Harlem Shakes up two sampling claims, RZA fights back against another claim, and Frank Ocean “Lost” at sea!

COPYRIGHT Record labels, music publishers   The ‘Harlem Shake’ internet phenomenon has prompted two separate artists to come forward, each claiming ownership of one of the two phrases that appear in the now much used and much reversioned Baauer track. With the track now earning substantial sums from YouTube plays, not to mention more conventional download monies on the back of the ‘Harlem Shake’ video craze, retired reggaeton artist Hector Delgado has come forward to claim ownership of the repeated “con los terroristas” line that appears in the track, while Philadelphia rapper Jayson Musson says he is behind the “do the Harlem Shake” moment. Musson, who originally said “do the Harlem Shake” in a 2001 track called ‘Miller Time’, released by the group Plastic Little, says he has been in “friendly talks” with Diplo-led label Mad Decent, which released ‘Harlem Shake’, about getting a cut of income now that the track is bringing in substantial royalties. Having apparently called Baauer, real name Harry Rodrigues, to thank him for “doing something useful with our annoying music”, Musson said that “Mad Decent have been more than cooperative during this”. Delgado, now a preacher, who was previously also known as Hector “El Bambino” and…

Retitling of songs means millions missing in unreported artist royalties

COPYRIGHT Artists, record labels, music publishing   A new report, the “State of the Music Licensing Industry: 2013” provides evidence that shows an increasingly problematic music licensing landscape for recording artists, labels and publishers and highlights that whilst the music licensing industry continues to grow as a multi-billion dollar segment of the global music industry, there remains some unhealthy practices, most notably the prolific practice of retitling. Retitling is where a music licensing company re-registers a song under a different title with a performing rights organization (PRO), allowing for the royalties to be separately tracked when that song is licensed for a specific third party use. This allows the music licensing company to control and earn a significant share of the royalties collected. The report states that 40% of music licensing companies retitle works for a share in royalties garnered from “sync” placements. “The practice of retitling is considered unhealthy for artists and for the music licensing industry. It can be very problematic, as one piece of music with many titles is confusing and can lead to multiple parties claiming ownership of the same work and ultimately artists not receiving royalties owed, if at all” said Winston Giles, CEO and…

Pirate Bay human rights appeal fails

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels, music publishing   Two of the founders of the Pirate Bay have failed in what I presume is their final appeal against their convictions for copyright infringement in the Swedish criminal courts, with the European Court of Human Rights finding that Sweden had rightly convicted the pair. Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde were sentenced to one year imprisonment by the Stockholm District Court in April 2009 for crimes against the Copyright Act. Together with two other defendants they were also found liable for damages of approximately K30 million (US$4.3 million). Their prison sentences were reduced in November 2010 by the Svea Court of Appeal, but the joint damages were increased by that court to K46 million (US6.8 million). The Swedish Supreme Court denied them an appeal hearing in February 2012. Neij and Sunde complained that their convictions infringed their freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention in Human Rights and that as their website facilitated the exchange of information, they could not be held liable for their user’s infringing acts. The ECHR had to balance Article 10 – the freedom of expression (even if such included material that infringed copyright) with the legitimate…

Is Universal Publishing’s exit from collective licensing a step backwards for music industry ‘one stop’ aspirations?

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, recorded music sector, internet   The one question I always get asked by young entrepreneurs setting out to create legitimate digital offerings in the digital music space is where do they go to get licences to use music, and make payments? Well, there is no easy answer. In 2012 Daniel Ek, the creator of Spotify, pointed out that the European Union alone had 27 different  music collection societies for songs – and a similar number for sound recordings as well as the the four major labels dealing directly  for digital rights: Ek said the service’s U.S. debut was then still a few months off as Spotify worked through a maze of licensing issues with publishers, labels and collection societies, saying that to create a new above-board music platform in America under current copyright law required big reserves of money, lawyers and perseverance. And that’s just America! At the time Johanna Shelton, senior policy counsel for Google Inc said “The Internet is a simple distribution platform … [but] we’ve made things unnecessarily complex,” noting that calls for a music rights organisation, a one-stop shop to deal with all licensing issues, had gone unheeded. But we all now know…

Vimeo face fresh claim from EMI post Viacom v YouTube
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / February 2013

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels   Headed up by EMI, The US recorded music  industry has filed court papers asking for a summary judgement in their favour regarding a long-running copyright dispute with video website Vimeo. The action, which dates back to 2009, what put on hold pending the outcome of Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube, which tested the ‘safe harbour’ defence available to websites under the US’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Websites like Vimeo and YouTube, which allow users to directly upload content, argue that as they operate takedown systems, removing unlicensed content if made aware of infringement by copyright owners, they have the protection of the ‘safe harbour’ defence against infringement actions.  As ever, it’s a balancing act, and many content owners argue that safe harbour favours website operators and services such as YouTube, and that many websites don’t do enough – and could do a lot more – to remove infringing material from their sites – or even block it ever being loaded up in the first place – and that a system based on “ takedowns” is not enough in the developing digital age. At first instance US District Judge Louis L Stanton granted summary judgement to YouTube…

Term extension too late for Love Me Do
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / February 2013

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artistes   Two independent labels have released versions of the Beatles’ track ‘Love Me Do‘ and it’s B side ‘PS I Love You‘ which officially fell out of copyright on 31 December 2012 (after fifty years) against the backdrop of the sound recording copyright term being extended in Europe to a term of seventy years. The term extension was agreed at a European level after a change of heart by the UK government and extensive lobbying by the recorded music industry. For the UK record industry, there was an real urgency, as it’s catalogue of mid-1960s recordings, including key Beatles and Rolling Stones releases, were approaching the end of their 50 year term. The extension, which was dubbed the Cliff Richard extension because an increasing number of the Peter Pan of Pop’s recordings would enter the public domain, was also helped by stories of ageing session musicians who might still earn royalties from the 1960s hits they were involved in, thanks to a rule that says any recording artists involved in a recording are due a cut of public performance royalties via collecting society PPL, despite past recording agreements with the record labels who released and usually…

