMPETITION Recorded music   Sony Music has said that the suggestion of antitrust violations are “nothing but speculation and conjecture” and a pretext for avoiding $17 million claim and allegations of fraud by Rdio, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since November 2015. Rdio received $75 million from Pandora for the sale of assets – and Sony want their share – but is now facing some serious allegations of anti competitive behaviour from Rdio. Rdio was an online music streaming service that offered ad-supported free streaming and ad-free subscription streaming services in 85 countries. It was available as a website and via apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone mobile devices, which could stream music from Rdio’s servers or download music for offline playback.   The Hollywood Reporter reports that Rdio has retained Winston & Strawn to investigate whether Sony for colluded with Universal and Warner Music in the streaming music market.  Sony has itself issued legal proceedings against three of Rdio’s top executives, alleging that before Rdio declared bankruptcy, the company made misrepresentations, false statements and concealments in order to avoid paying millions of dollars for streaming music from Sony artists including Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce…

DofJ’s decisions on music licensing upset everyone
Competition , Music Publishing / August 2016
USA

COMPETITION Music publishing   In a major setback to music publishers, the Justice Department decided this week it will not alter a decades-old system that requires royalty collection societies ASCAP and BMI to license songs to everyone at a fixed rate.  The Justice Department dealt another potential blow to the music industry by calling for so-called “100% licensing.” In cases involving songs with multiple songwriters. This would require ASCAP and BMI to provide a license for the whole song, and then apportion revenues amongst the different writers. The heads of two of the world’s biggest publishing companies have now both said that they aren’t happy with the recent ruling. Universal Music Publishing Group CEO Jody Gerson and Warner/Chappell boss Jon Platt want publishers to be allowed to negotiate digital rights outside of blanket licenses offered by Collection Societies joining Sony/ATV boss Martin Bandier in declaring the position taken by the DofJ is deeply disappointing, and a threat to the livelihood of songwriters. The DofJ confirmed existing consent decrees – effectively a blanket licence – tat have governed ASCAP and BMI since 1941 and leaving them intact will mean publishers remain unable to partially withdraw their repertoire from the PROs in order to negotiate…

Michigan court finds that a free stream is not a ‘rent, lend or sale’
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / August 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT / PRIVACY Internet, recorded music   The Michigan Court of Appeals has confirmed that music service Pandora didn’t violate a 20 year old Michigan privacy law by allegedly disclosing information about users of its free service to Facebook. in a unanimous decision the court said that the state’s Video Privacy Protection Act doesn’t apply when companies stream music to users for free. That law prohibits companies that rent, lend or sell music (as well as books and videos) from disclosing customers’ identities without their consent, upholding U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown in Oakland, California who had dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Michigan’s law doesn’t apply when companies stream tracks. She said the law only applies to companies that lend, rent or sell material. Michigan resident Peter Deacon had begun the action against Pandora, a potential class-action, saying that Pandora wrongly disclosed his music-listening history to all of his Facebook contacts that also used Pandora. In 2010 Pandora partnered with Facebook for the first version of its “instant personalization” programme which automatically shared Facebook users data with outside companies. People could opt out, but at launch the feature operated by default. Having lost at first instance, Deacon appealed to the 9th Circuit Court…

Florida’s Supreme Court to look at pre-72 copyrights
Copyright , Music Publishing / August 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   Florida’s Supreme Court will now hear the three year old class action brought by former members of the Turtles after the The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday certified questions of state law to the Florida Supreme Court i Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, known as Flo & Eddie, filed suit in California, New York and Florida against satellite radio operator Sirius XM, arguing that Pre-1972 sound recordings are protected by a patchwork of state and common laws meaning they would need to consent to their recordings being played an should be paid for this. Whilst Flo and Eddie were successful in California and New York, they failed at first instance in Florida, prompting the initial appeal. In Florida U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles decided to rule in favour of SiriusXM. The judge said he understood why his judicial colleagues in other states ruled differently, noting that California and New York are creative centres of culture, and laws have been enacted there to protect artistic rights, and there have been prior cases that have touched upon the present controversy. But Judge Gayles said that “Florida is different” saying “There is no specific Florida legislation covering sound…

