General / May 2020

COPYRIGHT: We have written about this ongoing litigation for a while now. In case, like us, you don’t want to scroll through the website to find it the background is: EMI, Warner Music Group, Sony Music and Universal Music (the majors) sued Cox Communications last year. The suit claimed that Cox had shoddy systems in place to deal with piracy. It was claimed that Cox’s subscribers were engaging in mass scale piracy and the majors sent “hundreds of thousands” warning letters about the piracy with no resolution. Following this lack of success on part of the majors, they embarked on this piece of litigation in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. This decision follows the earlier case between BMG v Cox. In the earlier case, BMG had accused ISP Cox Communications of running a deliberately ineffective system for dealing with repeat infringers:  At first instance the jury awarded $25 million against Cox when they found the broadband carrier liable for piracy by its subscribers. The US appellate court reversed that verdict in what might have been seen as a defeat for the record label – but many said at the time that a careful look at the judgment, which…

Will a 1972 agreement determine who owns Steely Dan?
General / December 2017

CONTRACT Artistes   Steely Dan are the American jazz rock band founded by core members Walter Becker (guitars, bass, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, lead vocals) in 1972. The band enjoyed critical and commercial success until breaking up in 1981. Rolling Stone has called them “the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies”. Steely Dan reunited in 1993 and has toured steadily ever since. Becker died on September 3rd, 2017, leaving Fagen as the only official member. And now Fagen is embroiled in a complicated legal feud with Becker’s estate. By way of background, Fagen is claiming that his bandmate’s estate is refusing to honour the ‘Buy/Sell’ Agreement from 1972 which he says stipulated that when a member of the band died or left the band, the other members would purchase that person’s share in the band. Both parties are accusing the other of instigating the feud. “We believe the agreement to which Mr. Fagen refers in his suit, drafted 45 years ago,  was not in effect at the time of Walter’s death,” a representative for Becker’s estate said in a statement to Rolling Stone.  Why is this so important? Well it is believed that Fagan is concerned that his ability to continue touring…

Injunction Blocks the Release of Prince Recordings
General / June 2017

CONTRACT/COPYRIGHT Recorded music   A number of Prince recordings will not be released until the dispute between Ian Boxill and the Prince Estate is resolved.   Ian Boxill has been told by a US court that he cannot release any tracks that he worked on with Prince: however, things may change when the dispute between Prince’s Estate and Boxill is resolved.   The action stared when Boxill announced that he had plans to release a six track EP of unreleased Prince tracks. He planned to release the EP on the first anniversary of the unfortunate death the superstar.  The tracks were the work of a collaboration between Boxill and Prince from 2006 and 2008.   However, when Prince’s Estate found out about Boxill’s plans they went to the courts to stop the release. A temporary restraining order was initially issued, stopping Boxill’s plans to release the EP on the first anniversary of Prince’s death. This initial restraining order had been extended to Monday just been and now a preliminary injunction has been issued. The preliminary injunction provides that Boxill is prevented from releasing any collaborations between himself and Prince until the legal action is concluded. The injunction also provides that…

Spinrilla files defence against record labels’ claims
General / April 2017

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   Spinrilla, the popular hip hop mixtape sharing app that was recently sued by the Recording Industry Association Of America RIAA)  has filed its response, calling for the case to be dismissed partly on safe harbour grounds, and on the basis that Spinrilla had been working with the very labels now suing to promote their artistes.  The RIAA claimed: Through the Spinrilla website and apps, users with an artist account can upload content that any other user can then download or stream on demand for free, an unlimited number of times – although the site does have DCMA takedown protocols.  A substantial amount of content uploaded to the Spinrilla website and apps consists of popular sound recordings whose copyrights are owned by plaintiffs”. The legal response, published in full by Torrentfreak, sees Spinrilla argue that it has in the past had a good working relationship with the recorded music industry and states: “Plaintiffs and defendants have been co-operating for years in a variety of ways to successfully prevent and remove unauthorised music from Plaintiffs and defendants have also co-operated when plaintiffs have requested that its music be promoted and distributed by Spinrilla. This co-operation can and should…

Are Sir Paul McCartney’s copyright reversion up in the air pending the possible Duran Duran appeal?
General / April 2017