The Pirate Bay and The Pirate Party face actions in Eire and the UK
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / January 2013

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   Efforts by the Irish record industry to force internet service providers in the country to block access to The Pirate Bay have reached the Commercial Court in Dublin. The Irish Recorded Music Association has launched proceedings against net firms UPC, Imagine, Vodafone, Digiweb and Hutchison 3G seeking a web-block injunction forcing the named ISPs to stop their customers from accessing the controversial file-sharing websites. In the UK, the BPI has threatened to pursue legal action against five members of the national executive of the Pirate Party and its head of IT over the proxy link it operates providing easy access to The Pirate Bay. The BPI wrote to Pirate Party Leader Loz Kaye last month asking that he stop operating the TPB proxy.  After an initial refusal, the record label trade body is preparing to issue proceedings. The move promoted the Pirate Party to disable the proxy. The Pirate Party have also pulled their legal battle fundraiser campaign. http://torrentfreak.com/pirate-party-shuts-down-pirate-bay-proxy-after-legal-threats-121219/

Article Link: Making Cents
Artists , Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / January 2013

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels, artistes   Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi breaks down the meagre royalties currently being paid out to bands by streaming services and explains what the music business’ headlong quest for capital means for artists today: “Since we own our own recordings, by my calculation it would take songwriting royalties for roughly 312,000 plays on Pandora to earn us the profit of one–one— LP sale. (On Spotify, one LP is equivalent to 47,680 plays.) “, This is a fascinating expose and highlights Spotify’s dash for growth which benefits the shareholders in Spotify, but questions if musicians will ever benefit under business models divorced from music itself. http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/8993-the-cloud/

Universal settle with FBT over digital royalties dispute
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / December 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artists   I am slightly disappointed to report that FBT, early producers of Eminen, have settled their dispute with Universal over the rate at which royalties should be paid on digital product, having successfully argued on appeal in the US courts (Ninth Circuit) that a bigger share of revenues applied to digital sales – a share of licensing revenues rather than the ‘per unit’ royalty applied to physical sales. The Supreme Court refused to hear UMG’s appeal. The case will spare UMG having to reveal what royalty rates it will pay FBT, aka The Bass brothers,  and as importantly will save UMG having to reveal what royalty reducers it applies to international royalties before any royalty calculation is made. FBT had planned to challenge how Universal deals with international revenues, and the tendency for substantial portions of revenues to stay with local Universal divisions, so that UMG only has to pay the artist a share of the 29% of total revenue that ends up with the US division to which Eminem and FBT have their direct deal. Again the producers planned to argue that this was unfair in the digital age, where the cost to the record…

50 cent says plaintiff has no right to claim in sampling case

COPYRIGHT Record labels, music publishing   50 Cent has argued that the claimant bringing a sampling case against him over the use of 70s Persuaders hit “Love Gonna Pack Up and Walk Out” on 50 cent’s track “Redrum” doesn’t own song he recently sampled – saying Robert Poindexter doesn’t own the rights to the allegedly-stolen song because he signed them over to Warner Music Group awhile ago … therefore he can’t sue. http://worldswagg.com/50-cent-says-that-copyright-lawsuit-is-bull-sht/

Brazil blocks EMI mergers

COMPETITION Recorded music, music publishing   Both Sony/ATV and Universal have been told by the Brazilian competition regulator that they could not merge the respective EMI publishing and recorded music  businesses with their existing companies in Brazil. This is a more difficult position that both majors face in Europe where divestments had been agreed. US regulators did not set any hurdles for the two mergers, seemingly relying on the EC measures. In one of his first interviews since acquiring the EMI record companies, Universal chief Lucian Grainge said he planned to launch EMI’s American label brand Capitol in the UK, the mega-major having been forced to sell off EMI’s UK-based Parlophone brand by European regulators.

Indie woe as more VAT loopholes spring up

TAXATION Recorded music, retail   It seems the UK government’s plans to stem the sale of VAT free CDs and DVDs in the UK faces a new challenge. With the Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) tax dodge loophole used by online retailers based in the Channel Islands having been closed, the Guardian revealed that The Hut was now using a warehouse in Chicago, seemingly to benefit from the tax relief that occurs when low-cost goods are sold from outside the EU into the UK. It means The Hut does not need to charge VAT on CDs or DVDs, giving it a 20% advantage over mainland sellers. One of the lobby groups that campaigned against LVCR abuse has now said that some operators are finding other ways of avoiding paying tax, but predicted that most alternative methods would be stopped by the authorities in due course too.  Independent retailers argue that the exploitation of LVCR by a small number of big mail-order firms, plus HMV and the supermarkets, helped contribute to the demise of many indie record sellers, who couldn’t compete on the high street, or transform their brands into successful mail-order businesses, because their offshore competitors had such a big…

Another spin at copyright law is needed
Copyright , Record Labels / November 2012

COPYRIGHT All areas, record labels ARTICLE LINK:     Any article which has this quote from former RIAA President Hilary Rosen “Neither I nor anyone at the RIAA has ever claimed … that we represent artists” deserves attention – and this piece looks at the judgements against US file sharers Jammie Tnomas-Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum ($222,000 and $675,000 respectively).  By Drew Hamre http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/172901791.html

