RIAA FACE SETBACK IN LATEST ACTION AGAINST P2P FACILITATORS
USA

COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Music Publishers, Internet In a blow to record labels, music publishers and film producers, a Federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday denied the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) motion for summary judgement in its copyright-infringement suit against peer-to-peer file-swapping services Morpheus and Grokster. The RIAA along with the National Music Publishers’ Association and the Motion Picture Association of America, filed the suit in 2001. Judge Stephen Wilson broke with the recent series of victories for the entertainment industries’ trade association recently and ruled that the P2P service providers are not liable because they are capable of non-infringing use. He compared the case to landmark litigation brought by movie studios in 1984 against Sony Corporation over the sale of Betamax videocassette recorders which of course could be used to (legitimately) play pre-recorded copies of films but could also be used to copy programmes from the television. Judge Wilson held that “The sale of copy equipment … does not constitute contributory infringement if the product is capable of substantial non-infringing uses,” Wilson wrote. Grokster and StreamCast Networks, firms that distribute the file-sharing programs Grokster and Morpheus, were not guilty of copyright infringement just because some users swap…

US COURT HAMMERS MAJORS’ ACCOUNTING PRACTICES
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / June 2003
USA

COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Artists On April 22 2003, the U.S. District Court based in Los Angeles, dealt a blow to BMG and Sony, deciding that record clubs owned by the two majors had to face a court action scheduled for January 2004. The court found that the record clubs failed to pay for mechanical licenses on the premium records given away (roughly 6-8 cents per song, per copy sold). Songwriters’ lawyers estimate that the record clubs failed to account for approximately $100 million dollars a year. The following comment is from respected industry author – Moses Avalon, in his latest e-newsletter Moses Supposes. His site can be found at www.mosesavalon.com. It is an interesting attack on what might be seen as the hypocritical attitude of the labels in pursuing P2P file sharers and yet at the same time maintaining archaic and unfair accounting and trade practices. The Recording Artists’ Coalition have made similar comments (see Law Updates March 2003 and www.recordingartistscoalition.com). “All this makes you wonder why the RIAA (which is funded by companies who own both major publishing houses and record clubs) scream bloody hell over KazaA and Napster, and yet ignore this? Could it be to distract us from the fact…

MICHAEL JACKSON LAUNCHES ACTION AGAINST MOTOWN
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / June 2003
USA

COPYRIGHT Artists, Record Labels Michael Jackson is suing his former label Motown Records and its parent company Universal Music Group. Jackson claims that Motown, the label he signed with in 1969, breached a contract dated January 1980 that required the label to pay him royalties for certain pre-1976 recordings made by Jackson as a solo artist and the Jackson 5. In exchange for those royalties, Michael Jackson had agreed to waive his rights to other pre-1976 recordings. The 1980 contract was actually a settlement agreement stemming from lawsuits filed in 1975 and 1976 by the members of the Jackson 5 against Motown over accounting and contractual obligations. Jackson is now seeking complete and accurate accounting from Motown with full payment of all royalties due. Jackson is also asking the court to rescind the 1980 agreement and the underlying contract allowing Jackson to regain ownership and title to his master recordings and compositions. For more details see http://www.rollingstone.com/news/newsarticle.asp?nid=18038

CALIFORNIA SENATE TO CONSIDER DRAFT LAW TO OBLIGE RECORD LABELS TO CALCULATE ROYALTIES
USA

COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Artists, Music Publishers A Bill designed to provide Californian recording artists with accurate accounting has won approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Bill (SB1034) introduced by Senator Kevin Murray (D) would make it a “fiduciary duty” for labels to accurately calculate royalty earnings owed to artists. Music industry officials oppose the Bill, saying it would impede labels from developing new business models in the face of surging piracy. RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) President Cary Sherman testified Tuesday that the bill “would distort the intensely negotiated, arms-length contractual relationship between an artist and recording label by imposing a fiduciary duty only on one party.” However, Committee members countered that only one party, the record company, holds the financial information to calculate royalties. The Recording Artists’ Coalition have repeatedly claimed that recording contracts are outmoded and complex, lack clarity in royalty calculations and contain numerous unjustifiable royalty reduction and discount provisions. See http://www.billboard.com/bb/daily/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1883484

UGANDAN MUSIC PIRACY PROMPTS NEW COPYRIGHT SANCTIONS
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / June 2003

COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Artists Widescale CD and cassette piracy in Uganda have prompted the Uganda Performing Right Society (UPRS) to push for legislation to criminalise piracy. UPRS estimate that over ten million units are copied and sold in Uganda annually depriving copyright owners of substantial royalty payments. Source:http://allafrica.com/stories/200304240277.html 

BELGIUM TO INTRODUCE TAX ON REWRITABLE CDs
Belgium

COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Music Publishing The Belgian Ministry of Economy has announced that a 12 eurocent per hour tax will be levied on blank rewritable CDs to compensate composers, copyright holders and performers for copies made for personal use and to counterbalance the likely lower income paid to copyright owners from reduced music CD sales. Meanwhile, in a different approach to music piracy, Italy has announced tough new laws against those illegally buying and selling pirated music on street stalls. For the first time, buyers of pirated CDs will face a fine of up to 154 euros for each illegal CD brought. Sanctions against vendors have been increased and vendors face fines and imprisonment for up to three years. See http://www.expatica.com/belgium.asp?pad=88,89,&item_id=30857

