Performers speak up for their rights in the big IP debate

CONTRACT / COPYRIGHT Artistes, music publishing, recorded music, internet   The Featured Artists Coalition and the globally-focused International Artists Organisation have issued an urgent call to the European Parliament demanding it ensure that performer rights be included in the European Union’s current review of copyright law. The move comes as part of the campaign called Artists In Europe which is a bid to “ensure that protection for artists’ intellectual property sits at the heart of the new legislation”. Continuing recent debates in the artist and songwriter communities, the FAC and IAO say that to achieve a “vibrant creative cultural music industry in the digital age” both the business and law-makers need to ensure there is transparency throughout the music value chain and that there is an enhanced duty of care from corporations so that artists know their interests are protected. Artists should also share in the profits from all the ways their music is exploited. FAC boss Paul Pacifico says: “To ensure a vibrant creative cultural music industry in the digital age, it is essential that the review of copyright currently underway in Europe puts the rights of creators and artists front and centre of any new legislation. If not, we stand to lose an…

A fair share: should we take a lead from France on fair digital payments to artistes?
Artists , Copyright , Music Publishing / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, internet, music publishing, artistes     The new digital music Code Of Conduct ushered in by the French government and signed up to by the major and independent labels, publishers, digital services and artist representatives has laudable aims (even more laudable if you are French)  and seeks to ensure the following: – The development and vitality of the music industry; – The preservation of cultural diversity and growth in innovation; – The creation of greater transparency in interactions between participants; – A fair distribution of value created by musical recordings. The provisions relating the the share of the ‘digital pie’ allocated to the service itself, songwriters and their publishers, record labels, recording artistes and the services themselves have long been a bone of contention between artistes and their labels, between labels/artistes and songwriters/publishers, and between the content owners and the actual digital services. In the absence of a fiduciary duty being imposted on record labels to treat their recording artistes fairly, ongoing confusion about how equity stakes gained by the majors in services such as Spotify, and a general lack of transparency in who gets what from the digital pie, are these French reforms something the EU and US…

Music Streaming – a timely update
Artists , Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Internet, recorded music, artistes, music publishing   As Music Law Updates finalised the November Updates, news broke that streaming platform Deezer had postponed its planned IPO (initial public offering) on the Paris Stock Exchange due to difficult ‘market conditions’. MBW opined that the least of Deezer’s worries were competition from Apple Music and Spotify, a declining subscriber base and a currently loss making business model. In a timely article, George Chin looks how streaming has developed and the major players in the field – against of background of the success of streaming being blamed for declining physical product and download sales, but conversely offering a workable alternative to piracy to many consumers as habits change, and a valuable new source of revenues, at least for the record labels.   The latest Music 360 report from Nielsen (9th Sept 2015) confirms that sales of recorded music are down and that streaming is growing with 75% of the population (in the USA) listening to music online.  Given that there is now a wide choice of music streaming services available, the report reveals that when making a choice, over 80% of users cite cost and ease of use as their deciding factor…

Happy Halloween – Physical formats are back from the dead
Copyright / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   By Leeza Panayiotou LLB(Hons)   There is a terrible monster of which many speak. They say this monster is worse than anything that went before. They say it never sleeps and has left nothing but ruin and destruction in its wake. They speak of the empires it has crushed and the things it has murdered with fear in their eyes.   This monster’s name? The internet. Plenty of people have gravely accused the internet of slowing murdering the music industry. And while one of those people was Kanye West, that view point was so well regarded that for a time, it was heralded as something of a prophecy – the music industry would soon be dead and physical formats would be the first to go. This then morphed into the view that, excluding piracy (as pirates don’t pay anyway), digital consumption would come in and obliterate physical sales. So many people pronounced physical formats dead at the scene of the Spotify app. Much like their predecessors of new consumption formats/methods (think Cassettes, CD’s and mini-discs), streaming and digital downloads were blamed for more stuff than I have the time to write about. The physical doomsday envisioned a vinyl, cassette…