EMI v Re-Digi begins
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / November 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   A Manhattan court has begun hearing the legal challenge to the right to sell digital music files as “used” goods. The case centres on how copyright law for physical goods applies to digital products. EMI has brought the case against ReDigi, a site that allows users who’ve legally purchased music in digital form to sell it on to somebody else. Users can only sell songs they’ve bought from iTunes or ReDigi itself: they can’t sell tracks they have ripped from a CD. Re-Digi claims the service must be legal because of the US ‘first sale’ doctrine. The major labels disagree. They argue that the first-sale doctrine only applies to physical music products, saying that when a CD changes hands no actual mechanical copy is made of the songs or recordings contained on the disk, whereas when an MP3 is transferred from one PC to another a copy does take place. EMI’s attorney Richard Mandel said: “You are selling and distributing recordings. In order to do that, you have to make a copy and that is a violation of the reproduction right of the Copyright Act”. But Gary Adelman, representing ReDigi, countered: “There is no copy…

Pandora boss details streaming payments

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels, music publishers   Tim Westergren, the boss of US-based interactive radio service Pandora, has revealed how much certain artists are earning from their play on his service – or rather how much they are paying. Whether or not artistes have seen any or much of the money as yet remains to be seen. Westergren said that “For over two thousand artists Pandora will pay over $10,000 dollars each over the next twelve months  and for more than 800 we’ll pay over $50,000” and noted that with some specific recording like Coldplay, Adele, Wiz Khalifa and Jason Aldean Pandora is already paying over $1 million each and  that payments for Drake and Lil Wayne are fast approaching a $3 million” annually. Pandora licences all of its rights via collective licensing organisations (in the US, ASCAP and BMI for the music rights and SoundExchange for the recordings) rather than labels and publishers direct. Westergren said “It’s hard to look at these numbers and not see that internet radio presents an incredible opportunity to build a better future for artists. Not only is it bringing tens of millions of listeners back to music, across hundreds of genres, but it…

Warners face fine for violating young fans’ privacy
Internet , Privacy , Record Labels / November 2012

PRIVACY Internet, record labels   The Federal Trade Commission is proposing to issue a civil penalty against a unit of Warner Music Group Corp. The penalty will cost the major $1 million for violating a child privacy law in the operation of fan websites for artists including Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Rihanna – the websites were actually run by subsidiary Artist Arena. Commissioner Edith Ramirez revealed the proposed settlement in a speech in New York on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, a self-regulatory group for the advertising industry. A judge will need to confirm the settlement. Artist Arena still run the BieberFever website. “BieberFever.com got off to a bad start … and things got worse from there,” Ramirez said in prepared remarks. The site required visitors to input birthdates and other personal information, and required visitors under 13 to submit a parent’s email address for confirmation, according to a complaint filed  in U.S. District Court in New York, where Warner Music Group is based. But after a month of operation, it let underage visitors register and pay for membership without sending an email to the child’s parents, the complaint said. The actions violated the…

Terra Firma ask for EMI re-hearing
Business , Record Labels / November 2012

BUSINESS Record labels   Lawyers for private equity group Terra Firma have asked a US appeals court to order a new trial in its client’s legal squabble with US bank Citigroup over it’s 2007 purchase of EMI. The $6.3 billion deal eventually went sour with Citi taking back control of EMI and selling on in two parts to Sony Music and Universal leaving Terra Firma with a massive loss.  Citi not only provided loan funding for Terra Firma’s acquisition of EMI acquisition, but then advised on it too, and it was that advice over which Terra Firma boss Guy Hands subsequently sued the bank. And lost. Meanwhile BMG, Warners and a consortium headed up by Simon Fuller including a major telecoms company all appear to be in the frame to buy divested EMI assets including the Parlophone label. Other assets which must be divested under EC approvals include the Chrysalis, Ensign and Mute labels and the EMI and Virgin Classics labels, its share in Now That’s What I Call Music business as well as Universal’s Sanctuary, King Island and Co-op Music labels. http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/10/04/terra-firma-asks-for-new-trial-lawsuit-against-citigroup-over-emi-buy/

South Africa: Broadcasters (Needle) Time To Pay Has Come
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / October 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, performers, broadcasting ARTICLE LINK   “Life can be terribly complex. Take music copyright for example. A composer writes a song and the song enjoys protection under the Copyright Act as a ‘musical work‘, with the songwriter owning that copyright. A performer (who could also be the song writer) then goes to a recording studio and makes a recording of that song. The recording enjoys separate protection as a ‘sound recording‘, with that copyright belonging to the record company.   So two different copyrights – copyright in the musical work which belongs to the composer, and copyright in the sound recording which belongs to the record company.  And, on top of that, the performer who performed the song when it was recorded enjoys a so-called ‘performer’s right‘, something that was created by a piece of legislation called the Performers’ Protection Act.” This useful and practical article by Rachel Sikwane explains how the Copyright Act applies in South Africa and how the Copyright Tribunal has assessed how a ‘needletime’ royalty formula will apply: Broadcasters will pay royalties on 7% of their net income, and the amount will be calculated with reference to the amount of music played by the station…

Two more acts sue for digital royalty boost
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / October 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artists   Boz Scaggs and REO Speedwagon have joined the ever growing list of artistes, many well established, who have filed digital royalty lawsuits against the  major bales for a bigger cut of digital revenue. The defendant in both suits is Sony.  FBT Productions have already won a court case against Universal to get a bigger share of digital royalties from ‘Eminen’ recordings they worked on, and Cheap Trick, the Allman Brothers and a number of other artistes have settled a case with Sony. Cases from Rob Zombie, Whitesnake, Toto, Weird Al janKovic, Dixie Chicks, Chuck D, George Clinton, Peter Frampton, Sister Sledge, Rick James’s estate, Kenny Rogers and James Taylor are pending. More on royalties and these claims at http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=4941