Digitally re-mastered tracks are NOT pre-1972 copyrights
Copyright , Music Publishing / July 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   The Turtles may have done well in battering Sirius XM’s attempts to avoid paying royalties for the use of pre-1972 copyrights, but now CBS Radio has advanced an interesting new argument on the same topic – and a California judge has handed down a big ruling that could help “immunize” terrestrial radio operators and others from lawsuits and “upend many preconceived notions about copyright”. The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson comes in a dispute between ABS Entertainment, owner of recordings by Al Green and others, and CBS Radio, and was based on the concept that pre-1972 songs are protected under state law rather than federal law,  and therefore can’t be broadcast without permission (and payment). In reaction to the ABS lawsuit, CBS tried out a new response – it was not performing the original analogue recordings, but rather NEW digitally remastered versions that came out after 1972. Under this argument, the specifically performed works aren’t protected by state law, and CBS doesn’t have to pay. And the court agreed. More on Billboard here http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7392764/cbs-beats-lawsuit-pre-1972-songs-bold-copyright-argument http://the1709blog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/1972-and-all-that-but-does-turtles-win.html

German Constitutional Court sends sampling saga into another loop
Copyright , Music Publishing / July 2016
Germany

COPYRIGHT Recorded Music   By Mark Schweizer In 1997, German music producer Moses Pelham took a two second sample from Kraftwerk’s 1977 song “Metall auf Metall” and used it as a continuous loop for the song “Nur mir” performed by Sabrina Setlur. In 2004, Kraftwerk sued Pelham for violation of their phonogram producers’ rights and obtained an injunction against the distribution of “Nur mir”. The case went all the way to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), which held in 2008 that even sampling the “tiniest sliver” (“kleinste Tonfetzen”) of a record infringed the record producer’s right (§ 85(1) German Copyright Act). The defence of Article 24 Copyright Act (Freie Benutzung) was in principle applicable, but required that it was not possible to recreate the sampled sound without copying from the original recording. The BGH sent the case back to the lower court for the factual determination whether it was possible to recreate the sampled sound in the specific case. The lower court found that it was indeed possible for the average music producer to recreate the same sound without sampling, and in 2012, the BGH dismissed another appeal by Pelham against that decision. It namely held that its interpretation of the law did not violate the constitutional freedom of…

Is music sampling back in Vogue?
Copyright , Music Publishing / July 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   A US Appeals court has decided that Madonna did not violate copyright law when her producer allegedly used a short section of music taken from another recording for her hit song “Vogue”. The split 2-1 decision must  call into doubt the strict approach taken by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in the leading case of Bridgeport Music, Inc., et al. v. Dimension Films, et al 410 F.3d 792 (September 2004). There the court in Cincinnati posed the question “If you cannot pirate the whole sound recording, can you ‘lift’ or ‘sample’ something less than the whole?” The Court’s answer to this was in the negative” and the court added “Get a license or do not sample – we do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way.” But in this new case, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the horn segment at the heart of the copyright lawsuit  lasted less than a second and would not have been recognisable to a general audience. Judge Susan P. Graber said for the majority: “The horn hit occurs only a few times in ‘Vogue’ …. without careful attention, the horn hits are easy to miss.” The decision fits in neatly…

Sorry not sorry – Justin Bieber and Skrillex deny copying vocal loop to produce ‘Sorry’
Copyright , Music Publishing / July 2016
USA

COPYRIGHT Recorded Music   By Emma Perot writing for the IP Kat   Justin Bieber and Skrillex have been accused of copyright infringement by artist Casey Dienel, aka White Hinterland. The suit probably does not come as a complete surprise to the duo, as Dienel claimed that she contacted Bieber’s lawyers when “Sorry” was initially released, but did not receive a response.   Dienel alleged that Bieber and Skrillex, whose 2015 hit single ‘Sorry’ has received 1.4 billion hits on YouTube, copied her vocal loop from her 2014 song ‘Ring the Bell’. The allegedly copied segment can be heard in the first five seconds of each song. Skrillex and Bieber have both denied the claims on their Twitter accounts. If this claim goes to trial, it could be the 2016 edition of the infamous “Blurred Lines” dispute, which resulted in Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke being ordered to pay Marvin Gaye’s family $7.4 million USD for infringing copyright in his 1977 hit ‘Got to give it up’ (discussed on IPKat here). After the ‘Blurred lines’ case, this Kat would be surprised if Bieber’s lawyers took this case to trial, but let’s consider what Dienel would need to prove to win her claim for infringement:…

Sheeran claim puts ‘Blurred Lines’  back in focus
Copyright , Music Publishing / July 2016
UK