COPYRIGHT/CONTRACT Music Publishing   We have previously reported that Sir Paul McCartney had filed a lawsuit against Sony/ ATV. In this lawsuit McCartney is attempting to reclaim the rights to the 267 songs he co-wrote with John Lennon throughout the 1960s when they were members of the Beatles. Sony/ ATV had previously labelled the lawsuit “unnecessary and premature” in a statement, now it appears they have furthered this by explaining that it is not a matter for the court. In a letter to the court they have stated that “As an initial matter, Sony/ ATV has made no statement challenging the validity of plaintiff’s termination notices”. Does this mean that it is disputed that there is even a dispute?  Sony/ ATV have been put on notice that McCartney will be attempting to reclaim the copyright, and as of yet they have not said they will attempt to block the reversion of the copyright. However, it looks as if Sony/ ATV are looking to the outcome of the Duran Duran case that is going through the appeal procedure in the UK before they make a move. At first instance in the Duran Duran case, Arnold J found that on the application of English law,…

Cases to watch in 2017
General / January 2017

ARTICLE LINK: All Areas   This article on Forbes by music attorney Erin M Jackson  highlights the top music legal cases to watch in 2017, what to expect, and how they could affect the industry as a whole (albeit from a US perspective)   – Global Music Rights v. The Radio Music Licensing Commission  – The Turtles v. SiriusXM –  “Blurred Lines” v. “Got To Give It Up”

Slovakian music quotas to be tested
General / July 2016

BROADCASTING REGULATION Broadcasting   Slovakia’s General Prosecutor Jaromír Čižnár has said that he will test the constitutionality of state imposed broadcasting quotas. The obligatory quotas, introduced on April 1, 2016, force private radio stations to play 20 percent of Slovak musi,  which will rise to 25 percent as of 2017. Public radio must offer 30 percent now and 35 percent next year. The Prosecutors’s office say the quotas interfere with the ownership rights of broadcasters and distort the rules of competition. The Culture Ministry has reportedly said that it does not want to comment specifically on the challenge before it has studies the matter in detail. It added that the quotas were in compliance with the Slovak Constitution, and respect all principles of a legally consistent state. The Ministry is also of the opinion that the quota system does not threaten the right to free enterprise, as the law only stipulates the type of music to be played, while leaving the specific selection of individual tunes up to each broadcaster.

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

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

Aceh Province bands outdoor music concerts under an interpretation of Sharia law
General , Licensing , Live Events / May 2016

LICENSING Live events sector     Outdoor music concerts have been banned in a Regency in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province on the grounds they violate Sharia law. New regulations – including a ban on women straddling motorcycles (they must ride side-saddle), unaccompanied women working or visiting night spots after 23.00 – as well and a requirement that boys and girls are taught separately at school – have been introduced in different parts of Aceh in recent years. he province, the only part of Indonesia that enforces Sharia law, also outlaws gambling, drinking and even fraternising with the opposite sex outside marriage. Muslim women must wear a hijab in public and gay sex is punishable by 100 lashes of the cane. The outdoor music ban comes after local singing sensation Ady Bergek was told he could not proceed with a concert on April 3rd because it would violate Sharia law. Bergek (whose name means unruly in the Acehnese language) is famous for his take on Dangdut, a genre that borrows from traditional Indonesian music as well as from Indian and Malaysian films. West Aceh Regent (Bupati) Teuku Alaidinsyah was quoted in Kompas saying the ban was based on a recommendation by Ulema (a body of Muslim…

Another pre-1972 copyright claim surfaces
General / February 2015

COPYRIGHT Sound recordings, broadcasting, internet   The the ‘pre-1972’ story about copyright in sound recordings in the USA keeps on giving – and now Zenbu Magazines LLC,  the owner of recordings by Hot Tuna, New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Flying Burrito Brothers, is seeking class-action status for suits filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, arguing that services such as Apple’s free iTunes Radio, and Sony’s Music Unlimited – which charge subscribers to access their service – have copied tens of thousands of  pre-1972 recordings onto their servers, transmitted them and performed them without seeking permission or paying performance royalties or licensing fees to the copyright owners. Google Play are also in the firing line, ALTHOIUGH Rdio, initially  named, have now seemingly been removed as defendants. Sound recordings weren’t brought under the protection of federal copyright law until 1972 so are protected by state laws and some services, notably SiriusXM, haven’t been paying performance royalties to artists to play these older works prompting claims from both artists (with Flo & Eddie from the Turtles leading the charge), record labels and collection society SoundExchange.