Competition regulation in the news
Competition , Record Labels / October 2012

COMPETITION Broadcasting, record labels   Charlie Allen, Chairman of Global Radio, has hit out at media rules in the UK which means that his radio company is having to face a competition investigation to get the OK for its bid to buy the radio stations owned by GMG Radio. Speaking to the London Evening Standard, Allen said that UK media ownership rules were out of date, adding that: “Why do you need to go through all this compliance and plurality for 12 small radio stations? Rather than letting companies get on and grow, we have this level of regulatory involvement for such a small deal”. http://www.thecmuwebsite.com/article/global-chairman-hits-out-at-uk-media-rules/

McGraw free of Curb
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / October 2012

CONTRACT Artistes, record labels   CMU Daily has reported that an appeals court in Nashville has upheld the 2011 court ruling that said that country star Tim McGraw had fulfilled his contractual obligations to his long-term label partners Curb Records, and was now free to work with other labels. At the centre of the litigation was whether McGraw’s album ‘Emotional Traffic’ fulfilled his contractual commitments to the label regards new recordings, whether he was due an advance on it, and whether he was now out of contract with the record company, with Curb saying that the songs on ‘Emotional Traffic’ were not sufficiently new and McGraw’s arguing that the new album was in line with his contract, and that he now considered himself to be a free agent label-wise after a twenty year relationship with Curb. A spokesperson for McGraw told Billboard that “the Court Of Appeals has affirmed the [original judge’s] ruling that Tim McGraw is now finished with being an artist on Curb Records. He’s now a Big Machine artist and he is no longer a Curb artist”. According to Billboard, Curb could still appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, though could not then proceed to the federal…

Grooveshark app back on Google
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / September 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels   Grooveshark’s Android app has reappeared in Google’s app store, over a year after it was evicted from the official Android app platform, seemingly because of pressure put on the web giant by the major music companies. Universal, Sony and Warners are currently suing Grooveshark for enabling copyright infringement. EMI is suing the service for non-payment of a promissory note, having previously licensed its material to the streaming service. Grooveshark insists it operates a takedown system in line with the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, so is fully legal http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2409040,00.asp

Why is digital music more expensive in Australia?
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / September 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   By Catherine Lee, writing for the IPKat Why is digital music more expensive in Australia? This question is currently being considered by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications. On 24 May 2012 the Committee resolved to inquire into IT price discrimination, following a request from the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy. The often given example is that the Apple iTunes store in the United States sells most albums at between US$9.99 and US$12.99, whereas in Australia those same albums are sold for AU$16.99 or higher. In recent times, under the currency exchange rates, the value of the US and Australian dollars has almost been equal. Eighty-one written submissions were received by the due date of 6 July 2012. The first public hearing was held in Sydney on 30 July 2012, with the following organisations were invited to make ora submissions: Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), Australian Publishers Association (APA), Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA), the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS), Choice (consumer group), the Australian Retail Association (ARA) and the Communications Alliance. Some of the more interesting comments were as follows: The AIIA, represented by Suzanne Chambers, suggested the…

IFPI welcomes closure of Demonoid
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / September 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels   IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, has welcomed the closure of the Demonoid bitTorrent service, which they say was a significant channel for the distribution of infringing content worldwide. IFPI made a number of complaints about the unlicensed service, which repeatedly infringed the rights of its member record companies.  In response, INTERPOL coordinated international efforts that saw the site closed down and its servers seized by police in Ukraine and a criminal investigation launched into its owners in Mexico resulting in a number of arrests and seizure of assets.  IFPI assisted INTERPOL, the Division of Economic Crimes (DEC) in the Ukrainian police and the investigative arm of the Attorney General of Mexico (PGR). “International police cooperation is the key to ensuring that the illegal activities of transnational organised criminals are stopped at every opportunity,” said John Newton head of  INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods Sub-Directorate. “ In this instance police forces on different sides of the world worked together with INTERPOL and the music industry to successfully disrupt the distribution chain for illicit digital music products.” www.ifpi.org

Take Your Music Back, Folks! (Copyright Law 1976)

COPYRIGHT Artistes, record labels, music publishing ARTICLE LINK: “Simply put, the Copyright Law of 1976 allows any songwriter, composer, arranger, or lyricist who assigned his or her work to a publisher from 1978 to the present to ask for his or her copyrights back 35 years after the work’s publication.  Add 35 to 1978, and you get 2013”. http://thyblackman.com/2012/08/14/take-your-music-back-folks-copyright-law-1976/

BPI takedown notice causes anger
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / September 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels   Commenting on the recent jailing of surfthechannel.com boss Anton Vickerman for four years in the Newcastle Crown Court, the IPKat makes the wise point that there is a degree of symmetry within the two camps which oppose each other in the battle between rights owners and those who campaign for liberalisation of copyright law.  Just as a small number of vindictive and heavy-handed actions by or on behalf of copyright owners forfeit considerable sympathy for the legitimate and reasoned case for copyright protection, and so too do the reckless and arrogant conduct of a few people distract attention from the serious case that is made for reducing that level of protection. A good example of a rather embarrassing own goal by content industries, here by the recorded music industry, was the DCMA takedown notice issued by the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) and Universal against a less than flattering REVIEW of the latest Drake album ‘Take Care’ – asking Google to remove the review and one other from it’s listings. The writer of the About.com review, Henry Adasom, accused Drake’s label Universal of ordering the takedown for ‘copyright infringement’ saying the notice “Makes absolutely no sense….

