Final victory for Whiter Shade of Pale organist (Fisher v Brooker [2009] UKHL 41)
Copyright , Music Publishing / September 2009
UK

COPYRIGHT Music publishing Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher has won his long battle to be recognised as co-writer of the band’s hit Whiter Shade of Pale. In the last day before the UK’s House of Lords becomes the Supreme Court, the Law Lords ruled that Mr Fisher, who wrote the song’s haunting organ melody, is entitled to a share of future royalties confirming a 2006 High Court decision that he was entitled to 40% of the copyright. The Court of Appeal overturned the ruling last year saying Fisher waited too long – 38 years – to bring the case, and as a result the copyright reverted back to Procol Harum frontman Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid. Now the Law Lords have delivered a unanimous ruling which reinstated the 2006 High Court verdict saying that the delay in bringing the case had not caused any harm to the other writers who had, in fact, benefited financially from it and adding that there were no time limits under English law in copyright claims. Fisher, now a computer programmer said that the case was “about making sure everyone knew about my part in the authorship”. It will be interesting to see if the case prompts other band members who feel that…

Tenenbaum guilty of wilful infringement and faces $675,000 damages
Copyright , Internet / September 2009
USA

COPYRIGHT Internet It wasn’t streamed live but the Joel Tenenbaum file sharing case in the USA certainly made the headlines. Tenenbaum, the 25 year old college student accused of illegally downloading and sharing music online, was defended by the ‘flamboyant’ (elsewhere described as ‘rambling’) Harvard law professor Charles Nesson who opened his defence by holding up a rectangular piece of plastic foam wrapped in cellophane which he said represented the compact discs that record companies sold before digital music became available online. He then sliced open the wrapper with scissors and hundreds of tiny jigsaw pieces fell in a pile in front of the jury in US District Court in Boston with Nesson saying “You have the ability to share, and this physical object’’. The 70-year-old professor then paused and snipped open the foam commenting “suddenly broke into a million bits. Here it is. Bits. . . . Can you hold a bit in your hand? You can’t. . . . And suddenly you have songs being shared by millions of kids around the world.’’ By the time of the trial Tenenbaum no longer denied that he shared music illegally but Nesson said his client was “a good kid’’ who…

FCC intervenes in US radio battle
Copyright / September 2009
USA

COPYRIGHT Radio The row between artists, record labels and the radio industry over the legal loophole that allows FM and AM radio stations to play recordings without having to pay labels or performers in the USA continues to escalate with the Federal Communications Commission asking for comments on artist’s coalition musicFIRST complaint that radio stations were blocking adverts putting forward their side of the story and indeed refusing to play tracks by artists who support  current legislative efforts to close a long-standing loophole in copyright law. The loophole allows AM and FM radio stations to pay only songwriters when a song airs, not the performers or other rights holders on each track. It’s an unusual anomaly and not one that is relevant to Europe where a radio station must pay both the copyright owner of the song and the copyright owner of the sound recording – the latter collected in the UK by PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) who collect for labels and artists. In the US satellite, cable and internet radio broadcasters do have to pay a royalty to the owners of sound recording copyrights (as do TV broadcasters). The dispute follows on from a House Bill put forward by democrat Senator Patrick Leahey and Democrat Congressman…

Knockback for labels in US streaming decision
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / September 2009
USA

COPYRIGHT Intenet, record labels A three judge federal appeals court has upheld a 2007 decision that a Yahoo Inc Internet radio service is not required to pay “per play” fees to the copyright holders of sound recordings. In a second defeat for the labels who brought the appeal (including Arista Records, Sony BMG, Capitol Records Inc, Motown Records Co and Virgin Records America) the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2007 jury verdict that Yahoo’s Launchcast did not give listeners enough control to be an “interactive service” that and that Launchcast only needs pay the licensing fees set by SoundExchange, the organsiation that collects royalties on sound recordings. Launchcast lets users create personalised “radio stations” that play songs in a particular genre or match pre-determined selection such as similarity to the listeners favorite artists or songs. The original 2001 copyright infringement claim (and subsequent appeal) really comes down to one question – what constitutes an “interactive service” – defined is US law as a service “that enables a member of the public to receive a transmission of a program specially created for the recipient, or on request, a transmission of a particular sound recording … which is selected…

UK Government fast tracks anti-piracy proposals
Copyright , Internet / September 2009
UK

COPYRIGHT Internet The UK Government has announced a significant change in it’s anti-piracy policy putting forward new proposals that would mean that internet users who persist in swapping copyrighted films and music will have their connections cut off .The new measures also include taking the power to target illegal downloaders away from regulator Ofcom and giving it to ministers to speed up the process. The new moves are a major shift away from the proposals set out in Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report which suggested a mixture of warnings to illegal filesharers, technical measures to combat piracy and the ultimate sanction of slowing down persistent filesharer’s broadband connections – but nothing would be done until 2012 giving Ofcom the chance to reduce online piracy by a target of 70%-80%. Digital Britain is still in it’s consultation phase although the six biggest UK-based internet service providers (ISPs) had agreed to enter into a voluntary memorandum of understanding with the record companies, and started sending out warning letters to the customers the record industry believed were the biggest illegal file-sharers. Now the government has said that now illegal filesharers will get warning letters but if they continue to swap copyrighted material they…

Publishers launch action against lyric sites
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / September 2009
USA

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, internet The US National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) has filed copyright infringement lawsuits against two businesses which publish unlicensed lyrics for profit through their websites. The lawsuits, headed up by Peermusic, Warner/Chappell and Bug Music, allege that LiveUniverse, Inc. and its owner Brad Greenspan, and Motive Force LLC and its owner Sean Colombo, engage in wilful copyright infringement. The suits were filed in filed in the Federal Courts of the Central District of California and Western District of Pennsylvania and seek equitable relief and damages for the infringing companies unlicensed use of the lyrics on their respective Web sites and in conjunction with certain web applications. NMPA president David Israelite said “these sites are profiting on the backs of songwriters. It is unfortunate that copyright holders must so frequently divert energies to protect their rights to license and distribute their works. However, the demand for music prompts a seemingly endless stream of illegal business models” adding “Music fans are the biggest losers when licensed businesses, like LyricFind, Gracenote and TuneWiki can’t survive and prosper because unlicensed, illegal businesses are allowed to thumb their noses at the law …we are confident the courts will conclude that, like Napster…

Ahoy there Pirates – more stories from the Bay
Copyright , Internet / September 2009
Ireland
Sweden

COPYRIGHT Internet Well well well, not just one Pirate Bay story but four. What’s in the news – well, first and foremost The Pirate Bay website did momentarily go off line on the 25th August, no doubt to gasps of relief from the music and film industries, but perhaps unsurprisingly (and as promised by the owners) the BitTorrent site was back online this morning. The removal of the service was the result of a decision of the Swedish district court which ordered Black Internet to stop servicing The Pirate Bay – the court order was complied with in the face of a 500,000 Kroner fine – but the victory was short lived and within twenty four hours it seems to be “service as normal” although not through Blacks. Secondly, the hunt for money goes on. As readers are probably aware, the four Pirate Bay founders, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, Fredrik Neij, Gottfried Svartholm Warg, and Carl Lundstrom, lost a major Swedish court case in April (reported on this blog) when they were found guilty of copyright violations and were fined and face jail sentences. In a second story from Sweden it appears that Sweden’s government run debt-collection agency, commonly referred to…