Eminen takes aim over political use of Lose Yourself
Copyright , General / November 2014

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   After the National Party of New Zealand used the Eminem song Lose Yourself  as part of their political campaign, Eminem’s publishers, Eight Mile Style LLC, and Martin Affiliated LLC  filed proceedings for copyright infringement in the High Court of Wellington, seeking damages. Under s.29 and s.32 of the Copyright Act 1994 of New Zealand, copyright in Eminem’s song would have been infringed if the political party played the song in public without having an adequate licence agreement. Joel Martin, a spokesperson of the publishers, said that nobody had contacted them to use the song. If they are found liable for copyright infringement, the National Party risks paying a five-figure sum to Eminem’s publishers. However, the National Party argues that they purchased the appropriate rights to use the music. They bought them from Beatbox (a music supplier based in Australia and Singapore), through APRA AMCOS. APRA AMCOS is the Australasian body that acts as local agents for music licensing companies around the world and is a reputable body. Chris Hocquard, a copyright lawyer from Auckland, said that if the National Party were found to have infringed copyright, they may be able to go back to Beatbox and…

Grooveshark plans appeal
General / November 2014

COPYRIGHT Internet, recorded music   In September 2014 a federal judge in New York ruled that Grooveshark, the controversial online music service, had infringed on thousands of their copyrights. Grooveshark (Escape Media Group) streams music uploaded by its users and Grooveshark’s defence has long been that this is legal under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the federal law that protects websites that host third-party material if they comply with takedown notices from copyright holders. The company relies on advertising for its revenues. Granting summary judgment in a case filed in 2011 by the three major record companies, Judge Thomas P. Griesa of United States District Court in Manhattan ruled that Grooveshark was liable for copyright infringement because it was it’s own employees and officers — including Samuel Tarantino, the chief executive, and Joshua Greenberg, the chief technology officer — who uploaded a total of 5,977 of the labels’ songs without permission. Those uploads are not subject to the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act –  with the judge saying “Each time Escape streamed one of plaintiffs’ songs recordings, it directly infringed upon plaintiffs’ exclusive performance rights”.  According to Reuters, evidence against the executives included a 2007…

Music hits the right notes for business success
General / November 2014

COPYRIGHT Music publishing , recorded music   A lot of us seem to pay twice when we listen to music in the workplace  – once because the broadcaster pays a blanket levy to the PPL and PRS for Music – and then again because the owner of a shop, factory, or garage also pays for music in the workplace – even if it’s just for their own staff and not customers. There have been a number of legal challenges to this over the years in the British Courts, including the leading 1943 judgement in Turner v PRS which seemingly supports PRS’s view that “If your staff or customers are listening to music on your premises, played by any means from live performance through to radio, TV, CD or via the internet, you need our music licence”. The battle has extended to a number of decisions in the European Court of Justice which has managed to come to the conclusion that hotels do have to pay for providing music ti their guests – but dentists don’t have to pay! Case law references below. Musicians and writers deserved to be paid. But paid twice? Well, and no doubt with one eye on this argument and the need to…

Dancing Jesus duo plead guilty
General / November 2014

COPYRIGHT Internet, recorded music   Following news that the BPI was taking a case to criminal trial involving the pair behind Dancing Jesus website, the second defendant involved has pleaded guilty to illegally distributing music. Richard Graham, of Leicestershire, originally entered a not guilty plea, but changed it earlier this week after seeing the evidence against him being presented to the judge and jury. His guilty plea follows that of Dancing Jesus’ owner Kane Robinson, of South Shields, who entered his guilty plea in January this year. The UK-based website was taken offline in 2011 after US Homeland Security seized the server on which it was hosted. City Of London Police arrested both the site’s administrator and one of its most prolific uploaders, known as Trix. Although initially subject to a police enquiry, the case was brought as a private prosecution by the BPI on behalf of the recorded music industry at Newcastle Crown Court for the illegal distribution of music via an internet. Commenting on the investigation, the director of BPI’s Copyright Protection Unit, David Wood, said: “This case is significant. The guilty verdict confirms that posting illegal online links to music is a criminal offence, which economically harms…

xx claim rip off by Hugo Boss
General / November 2014

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   XL affiliate Young Turks has claimed that an advert released by Hugo Boss earlier this year contained a soundtrack that sounded very similar indeed to ‘Intro’, a track by one of the label’s bands The xx. The label took to Twitter to ask the German fashion company: “As a firm built around original design, isn’t it odd that you’d pay for such a poorly disguised fake?” The tweet then linked to the Hugo Boss commercial on YouTube. The link to the advert has now been removed from the below article and has been taken down from YouTube due to a ‘copyright claim by UMPI’. Just a couple of weeks  earlier singer and producer SOHN claimed that car manufacturer Audi had used part of his song “Lessons” without his permission in a commercial for their Audi A3 Sportback – or at least used a sound alike re-recording. Previously Beach House had hit out at Volkswagon back in 2012 for a sound alike track and Tom Waits settled with car firm Opel over a sound alike track used in an advert in 2007. The 1988 case of Bette Midler v Ford Motor Co found that hiring a sound…