US JUDGE THROWS OUT CLAIM FOR DAMAGED HEARING
USA

HEALTH & SAFETY Live Concert Industry Manhatten Supreme Court Judge Matrin Schoenfeld threw out a lawsuit from 56 year old lawyer Jeffrey Powell who claimed that John Fogerty’s music damaged his hearing. Judge Schoenfeld rejected the claim saying “if you don’t like loud music don’t go to rock concerts” and added that “Nobody is forced to attend rock ‘n’ roll concerts”. Powell saw the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman in concert six years ago. In the eight-page decision released yesterday, the judge referred to Powell as an “eggshell ear” – and rejected his $5 million lawsuit. “That ‘loud music’ can cause hearing impairment is “perfectly obvious” and “commonly appreciated” Schoenfeld said. The judge said Powell admitted he suffered ringing in his ears for years after attending rock concerts but went to see Fogerty anyway with three friends. Powell said that after one or two songs, he left and listened from outside the ballroom, returning once to find his friends with their fingers in their ears. Judge Schoenfeld said Fogerty’s “bluesy, good-time, roots-rock” sound has never been thought of as particularly loud, compared with bands such as the The Who and Led Zeppelin. See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/local/story/79224p-72867c.html

BRITISH SINGER MISS KIER ALLEGES THAT HER CHARACTER RIGHTS ARE BEING USED WITHOUT CONSENT
Artists , Copyright , Trade Mark / June 2003
UK

COPYRIGHT, TRADEMARK Artists, Merchandising The flamboyant British singer Lady Miss Kier believes a video game has stolen her image including her pink ponytailed hair, short skirt and knee-high boots and signature cry of “Ooh La La.” Miss Keir, who found fame with Deee-Lite, filed the suit in the Los Angeles Superior Court this week against the U.S. arm of video game publisher Sega, alleging the 2000 game “Space Channel 5” used her likeness for the ‘Ulala’ character without her permission and that the name of the character is based on Keir’s own signature ‘Oh La La’. Keir alleges that Sega approached her for permission but still used her image even after she declined to grant a licence to Sega . See http://www.forbes.com/technology/newswire/2003/04/30/rtr957273.html

RIAA -V- STUDENTS
USA

COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Music Publishing, Internet Four US students have agreed to pay damages after the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) issued proceedings for providing illegal peer-2-peer downloading sites for profit. Daniel Peng, Joseph Nievelt, Jesse Jordan and Aaron Sherman also agreed not to illegally distribute copyrighted music, although they did not admit to any wrongdoing (see Law Updates May 2003 RIAA Launches Pre-emptive Strike Against Student Downloading). The four students will pay between $12,000 (ÿ£7,500) and $17,500 (ÿ£11,000) each to the RIAA. The RIAA hope that the action will prompt universities to shut down similar downloading services which are facilitated by university high speed broadband and cable services which are available to students. Source www.riaa.com

VERIZON MOTION TO QUASH FAILS
USA

COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Music Publishers, Internet In an update on the case between the RIAA and Verizon (see Law Updates March 2003), Judge Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, has denied Verizon’s motion to quash a subpoena requiring it to identify a subscriber who was suspected of illegally sharing music online on the 24th April. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) had served the subpoena on Verizon under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (“DMCA”). Under the DMCA, a copyright holder can request a subpoena by asserting that a violation has occurred. Verizon put forward constitutional challenges, arguing that the Courts construction of the provisions of the DMCA does not provide sufficient safeguards to protect Internet users’ rights of expression and association under the First Amendment Rights of Internet users, and violates Article III of the Constitution. Both of these arguments were rejected by the Court. See www.riaa.com and www.dww.com/newsletter/ For the full decision see (pdf file) : http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/03-ms-0040.pdf

RAVE ACT PASSES THROUGH US CONGRESS
Licensing , Live Events / June 2003
USA

LICENSING Live Concert Industry The US Rave Act has passed through the US Congress when Senator Joe Biden tied the provisions to the Child Abduction Prevention Act. This means that the promoter or organiser of events and/or the property owner can face imprisonment for up to twenty years if drugs are found being used at venues and nightclubs. The Drugs Policy Alliance warned that ‘Property owners can be punished for drug offences which their customers commit – even if they work hard to prevent such offences.’ See www.ilmc.com and www.drugpolicy.org

BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD BRINGS ACTION IN INDIAN SUPREME COURT
Copyright / June 2003
India
UK

COPYRIGHT Television, Radio The author Barbara Taylor Bradford has won an injuction in the Indian Supreme Court to prevent transmission of a 260-episode Bollywood serial ‘inspired’ by her best selling novel A Woman Of Substance. The novel tells of the heroine’s rise from an impoverished servant to become head of a business empire and the Bollywood serial Karishma – the Miracles Of Destiny charts a similar story. Both stories begin with the heroine recounting her adventures in old age. Taylor Bradford won an injunction at first instance in the Calcutta High Court, although this was overturned on appeal. However on the 12th May the injunction was confirmed in the Supreme Court – although broadcaster Saraha TV broadcast the first episode risking an action for contempt of court. (source: The Times, May 14th 2003). COMMENT : This case could have interesting ramifications in the debate on the protection of format rights. UK copyright law does not protect ideas, only the expression of ideas. It is sometimes very difficult to draw the line between what is an idea and what is the expression of an idea. In the English case of Rees -v- Melville (1911), it was held that the plot or storyline to a play could be protected but…