Jay Z prevails in ‘Big Pimpin’ – a case which was never as simple as it looked

COPYRIGHT / MORAL RIGHTS / CONTRACT Music publishing     Attorneys for Jay Z have told a U.S court in Los Angeles that the rapper had properly acquired the rights to an Egyptian musician’s melody to use for his hit 1999 song “Big Pimpin’,” as a trial in a longstanding copyright lawsuit Jay Z (Shawn Carter and hip hop producer Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley are among the defendants named in a 2007 complaint by the nephew of late Egyptian songwriter Baligh Hamdy, who argue that the rapper had used his uncle’s composition from the 1950s without permission. Jay Z’s lawyer Andrew Bart argued that the explicit lyrics of “Big Pimpin’” should not be discussed in relation to the lawsuit, as a depiction of the words as “vulgar” and “disgusting” could prejudice the jury against Jay Z, a move supported by U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder who ruled that examining Jay Z’s lyrics would be irrelevant in this case, although Attorney Peter Ross, representing Hamdy’s nephew Osama Ahmed Fahmy, told the eight-member jury that the defendants had purposefully avoided asking permission to use Hamdy’s track because they allegedly knew it wouldn’t be granted given the risqué lyrics. Timbaland used Hamdy’s 1957 Egyptian tune…

Deadmau5 looks to trap ‘unauthorised’ remixes
Artists , Copyright , Moral Rights , Trade Mark / November 2015

COPYRIGHT / TRADE MARK / MORAL RIGHTS Artist, recorded music     Deadmau5 has launched a legal action in Ontario, Canada, against his former business associates over allegations that her company has released remixes of his early work without the required prior written permissions. The Hollywood Reporter says that  a decade ago DeadMau5 (Joel Zimmerman) had worked with Canadian label Play Records at the beginning of his career. Initially he created remixes for the company, and later signed publishing and management agreements with the firm and its co-founder Melleny Brown (also known as Melleny Melody or Melleefresh). After relocating to London in 2007, Zimmerman switched his management contract, and negotiated the ending of his contracts with Brown. That deal saw Zimmerman pay a sum of money to Play Records, and he also assigned ownership of some of his early songs and recordings to the company. However, that deal seemingly provided that any future remixes of those tracks could not be released without his “prior written consent”. Zimmerman now claims that Play has released new remixes of his early work without his OK, and has plans for more releases, breaching his contact rights, as well as infringing his trademarks and moral…

The Dancing Baby grooves on
Copyright , Internet / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, internet     The ‘Dancing Baby’ case is not over – with BOTH sides aiming for a rehearing: Whilst at the time of the appellate court’s judgement, the EFF called it “an important win for fair use,” now both the EFF (which is representing the plaintiff, Stephanie Lenz, who filmed her then toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” ) and Universal Music Corp. have requested an en banc rehearing from the Ninth Circuit. It seems the EFF are looking to streng the case for ‘fair use’ by breathing new life in section 512(f), which allows the targets of illegitimate takedowns to sue the people who sent the invalid notices – potentially arguing that on the facts of this case, Universal could not possibly have acted in ‘good faith’ when issuing a DMCA takedown’ notice  The Universal petition claims that Lenz had no standing for an appeal in the first place because she was not injured by the takedown. UMG will also ask the court to clarify some of the language in the opinion.   And have a look at this excellent article by Serona Elton on the Music Business Journal here http://www.thembj.org/2015/10/the-fair-use-check/

Pandora settles pre-1972 claim – but CBS fights on
Copyright / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Sound recordings     An Illinois couple who own several recording companies specializing in doo-wop, jazz, and rhythm and blues have filed law suit against the major satellite and Internet radio companies in the US over their playing of pre-1972 songs. Following on from the actions from Flo & Eddie of the Turtles and and RIAA, it’s the third lawsuit that seeks to obtain payment for use of sound recordings under state copyright laws. Arthur and Barbara Sheridan filed two lawsuits in New Jersey federal court: one against Pandora and Sirius XM (PDF) and another against iHeartMedia (PDF), the parent company of online music service iHeartRadio. Their lawsuits seek class action status, looking to represent owners of pre-1972 songs. The action says that the companies have derived “significant benefits,” including “millions of dollars in annual revenue,” by playing those songs without permission, the suit alleges. In an action brought by ABS Entertainment, which owns the recordings of Al Green, among others, terrestrial radio broadcaster CBS has argued that not only does state law not apply to their use – a matter the recorded music industry had until recently accepted this interpretation of the law – CBS also says that as it only plays…

Janet Jackson legal blitz shocks fans – and prompts an apology
Artists , Contract , Copyright , Live Events / November 2015