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   Two musicians based in California are suing Ed Sheeran for $20m (£13.8m) over alleged copyrigt infringement of one of their songs in Sheerhan’s single ‘Photograph’. Martin Harrington and American Thomas Leonard claim ‘Photograph’ has a similar structure to their song, ‘Amazing’. The two songwriters allege Ed Sheeran’s 2015 ballad has the same musical composition to their track, which was released as Matt Cardle’s winning X Factor track in 2010. Harrington and Leonard say they wrote ‘Amazing’ in 2009. Ciurt filings include musical note comparison and chord breakdowns of the two songs, and the pair claim the chorus of Photograph shares 39 identical notes with their track. The court documents say that ‘Photograph’ has sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide.   The claim also states that ‘Photograph’ features prominently in Hollywood drama Me Before You, released last week, as well as trailers for the film. Matt Cardle’s version of ‘Amazing’ has more than one million views on YouTube, while Ed Sheeran’s music video for ‘Photograph’ has 208 million Documents were filed on Wednesday at LA’s federal court in the Central District of California. Other named defendants being sued include Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid, who is credited as a co-writer on’ Photograph’, as well…

ARTICLE LINKS – the Led Zeppelin case
Copyright , Music Publishing / July 2016
UK

COPYRIGHT Music publishing Led Zeppelin Wins Copyright Infringement Suit Over Opening Lick of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/led-zeppelin-wins-copyright-infringement-suit-opening-lick/story?id=40026259 Led Zeppelin cleared of stealing riff for Stairway to Heaven. Los Angeles jury finds Robert Plant and Jimmy Page did not steal the most famous passage from the 1971 anthem from the band Spirit http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/led-zeppelin-wins-copyright-infringement-suit-opening-lick/story?id=40026259 There may be a lady who’s sure that all that glitters is gold, but Thursday’s verdict from a Los Angeles jury in the “Stairway to Heaven” copyright infringement case says otherwise. http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/news/2016/06/24/led-zeppelin-case-could-have-had-a-chilling-legal.html Led Zeppelin have won a copyright lawsuit that claimed they had plagiarized the music to their most celebrated song, “Stairway to Heaven.” A Los Angeles jury determined Thursday that the lawyer representing the estate of late guitarist Randy Wolfe, who played with the group Spirit, did not prove that the hard rockers lifted the song’s intro from Spirit’s 1968 instrumental “Taurus.” http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/led-zeppelin-prevail-in-stairway-to-heaven-lawsuit-20160623 Led Zeppelin Wins Copyright Infringement Suit Over Opening Lick of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ http://wtnh.com/2016/06/24/led-zeppelin-wins-copyright-infringement-suit-over-opening-lick-of-stairway-to-heaven/ UPDATE Lawyer Who Sued Led Zeppelin Suspended From Practicing Law https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/07/01/lawyer-led-zeppelin-suspended-law/

Russian collection society chief arrested on fraud charges
Russia

CRIMINAL LAW Music publishing, recorded music   Sergei Fedotov, head of the Russian author’s rights collecting society RAO, has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.  Russian news service RIA Novosti said that Fedotov has been accused of funnelling assets worth of over ₽500 million rubles ($7.7 million) out of the organisation. RAO’s office and Fedotov’s home were searched by police on June 27th after which Fedotov was brought in for questioning. On June 28, The Tagansky court in Moscow sanctioned Fedotov’s arrest, rejecting his lawyer’s plea for bail. RAO issued a statement saying: “RAO’s general director Sergei Fedotov and the organization’s other employees are fully cooperating with the investigation, helping it to find out the truth” adding “We are sure that a qualified investigation will lead to establishing no wrongdoing in Sergei Fedotov’s action.” The move comes AFTER rumours of corruption involving real estate surfaced in the wake of the 2015 announcement that RAO would merge with two other collecting societies, VOIS, which deals with neighbouring rights, and RSP, which collects a one-percent tax on imports of electronic devices that can be used for copying content. That merger was seemingly supported by the country’s communications ministry but VOIS objected. This time Nikolai Nikiforov, the communications minister, was quoted…

ASCAP Announces Settlement Agreement with U.S. Department of Justice
USA

COMPETITION Music Publishing     The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has reached a $1.75m Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice addressing two specific concerns raised during the Department’s ongoing review of the ASCAP Consent Decree.   The DOJ had claimed that ASCAP had violated the rules of the consent decree that governs the organisation by entering into exclusivity deals with some 150 of its members. In the US, the norm is that the organisation represents its members performing rights on a non-exclusive basis, meaning a licensee can circumvent the society and can  deal directly with a songwriter and/or publisher. In most other countries, when songwriters and publishers join a performing rights society, they give that organisation the exclusive right to represent the performing right elements of their copyrights. The DoJ said that since 2008 that ASCAP had added exclusivity terms to some of its agreements with members, and that this contravened the provisions of the consent decree The society said that it had never enforced any exclusivity provisions in its members contracts, adding that they had now been removed and would not be included in future agreement “By blocking members’ ability to license their songs themselves,…