Tenenbaum damages upheld
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / September 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   The latest stage in the Joel Tenenbaum saga has resulted in another court loss for the self confessed file sharer after a federal appeals court upheld the award of damages of $675,000 previously made by a jury. Tenenbaum was accused of illegally downloading 31 songs from a file-sharing Web site and distributing them, and was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on behalf of the major record labels in the USA. US District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel rejected Tenenbaum’s request for a new jury trial, saying jurors had appropriately considered the evidence of Tenenbaum’s actions — downloading and distributing files for two years despite warnings — and the harm to the plaintiffs and noted that the penalty is at the low end of the range for wilful infringement and below the limit for even non wilful infringement, and thus was not excessive. Although having been previously refused a Supreme Court hearing, Tenenbaum’s attorney Charles Nesson said that he plans a further appeal. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57499519-38/court-affirms-$675000-penalty-in-music-downloading-case/

Def Leppard solve digital dispute with re-recording plan
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / August 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artistes   Def Leppard have announced plans to re-record their entire back catalogue because of an ongoing royalty dispute with their label of 30 years, Universal Music Group. Its more bad news for UMG who are seeking EU ad US regulatory approval to swallow up EMI’s recorded music division enabling the new group to control almost 50% of the global recorded music market. Along with the ongoing claim from Eminen producers FBT over digital royalties, Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott told Billboard that the English band were “at loggerheads” with Universal over royalty payments, especially compensation for digital downloads. “We just sent them a letter saying: ‘No matter what you want, you are going to get “no” as an answer, so don’t ask,” adding “That’s the way we’ve left it. We’ll just replace our back catalogue with brand new, exact same versions of what we did.” Def Leppard have already recorded fresh versions of Rock of Ages and Pour Some Sugar on Me, two of their biggest hits, to coincide with the release of the film Rock of Ages  starring Tom Cruise. Elliott admitted to Billboard that it was no easy task  to recapture the sound of decades past – the band formed in Sheffield in…

Italian fiscal police arrest website operator
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / August 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   The former operator of Italianshare.net, one of Italy’s largest unlicensed music services, has been arrested by the country’s fiscal police on suspicion of selling a database containing his users’ email and IP addresses. IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, has welcomed the move which highlights the illegal business models behind some well-known unlicensed music services. Italianshare.net and four affiliated websites were originally closed down in November 2011, following action by the Guardia di Finanza (GdF).   The authorities then investigated the ways in which the illegal businesses had generated revenue, leading to today’s arrest made by officers from the Tax Police Force of Agropoli. Investigators found that the operator had made an estimated €580,000 through a mixture of charging for advertising revenues, seeking donations from users and selling the database containing those users’ email and IP addresses to several advertisers. The operator of the site now faces charges of breaching data privacy, facilitating copyright infringement, forgery, fraud and tax  evasion.  It is believed he has avoided  €83,000 in VAT payments and created false invoices totalling an estimated €100,000 as part of a tax fraud.  He will also face heavy administrative fines for the distribution of copyrighted…

Clear Channel agree to pay for US sound recording rights
Copyright , Record Labels / July 2012

COPYRIGHT Radio, record labels Clear Channel, the biggest radio company in the US with 850 stations, has entered into a landmark agreement with country music label Big Machine which will see the broadcaster pay a royalty for the use of sound recordings on terrestrial radio channels for the first time. In the UK these royalties are collected for the performance of sound recordings in all media by Phonographic Performance Limited (“PPL”) and whilst newer media in the USA such as satellite, internet and digital radio attract a royalty (currently collected by SoundExchange), US copyright law does not recognise any right to collect payments from terrestrial stations. Terrestrial broadcasters do though have to pay the “PRS” royalty for the use of songs (usually by way of blanket licences with ASCAP and BMI). After pressure from the US Congress, a reluctant radio industry did start to negotiate a compromise with the record labels, but the talks collapsed. The broadcast lobby remains powerful in Washington although its clear some politicians are keen to introduce a system more favourable to record labels and recording artistes which would mirror the music publishing position. Big Machine, headed Scott Borchetta, have seemingly been able to use the…

Black Keys sue of use of songs in adverts

COPYRIGHT Artistes, music publishing, record labels The Black Keys have launched actions against both Pizza Hut and Home Depot, claiming the two companies have used their songs in adverts without permission. Pizza Hut and its ad agency are accused of using the song ‘Gold On The Ceiling’ without permission, while US DIY chain Home Depot is accused of using the band’s hit ‘Lonely Boy’. A lawyer for the Ohio duo say the two commercials were a “brazen and improper effort to capitalise on the plaintiffs’ hard-earned success”. They also claim that the band made both brands aware of the unlicensed use of their music last month, but as yet neither company has taken any action. http://the1709blog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/on-bold-infringement-or-unauthorised.html

Update on Universal-EMI
Competition , Record Labels / July 2012

COMPETITION Record labels   Universal’s proposed takeover of EMI’s recorded music division has had a congressional hearing with a public airing of the arguments for and against the acquisition in the USA – with music industry veterans Lucian Grainge, Roger Faxon and Irving Azoff speaking up for the UMG-EMI tie up and , Edgar Bronfman Jr and Martin Mills against along with  Gigi Sohn from American lobby group Public Knowledge. The congressional session took place on Thursday, 21 June and Grainge insisted that everyone would be a winner if and when the Universal and EMI labels unite, saying, according to the Financial Times: “Our coming together will benefit consumers, artists and all those committed to a diverse and healthy music business”. But Mills countered that the only people who would actually benefit would be Universal’s owners and management, who were, he claimed “monopolists” seeking market power. Edgar Bronfman Jr said that a combined Universal EMI would be “one innovation-stifling dominant player”. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/21/us-emi-universal-antitrust-idUSBRE85K0N020120621?feedType=RSS&feedName=innovationNews&rpc=43 and more here http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/record-labels/irving-azoff-disputes-bronfman-mills-testimony-1007407162.story