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Artiste, live events sector     Janet Jackson’s fans have accused the singer and her team of some heavy handed tactics after they posted pictures and short video clips of her current “Unbreakable” tour on their Instagram feeds. Numerous fans have claimed that after posting pics of Jackson live in concert, they’ve received e-mails from the social-media app explaining: “a third party reported that the content violates their copyright.” One Jackson concert-goer in Los Angeles told Page Six that the morning after the concert, her Instagram account was deleted, “Without warning. Every. Single. Photo. Gone.” Another blogger reported the same issue, claiming they had, “five e-mails from Instagram . . . about the five videos I had posted . . . It seems like Miss Jackson’s [legal] team is on fire. What a shame they don’t understand the times we live in.” Jackson’s team is said to be very ‘struct’ – accredited photographers are given just 30 seconds to catch images at her concerts at the beginning of her set.   A representative for  Instagram blamed the issue on “a bug.” “We have identified a bug that resulted in the removal of accounts that shouldn’t have been removed” adding in a statement “We…

Aurous and Sampson face record label fury – and seemingly surrender
Copyright / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Sound recordings   The RIAA – on behalf of UMG, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Bros. Records, Atlantic and Capitol Records – has filed a lawsuit against Aurous and its founder Andrew Sampson for what it calls “wilful and egregious copyright infringement”. It appears the recorded music sector’s trade body will look to shut down the site using injunctive relief, and seek actual or statutory damages. We first noted Aurous on the 1709 blog back in September. The trade group said in a statement: “This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale. Like Grokster, Limewire or Grooveshark, it is neither licensed nor legal. We will not allow such a service to wilfully trample the rights of music creators”.   An injunction then followed on Thursday (15.10.15) ordering Aurous founder Andrew Sampson to halt further distribution of the app. The injunction is a “temporary restraining order”, and shortly after receiving it Sampson announced on Twitter that “Aurous downloads have been suspended until further notice” and he appointed a legal team. This in turn was followed by news that Aurous had seemingly released the ‘back-end’ source code to the app on Github, announcing on…

Santa Clause copyright comes home to Fred Coot’s heirs
Copyright , Music Publishing / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Music publishing     “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” is back into the hands of the heirs of a songwriter who composed it.  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that rights to the classic yulertide ditty – the all-time most performed holiday song – will revert to the heirs of J. Fred Coots – his daughter Gloria and his six grandchildren. Coots, who died in 1985, co-wrote the song with James Lamont “Haven” Gillespiein in 1934, and made a deal with Leo Feist, who ran a music publishing company that was eventually acquired by EMI.  In 1976, the U.S. Congress allowed authors or their heirs to terminate copyright grants to publishers after 35 years. Coot’s heirs sued EMI Feist Catalog Inc. in the Southern District in 2012, claiming entitlement to re-establish their share of publishing copyright ownership in December 2016. However, Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that EMI Feist (NYLJ, Dec. 19, 2013) could hold the rights until 2029. EMI Feist is an arm of the London-based music company EMI Group. During the long history of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, Coots’ family and EMI’s predecessors made various agreements with each other. In particular, Coots granted renewal…

Ray Charles’ wishes may yet be honoured
Copyright , Music Publishing / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court’s dismissal of a suit brought by the sole beneficiary of the Ray Charles estate, the Ray Charles Foundation, concluding that the Foundation had standing to challenge Charles’s heirs in their attempt to reclaim several copyrights to the late singer’s works because the Foundation’s right to royalties from such works would be affected. Ray Charles Foundation v. Robinson et al., Case No. 13-55421 (9th Cir. July 31, 2015) (Christen, J.). The case in question was initiated in 2012 by the Ray Charles Foundation against 7 of the musician’s 12 children, to block their attempted terminations of copyrights under §§ 203 and 304(c) of the Copyright Act in 51 of Charles’ songs, including “I Got A Woman” and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So.” to get the return of the copyrights. The charitable Foundation was Charles’ sole heir and received the entirety of his estate, including the rights to receive royalties for his songs.  Charles’ children each got a trust worth $500,000 apiece shortly before his death and were required to sign written contracts effectively waiving their rights to any other inheritance. Regular readers will recall the termination right…