No time for weaker antitrust enforcement
USA

COMPETITION Music Publishing   By David Balto   In the complicated world of music licensing there is a disturbing trend – even though there is clear evidence that publishers are exercising market power and consumers are paying more – many self-interested parties are currently lobbying the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to loosen the consent decree in order to give it more options to raise licensing fees. And to show their level of regulatory gall, they are seeking to weaken the order after the DOJ just fined ASCAP (the licensing entity) $1.75 million for violating the consent order. If there is one thing the DOJ should learn from dog owners, it’s that you don’t give a wily dog a longer leash. It’s easy to forget that the way music is licensed through publishing rights organizations (“PROs”) like ASCAP is price fixing. However, the music industry stands as one of the rare exceptions to the rule that price fixing is illegal. That is because the DOJ and the Supreme Court both concluded that, due to the complicated nature of music licensing, the blanket licenses offered by licensing entities do more good than harm.   This exception from regular antitrust laws was never…

PRS posts increased revenues for 2015 – and increased costs
Copyright , Music Publishing / June 2016
UK

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   The Performing Right Society (PRS) has announced its 2015 financial results, revealing a record high royalty income of £537.4m. This figure represents an increase of 7% on 2014 when measured on a constant currency basis, with year on year growth across all revenue streams with an 8.4% increase in distributions, equating to an extra £35.6m compared to 2014. Key drivers of this success include continued growth in the online market, the success of PRS member’s repertoire in overseas markets and efficiency improvements associated with the processing of online royalties.   Online revenues reached £42.4m, representing an increase of 12.8% over 2014. This was driven by market growth and improved licensing International revenues totalled £195.6m, an increase of 10.4% on a constant currency basis, showing the value of investing in better tracking of the use of members’ rights overseas. Broadcast revenues were £124.2m: an increase of 4.1%, in part due to growth in advertising on commercial radio stations.  Public performance royalties grew to £175.2m, an increase of 4.1%, reflecting PRS’ strategy of communicating the value of music to businesses However the collection society’s headline costs increased by £10.2m in the year (17.7%) to £67.8m and there was…

PRS for Music welcomes the Collective Management of Copyright (EU Directive) Regulations 2016
EU
UK

COPYRIGHT Music publishing     PRS for Music has issued a statement saying that the CMO supports the principles and objectives of the Collective Right Management (CRM) Directive which came into force yesterday. Details of the UK Regulations can be found here (The Collective Management of Copyright (EU Directive) Regulations 2016). In welcoming the new UK Regulations, PRS believes the CRM Directive will improve the way collective management organisations operate across the EU, which will be in the best interests of rightholders and users. The CRM Directive is intended to provide long term legislative solutions to ensure all collective management organisations operating in Europe meet minimum standards of transparency, governance and customer service generally and also in respect of multi-territorial online licensing. With 60% of PRS for Music’s international revenues deriving from the EU, greater transparency and efficiencies will improve the administration and collection of royalties for PRS members, and are in the best interests of all affiliated parties. Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive, PRS for Music, commented: “From its inception we have supported the overarching principles and objectives of the CRM Directive and the intention to create a framework that promotes transparency, efficiency and accountability by collecting societies in Europe. These characteristics…

Led Zeppelin face trial over ‘Stairway to Heaven’ plagiarism claims
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing     Members of legendary rock band Led Zeppelin will face a May 10th trial over claims that they plagiarised Spirit to make their iconic song “Stairway to Heaven.” The lawsuit was filed by the trustee of the late Randy Craig Wolfe (Randy California) of the band Spirit, who played with Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s. Wolfe drowned off the coast of Hawaii in 1997, but a trustee for his estate has sued Led Zeppelin and the three band members, plus music publishers Super Hype Publishing Inc. and Warner Music Group Corp. The 2014 suit claims that Led Zeppelin, which opened for Spirit in the 1960s, copied a musical composition Wolfe wrote called “Taurus.” On March 23rd , both sides failed to reach a settlement in the dispute. U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles then scheduled a trial, subsequently ruling that the song and the 1967 instrumental ‘Taurus’ by the band Spirit were similar enough to let a jury decide whether Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are liable for copyright infringement. http://www.nationallawjournal.com/home/id=1202753816827/Stairway-to-Heaven-Leading-to-Trial-for-Led-Zeppelin?mcode=1202617074964&curindex=1&slreturn=20160304053343 http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=5821 http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=6322