Universal’s royalty reducers in the spotlight
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / July 2012

CONTRACT Artistes, record labels Attempts by Universal Music Group’s lawyers to hide their royalty reducing practices from court scrutiny in the FBT (‘Eminen’) case have failed and indeed have provoked fairly forthright comment from the judge, Philip Gutierrez. UMG had argued that any royalty that had to be paid to FBT would be paid on a “net receipts” basis – but this was latterly challenged by FBT who had discovered that only about 29% of international revenue (here from the sale of Eminen recordings) actually returns to the major’s Aftermath division, with the other 71% being kept by the local Universal companies that actually sell the music: and 50% of 29% is a lot less than 50% of 100%. UMG felt that the Judge had accepted the “net receipts” basis but Judge  Gutierrez has made it clear he has not, saying in a written judgement that [a] he did not mean to make a ruling on this matter when asked for clarification on “our net receipts” last year, and [b] he doesn’t believe that FBT were aware that Universal intended for the international royalties issue to be resolved via that clarification either, because there would be no logic in them…

Rhyming & Stealing: Let’s honor late Beastie with better copyright laws

COPYRIGHT Artistes, record labels, music publishing ARTICLE LINK: Just as the sad death of the Beastie Boys’ Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch from cancer was announced, aged just 47, Tuf America, Inc announced a new lawsuit against the band and co-defendants Universal Music, Brooklyn Dust Music and Capitol Records. Tuf America  administers the rights to the recordings of Trouble Funk’s catalogue, including the group’s 1982 funk classics, “Drop the Bomb” and “Say What” and the federal lawsuit relates to two songs on the Beastie Boys’ debut album, ‘Licensed To Ill‘, and two more on the follow-up, ‘Paul’s Boutique’. The company claims that the group illegally sampled the two Trouble Funk songs. The 20 years delay in pursuing the litigation is partly linked to the fact Tuf America only gained control of the copyrights in Trouble Funk’s catalogue in 1999, the additional ten year wait “seemingly being down to the fact it’s only recently that the label noticed the alleged infringements”. The law suit doesn’t surprise Kembrew McLeod, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, and co-author, with economist and researcher Peter DiCola, of the book “Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling” who says  “‘Paul’s Boutique’ and other albums of that era are like…

MP3 Tunes files for bankruptcy
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / June 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels MP3tunes, the cloud locker music service that has been engaged in a long and costly lawsuit with EMI, has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in San Diego. In court papers, it listed $7,800 in assets and $2.1 million in liabilities. MP3tunes was founded by Michael Robertson, the web entrepreneur who in the 1990s was one of the first to turn digital music into a big business, with MP3.com. Last year, the Southern District of New York District Court held that the MP3tunes’ model did not violate copyright itself and was protected by the ‘safe harbour’ provisions of the DCMA – but the company, a number of executives and Mr. Robertson personally faced liability for individual songs uploaded without permission and for ‘contributory infringement’. EMI appealed the ruling, and hearings were scheduled to begin next week. In a statement, an EMI spokesman noted that despite the bankruptcy, Mr. Robertson was still a defendant in the case – a potentially damaging claim as EMI have alleged Robertson personally loaded infringing material onto the service. Robertson told C-Net: “Four and a half years of legal costs and we’re not even out of trial. MP3tunes has no choice but…

Supreme court refuses Tenenbaum appeal
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / June 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the Joel Tenenbaum case in a case brought by the Recording Industry Association Of America’s which resulted in a win for the RIAA and damages of  $675,000 awarded by the jury for illegally sharing 30 songs online. The damages were then reduced 90% by the trial judge Nancy Gertner on constitutional grounds but the appeals court subsequently criticised the judge’s process, and reinstated the $675,000 damages sum. Tenenbaum’s legal advisor Charles Nesson hoped to persuade the Supreme Court that his client’s damages were indeed unconstitutionally high and that Judge Gertner was correct when reducing the award. But the Supreme Court declined to hear Nesson’s arguments, meaning Team Tenenbaum will have to continue to fight the damages sum in the lower courts, which could involve several more hearings and appeals yet. Tenenbaum has said publicly that he (unsurprisingly) doesn’t have $675,000, and has previously suggested he’d have to bankrupt himself if that figure stood. http://articles.boston.com/2012-05-22/metro/31802695_1_copyright-joel-tenenbaum-downloading-music  and  http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/325282  

Queen’s manager harks back to the ‘old’ EMI
Competition , Record Labels / June 2012

COMPETITION Record labels Whilst numerous music industry players have hit out at Universal’s plans to buy the EMI record companies – including Warners’ former chief Edgar Bronfman, Beggars Banquet chief Martin Mills and legendary producer George Martin (alongside negative comments from AIM and IMPALA), Jim Beach, manager of Queen, a band signed for most of their career to an EMI label before moving over to Universal once Terra Firma acquired the British label, has written a letter to the Times seemingly supporting a merger that will give Universal something approaching 50% of the recorded music market saying “Today’s music business is very different to that of 40 years ago, when the band I represent, Queen, began its career with EMI Records. Then the company was a hugely influential creative force in the UK and overseas. It gave us extraordinary music across virtually every genre, and its artists shaped the tastes of more than one generation”, “But”, he continued, “the latter-day EMI Records under private equity proved to be a very different place. Investment was slashed to the detriment of the artists, Queen among them, and we were not alone in jumping ship. I look forward to when EMI Records will…