Jersey Boys case heads for a thin trial
Copyright / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Book publishing, theatre     According to The Hollywood Reporter, a judge has now partially denied a summary judgment motion in the trial in which The Four Seasons members Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio must defend themselves against allegations that the Tony Award winning smash hit musical Jersey Boys infringes an author’s copyright. Rex Woodard was the co-author of a biography of Four Seasons member Thomas Gaetano DeVito, jointly created with the musician, and based on a series of interviews and discussions between the pair over a number of years which revealed  that the wholesome foursome had actually been engaged in “criminal enterprises” and had “underworld contacts”.  The pair agreed to be co-authors and share in any profits. Woodard died of lung cancer in 1991 and subsequently DeVito registered the Work at the US Copyright Office, in his name alone. He subsequently granted defendants Frankie Valli and Robert Gaudio (also both Four Season’s members) an irrevocable, exclusive, perpetual, worldwide and assignable licence to freely use the Work and Gaudio and Valli further sub-licensed these rights, which allowed the Work to subsequently form the basis for the screenplay of the hugely successful ‘Jersey Boys’ musical. After the play was first staged in…

US Judge not happy with Malibu Media’s “fishing expedition” – and neither are Verizon
Copyright , Internet / November 2015

COPYRIGHT Internet   Porn producer Malibu Media, which has filed more than 4,000 copyright lawsuits since 2009 — several times more than any other company — is currently trying to compel Verizon to reveal the identities of Internet users Malibu believes are illegally sharing its movies. But lawyers for the telecom company  have told a court that they’ve had enough of Malibu’s “defective” and “unenforceable” subpoenas. As TechDirt rightly tells us that the giant telco has a history of protecting its users against so called “copyright trolling” and other forms of attacks: Verizon led the way in fighting back against the RIAA when it started demanding ISPs hand over information on customers before any lawsuits were filed. Verizon won. FightCopyrightTrolls details the case before Judge Katherine Forrest where Malbu were trying to ascertain the identity of a ‘John Doe’ defendant: Malibu’s counsel propounded a morass of irrelevant questions concerning, inter alia, Doe’s educational background (including factual and technical details about the courses Doe studied), the identity and location of Doe’s family members, the identity and location of Doe’s employers years before the relevant period herein (including factual and technical details about Doe’s job roles and responsibilities), the location of Doe’s residences years before the relevant…

AC/DC’s Rudd loses appeal
Artists , Criminal Law / November 2015

CRIMINAL Artistes     Former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has lost an appeal against his sentence after being convicted of both threatening to kill and drug possession earlier this year. He was sentenced to eight months under house arrest and a fine of NZ$120,000 (approx £50,000) but had argued that the sentence was “manifestly excessive” not least as it could prevent him from rejoining AC/DC – both because the band were already touring and he could not join the and te conviction could cause issues getting visas. His lawyer Craig Tuck, said his client was basically only guilty of making an angry phone call to an employee following the commercial failure of his 2014 debut solo album Head Job. However the New Zealand High Court noted that, despite Rudd’s desire to work with the band again, there was no sign that his former bandmates felt the same. Justice Raynor Asher told the court: “First, the band would have to want him to play with them. Second, the convictions would have to operate as a barrier to him travelling with them on tour. Neither are certain. [And] it is far from clear that at the time when the offending took place there was…

Blinkbox employees seek recompense after dismissal
Employment Law , Internet / November 2015

EMPLOYMENT Internet   A group of 80 former employees of the defunct Blinkbox music service have launched a £10m class action lawsuit against the company that acquired it from Tesco for damages claiming redundancy pay outs were not honoured. The claim is against Guvera Ltd and two of its UK-based subsidiaries, who purchased the music service from Tesco in January 2015. The lawsuit, issued through the UK Employment Tribunal, seeks damages following the dismissal of the entire workforce shortly after this acquisition. Blinkbox Music Ltd fell into administration in June, owing licensing debts to major record companies. The group of workers claim they were given written assurance from both Tesco and Guvera that they would receive redundancy payments if cutbacks were required. The lawsuit argues that the Blinkbox music service was taken from solvency (with a reported £3.5 million in the bank) to insolvency within 5 months following its sales to Guvera. The Guardian quotes  Paul Jennings, a partner at City law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite representing the former employees., who saud that 100 staff were dismissed without any warning and without any notice or redundancy payments saying “[Also] at the heart of this case is the data of 2 million to 3 million users of the…