CMA provisionally decides to release PRS for Music from 1997 undertakings
UK

COMPETITION Music publishing, broadcasting, internet     The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published its provisional decision in its review of undertakings given by PRS to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) in 1997.  The CMA has provisionally decided to release the undertakings. The PRS is one of the two main collecting societies for music in the UK. It licenses musical works and administers the royalties when such works are played in public or broadcast, for example on the radio or television.   The group of independent CMA panel members carrying out the review considers that the forthcoming implementation of the EU Collective Rights Management Directive will effectively address the areas and concerns covered by the undertakings. The group has therefore provisionally decided that the undertakings are no longer required.   This Directive, due to be implemented by each EU Member State by 10 April 2016, introduces a number of requirements that collective management organisations, such as the PRS, must meet – as well as various protections for their members. The requirements are intended to ‘ensure a high standard of governance, financial management, transparency and reporting.’   The CMA’s decision to review PRS’s undertakings is part of its wider review of the 76 existing…

Supreme Court confirms Court of Appeal to block Bob Marley claim
UK

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Music publishing     The Supreme Court in London has confirmed the Court of Appeal and High Court of Justice’s decisions that it is Blue Mountain Music, and not Bob Marley’ original publisher Cayman Music (CMI)(BSI), who owned the copyrights in a number of Marley’s songs. CMI were Marley’s original publisher but it is commonly believed that Marley claimed various friends wrote a number of his songs to avoid the contract terms with CMI which would have automatically transferred the copyrights in his work to the publisher – for ‘No Woman, No Cry’ the credit went to Vincent Ford. CMI had previously said ““It is now common ground between the disputing parties that the songs – including ‘No Woman, No Cry’ – were actually written by Bob Marley but that the music publisher’s share was never credited to Cayman Music, who have now been denied their contracted entitlement for more than 40 years”. CMI claimed these songs were not included when it sold some of its rights in 1992 to Blue Mountain Music, as Marley, who died in 1981, had penned them under other people’s names-  the ‘Misattribution Ploy’. However High Court  agreed the copyright had “passed” under…

Spotify settles NMPA mechanicals claim
USA

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing, internet     Spotify has agreed a settlement deal with the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) which will ‘allow independent and major publishers to claim and receive royalties for certain compositions used on Spotify in the United States where ownership information was previously unknown’ although one commentator noted that the problem was less of Spotify not paying and more that  “America’s long inefficient mechanical licensing framework is really behind the unpaid monies” something more in the hands of the NMPA than Spotify. The digital services argue that a lack of decent copyright data – in particular a database that states which song copyright is contained within any one recording – makes it impossible for them to file the paperwork required by the compulsory licence. Services can license the mechanical rights in songs under a compulsory licence in America, which sets a standard rate. But under that licence the digital service must alert the rights owner that their songs are being used and arrange to pay the statutory royalties. In many cases this hasn’t happened, with the streaming firms arguing that they don’t know what songs are embodied in what recordings, because the labels don’t tell them. The NMPA…

McCartney moves to reclaim his US copyrights
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2016
UK
USA

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing     Following the news that Sony Corp was buying the Michael Jackson Estate out of its music publishing joint venture Sony/ATV at a cost of $750 million comes the revelation that Sir Paul McCartney is in the process of reclaiming US publishing rights for a huge chunk of The Beatles’ catalogue from Sony/ATV.  The former Beatle is using the provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 stipulates that writers of pre-1978 tracks can reclaim their US publishing rights – if they’ve previously signed them away – after 56 years. The publishing rights for McCartney’s share of Beatles songs will begin expiring in 2018 – 56 years after the Fab Four’s first hit, “Love Me Do”, was penned and recorded in 1962. The Lennon/McCartney repertoire is amongst the most prized of Sony/ATV’s catalogue. Music Business Worldwide trawled through the US Copyright Office’s records and discovered that McCartney filed termination notices last year for two batches of Fab Four tracks – “All You Need Is Love” and  23 other titles’. In addition “All Together Now” & 32 other titles had been filed. Between them, these filings included hits ranging from “Back In The USSR” to “Helter Skelter”, “Hey Jude”,…