SiriusXM Files Antitrust Claims Against SoundExchange and A2IM

COMPETITION / COPYRIGHT Record labels, broadcasting In a curious move, Satellite and internet radio station Sirius XM Radio has filed a complaint against US collection society SoundExchange, Inc. and the American Association of Independent Music (“A2IM”) saying both organisations unlawfully interfered in SiriusXM’s efforts to secure, through a competitive market, the use of sound recordings critical to its business.  The complaint contends that the conduct violates federal antitrust, as well as New York state law, in particular violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act by interfering with the satellite channel’s efforts to obtain cheaper direct licenses that pay royalty rates of 5% to 7%, instead of the 8% statutory rate for master rights owners. SoundExchange is the non-profit performance rights organization that collects statutory royalties from satellite radio (such as SIRIUS XM), internet radio, cable TV music channels and similar platforms for streaming sound recordings.  The Copyright Royalty Board, which is appointed by The U.S. Library of Congress, has entrusted SoundExchange as the sole entity in the United States to collect and distribute these digital performance royalties on behalf of featured recording artists, master rights owners (like record labels), and independent artists who record and own their masters. SiriusXM is seeking injunctive relief to stop SoundExchange and…

Weird Al joins digital royalties battle

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artists CMU Daily reports that Weird Al’ Yankovic is the latest artist to enter the digital royalties dispute party in the US, in a wide ranging royalties lawsuit that accuses Sony Music of improper reporting of its costs, of failing to pass on any of the damages it won from file-sharing companies like Kazaa, and of paying him a record sale royalty on download sales when such revenues should be treated as licensing income. He joins Toto in the latest assault on the major, who had recently settled (subject to court approval) the 2006 lawsuit launched by The Allman Brothers, Cheap Trick, The Youngbloods and others which would see artists receive a 3% increase in their share of download revenue and a lump sum payment. Meanwhile EMI faces litigation on this issue from Kenny Rogers and early 80s new wave band called The Motels, led by singer Martha Davis; Warner Music from Sister Sledge and Tower Of Power; and Universal already have lost one case, brought by eminen producers FBT and face claims from Rob Zombie, Chuck D, David Coverdale (Whitesnake), Dave Mason (Traffic) and the estate of Rick James Whilst obviously (and perhaps unsurprisingly) less than…

Gooveshark faces more woes

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels There is more trouble ahead for Grooveshark the popular streaming service that in one way or another has run afoul of every major record label. EMI Music, the only major record label to license its music to Grooveshark, has now sued the company in New York State Supreme Court, saying that the service owes $300,000 plus interest for non-payment on a promissory note having paid $150,000 from the alleged $450,000 due. As a result, EMI says, it has terminated its licensing agreement with Grooveshark. In a statement, Grooveshark said: “Grooveshark was recently forced to make the difficult decision to part ways with EMI due to EMI’s currently unsustainable streaming rates and EMI’s pending merger with Universal Music Group, which we consider monopolistic and in violation of antitrust laws. To date, Grooveshark has paid over $2.6 million to EMI, but we have yet to find sustainable streaming rates.” Grooveshark has an estimated  35 million users, and argues that its service is legal under the terms of the Digital Copyright Millennium Act, which i simple terms gives ”safe harbor” to sites that host third-party material if they comply with takedown notices from copyright holders. Grooveshark is facing a…

50 cent faces sampling claim

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artistes Rapper 50 Cent is being sued by Robert Poindexter (The Persuaders) for allegedly sampling one of his band’s tracks without permission. The sampled recording in question, “Love Gonna Pack Up And Walk Out,” was allegedly sampled on a 2009 track called “Redrum” and then included on a mixtape called “War Drum” that 50 Cent posted online for free and the latter point appears to be the rapper’s initial legal contention in defence of his actions – he didn’t make any money out of it (which might beg the question – then why did he do it – were there any other benefits to 50 Cent?). The filed legal papers reportedly describe this contention as “frivolous and immaterial.” Poindexter is demanding $600,000 in punitive damages, as well as statutory damages of an unexpressed amount. http://www.tmz.com/2012/04/21/50-cent-lawsuit/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#.T5MF3o7GdYA

Musicians should protect their finances and art: ilive

COPYRIGHT Artistes, record labels, music publishing ARTICLE LINK:  Stephen Hollis, senior associate at law firm Adams & Adams encourages established and aspiring musicians to check out their recording label before they sign, and compares the choices made by Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and the resulting state of their posthumous fortunes, and in particular compares revenue streams from record labels and music publishers and the importance of the latter. http://www.timeslive.co.za/ilive/2012/04/03/musicians-should-protect-their-finances-and-art-ilive

RIAA – the best way to kill piracy is innovation
Copyright , Record Labels / May 2012

COPYRIGHT All areas, record labels   ARTICLE LINK:    This from TorrentFreak: “It took more than half a decade, but there’s finally something we can agree on with the RIAA. After suing college students, shutting down LimeWire and pushing for draconian anti-piracy laws, the RIAA now finally admits that the best answer to illegal downloading is innovation. A milestone, but unfortunately also a message that is bundled with the usual creative statistics that have to be debunked” ….. “Today the RIAA takes this notion back – “The single most important anti-piracy strategy remains innovation, experimentation and working with our technology partners to offer fans an array of legal music experiences,”. More here: http://torrentfreak.com/riaa-innovation-is-the-best-way-to-kill-piracy-120412/

Is it legal to sell digital downloads?