Hendrix Estate seeks to reclaim ‘stolen’ Black Widow guitar
Artists , Contract / November 2015

CONTRACT Artistes     The estate of Jimi Hendrix is suing an Arizona guitar shop owner for the return of a guitar once owned by the rocker, claiming it was stolen by an erstwhile member of the group Earth, Wind & Fire. When Hendrix died in 1970 his effects – including the disputed guitar, which may or may not have been played b Jimi  – went to his father, James “Al” Hendrix, who formed Experience Hendrix in 1995 and died seven years later, leaving the guitarist’s adopted sister Janie in control of the estimated $80m estate. According to a court filing, Experience Hendrix, the company responsible for Hendrix’s estate, alleges that Harvey Moltz, the owner of Rainbow Guitars in Tucson, is not the rightful owner of the Acoustic Black Widow guitar as  the Black Widow was in fact stolen by Sheldon Reynolds, a sometime singer and guitarist for Earth, Wind & Fire, who is also a former member of The Commodores – and a former husband of Janie. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Mr Moltz says he bought the instrument for $80,000 (£52,000) in June 2014 from Brian Patterson, who in turn acquired the instrument from Sheldon Reynolds;  Moltz says…

The UK’s secondary ticketing market is in the news again
Consumers , Contract , Live Events / November 2015

CONSUMER / CONTRACT Live Events Sector     Secondary ticketing was again in the news, firstly with the announcement by the UK government’s Department Of Culture, Media & Sport that Professor Michael Waterson will lead the review of the secondary ticketing market which follows from the recently enacted Consumer Rights Act – after MPs Mike Weatherley and Sharon Hodgson managed to ensure that some (but not all) of their concerns regarding the secondary ticketing market were enshrined in the Act – although one key proposal – that people reselling tickets online must publish their identity, was not included. That information would have allowed anti-touting promoters to more easily cancel tickets being touted as they appear on resale sites. The new legislation did provide for a review of consumer protection measures in the secondary ticketing domain, including making it compulsory to display the face value of the tickets being sold, and information on the seating area, and any restrictions that apply. Prof Waterson, specialises in industrial economics, including the economics of retail will chair the review. Interested parties have been invited to submit evidence by 20 Nov. Speaking at the time the legislation was finalised, Conservative Peer Colin Moynihan, a former sports minister, said:…

UK consumers gain protection for digital purchases
Consumers , Contract , Live Events / November 2015

CONTRACT / CONSUMER LAW Live events sector   “UK Shoppers know your rights: 30-day refund becomes law and includes digital purchases” Digital products from retailers such as Spotify and Apple’s iTunes are now covered by the newly revised Consumer Rights Act in the *United Kingdom, which introduces specific rules to protect online shoppers, including those of music and app download stores and streaming services.  Among the revised rules is users’ right to demand a replacement for faulty digital content such as films, games, apps, music and eBooks purchased. Another provision of the Act is that digital retailers will be required to offer financial compensation if users download a virus or their device becomes corrupted as a consequence of accessing a service. Consumers will also be able to challenge unfair terms and conditions or legal loopholes hidden in the small print, while all digital goods sold must be fit for purpose and “free from minor defects.” Business Minister Nick Boles said in a statement”Whether it’s downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the Consumer Rights Act makes it easier to understand your rights” adding “These changes will also simplify the law for businesses so they can spend less time worrying about unclear and unwieldy…

Fredericksburg to review outdoors noise limits
Licensing , Live Events / November 2015

LICENSING Live events sector     Fredericksburg, just west of Austin, is a weekend destination for many Texans with the country music hotspot of Luckenbach just a short drive away. But now it seems that one of the most inviting pieces of the Fredericksburg experience – live outdoor music – could be in danger. According to reports from a city council meeting, amplified outdoor music could soon be a thing of the past. It seems that complaints to city council members from residents and bed-and-breakfast owners near the town’s Main Street area have been mounting. City Manager Kent Myers said in a statement that no votes were taken at the meeting and no decisions were made, but the town’s police chief was expected to present some findings on sound complaints in the area by the end of the year. A sound ordinance is already in place in Fredericksburg. Currently outdoor amplified music is subject to nightly 11 p.m. curfew. It seems that everything is up for debate: Reports say that it’s possible that decibel level limits may be reduced or enforced, or that venues might need to change the arrangement of outdoor speakers. But outdoor events might be more seriously…