COPRIGHT Internet, record labels ARTICLE LINK: More on the recent debate about the legality of consumers re-selling digital downloads they have purchased (currently being tested in the US courts in the ‘Re-Digi’ case) here from a UK perspective with reference to the new European Consumer Rights Directive and a potential revised definition of ‘tangible goods’? http://www.computeractive.co.uk/ca/consumer-rights/2142389/legal-sell-digital-downloads

Tupac Back?

COPYRIGHT / TRADE MARK Live events industry, record labels, broadcasting The big talking point from Coachella 2012 was the technological resurrection of the late Tupac Shakur – and talks are underway to take the digital West Coast rap legend on tour. Shakur made his first on-stage appearance since being murdered in 1996 thanks to the technological wizardry of Digital Domain and the practicalities were handled by Philip Atwell of Geronimo Productions and Dylan Brown of The Yard. Immersive technology solutions provider AV concepts executed the Dr Dre led project. The ultimate revival show possibility was reported following headline appearances by Dr. Dre himself and Snoop Dogg with the virtual Shakur in a show that also featured appearances from Eminem, 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa and Warren G. US attorney Don Passman (author of All You Need to Know About The Music Business) told Billboard that the performance from Tupac in the songs “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” was  “unique” but also explained that the use of the image “didn’t come for free” and that the final digital reproduction that was used on the stage “had to have started with some image of Tupac, and somebody would own that image” adding that…

Cameron wants more action on over-sexed promo videos

CENSORSHIP Artistes, broadcasting, record labels UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he is disappointed at the music industry’s efforts to regulate access by children to overly-sexualised pop promo videos, and plans to host a summit on the issue next month. An earlier report on the topic, authored by  Mothers Union boss Reg Bailey prompted the record industry to announce that it was extending its ‘parental advisory’ labelling programme, which identifies content that is possibly inappropriate for children on music CDs and DVDs, to the digital domain, with both audio and video services pledging to more clearly identify such tracks and videos.  However it seems that this has not far enough to satisfy Bailey and Cameron who think the music industry should be doing more to block access for children to more raunchy or violent videos, especially online and in particular the Sony / Universal owned VEVO platform, with Bailey as saying “Many of the industries mentioned in last year’s report have responded positively to our recommendations. I cannot say that has been the case with music videos. Age ratings should be introduced for music videos and there is also a clear case for age-verification for music video websites”….

US talent unions back UMG on EMI takeover, and Sony/ATV deal for EMI Music publishing gets the EC’s green light

COMPETITION Record labels, music publishing In a surprise move, two of the US’s biggest talent unions have come out in support of Universal’s takeover of EMI’s recorded music division on the ground that UMG would, unlike previous owners Terra Firma, actually invest in music and musicians. In a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz The American Federation of Musicians said that UMG had shown “compliance with and respect for its collective bargaining agreements has been positive when compared to its peer companies” and that “Sustaining the EMI legacy” under Universal’s ownership “would appear to benefit AMF recording musicians.” The recently merged The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said Universal has shown commitment to the music industry, investing in new artists and innovative musical genres in a separate letter saying “For EMI to be left to further drift into oblivion, or for EMI to be acquired and sold off in pieces by capital investment speculators with no appreciation for, or commitment to, artists who fuel the recording industry, would ill serve the industry,” SAG-AFTRA said. Universal is “committed to reinvesting in EMI to create even more opportunities for new and…

Guardian cloud concern
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Record labels, internet   There is an interesting blog in the Guardian online titled “Behind the music: Why artists mustn’t be drawn into an MP3 site’s legal fight which marries up the right of termination being actively pursued by a number of musicians and songwriters to reclaim copyrights from record labels and music publishers in the USA (the right to reclaim recordings 35 years old – notice must be filed within two years of the termination date) and the legality of so called digital cloud lockers – in particular EMI’s claim against web entrepreneur Michael Robertson’s MP3Tunes. Its all at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/mar/02/artists-mp3-site-legal-fight?newsfeed=true

EMI sampling claim swiftly settled
Copyright , Record Labels / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Record Labels We are going to report on an action brought by EMI against Universal’s affiliate Cash Money Records. After EMI filed court papers saying Cash Money owed it $491,000 in royalties relating to samples used on releases from the hip hop imprint. However, it now seems that claim related to an earlier legal squabble over samples that appeared on Lil Wayne’s ‘Tha Carter III’ album but whatever they were – cash Money took the hint with both parties issuing a joint statement to Billboard late last week reading: “Cash Money Records and EMI Music Publishing have amicably settled EMI’s recent lawsuit and their financial disputes on various record releases. The companies look forward to working together on future projects”.

Latino star latest to launch digital royalty claim

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Record labels, internet Popular Latina music star Graciela Beltran has filed a class action complaint (Case # CV121002) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against EMI Music, Inc. The case arises out of the alleged failure of EMI to pay the full royalty rates to artists such as Ms. Beltran on revenue generated from the licensing of digital downloads and/or ringtones. Beltran’s attorney Joshua C. Ezrin of Audet & Partners, LLP said “From the information we have received, it appears EMI has failed to pay Ms. Beltran and its other artists the amount owed on the licensing of songs for digital downloads and ringtones,”  adding “Graciela Beltran is bringing this action to ensure all artists are properly paid for their work.” The Temptations have also joined a long group of heritage acts disputing their royalties, here with Universal, but elsewhere this month we comment on the proposed agreed settlement between Sony and a number of artistes in a class action. The Temptations are basing their claim on the precedent set in the FTB (‘Eminen’) case, successfully brought against Universal. And at South by South West in Austin Texas Gloria Gaynor suggested…