Ellington Estate takes on EMI Music
General / October 2014

CONTRACT Music publishing   The estate of Duke Ellington is hoping to resurrect a royalties lawsuit against EMI Music Publishing, (now controlled by Sony/ATV)  after a lower courts sided with the music company in the legal dispute. The lawsuit, being led by Ellington’s grandson, first emerged in 2010, and centres on royalties – and the artificial reduction in artiste royalties as money is moved between a big music firm’s global subsidiaries and the division to which the creator is directly signed to. It is common practice for each subsidiary to take a commission, with the artist getting their percentage cut only of the monies that reach their home division – here with EMI treats its businesses in other countries as if they were third-party sub-publishers, with Ellington’s estate arguing in reality that they are, in fact, different offices of the same company. And more importantly, Team Ellington alleged that this directly breached the jazz great’s 1961 contract with Mills Music, which was subsequently acquired by the EMI publishing firm. The court which first heard the case concluded that while the 1961 contract did specifically ban the publisher from allowing its subsidiaries to take additional cuts of any royalties, that only…

Survey Request
General / March 2014

Francis Davey has informed us that his final LLM dissertation topic consists of a survey of people’s attitudes to copying etc (so-called “copynorms”) as part of the whole study of the interaction of social norms and law. Francis has already blogged about it here.  The survey “Copy, share and remix, what is okay?” can be accessed using the link below.  Do please participate — and pass the link on to your friends and colleagues so that the sample surveyed will be as large as possible. It doesn’t take long!

New term provisions for co-written works in the UK
Copyright , General , Music Publishing / September 2013

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   PRS for Music reminds all of its authors and composers, and Music Law Updates,  that from the 1st  November 2013 a legislative change will alter the way the term of UK copyright protection for a co-written work is calculated. From this date the term of protection for the music and words within the co-written work will now expire 70 years after the death of the last surviving author of that work (composer or lyricist) rather than the current provisions where music and words within a co-written work are treated as separate copyright works with their own individual term of protection. The new law applies to co-written works made: on or after 1 November 2013; before 1 November 2013, where the musical work and/or words are still in copyright in UK on 31 October 2013; before 1 November 2013, where music or the words are protected in at least one member state of the European Economic Area on 1 November 2013.

Shakira’s ex denied access to “shared” bank account
General / August 2013

CONTRACT Artistes   A court in Geneva has ruled that Antonio de la Rua, the ex-boyfriend and former business partner of Shakira, must be denied to one of the singer’s bank accounts. De la Rua had claimed that he should have access to the account because it contained revenues from his former business partnership with the star. De la Rua, the son of former Argentine president Fernando de la Rua, sued Shakira last November, claiming that the singer had reneged on business commitments made after the couple’s romantic relationship ended. He argues that while Shakira initially said their professional relationship would continue after they split as a couple in 2010, last year she dropped his business services, cutting him out of the profits of deals he claims he negotiated, including a major contract with Live Nation. The Swiss court had ruled that de la Rua did not have sufficient evidence to prove what agreements the couple reached regards Shakira’s business affairs in 2010 and de la Rua conceded that the agreement had not been written down. The bank account in the current action was in Shakira’s sole name. De la Rua’s $100 million law suit against his ex is being…

French count the cost of Hadopi
General / September 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet   Hadopi, the body charged with hunting down repeat infringers under France’s three-strikes law, has sent a million warning e-mails and 99,000 registered letters although just 134 cases have been examined for prosecution and no cases have as yet resulted in an Internet user being disconnected. Hadopi has a payroll of over 60 and annual costs have now reached a reported 12 million Euros,  prompting French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti to describe the system as “unwieldy, uneconomic and ultimately ineffective”. Filippetti told Le Nouvel Observateur that Hadopi had also failed in a key part of its mission, to foster legal content to replace illegal downloads prompting the French government to  launch a consultation to re-examine it’s response Internet piracy with Filippetti talking of a post-Hadopi future. In a separate interview, Pierre Lescure, head of the commission into the “Future of Piracy” and a former boss at Canal+, endorsed Filippetti’s stance, saying he attaches “great importance” to the development of legal offers, and that the temptations to piracy are so great “only a priest would not yield” saying “The error of Hadopi was to focus on the penalty”, telling Le Nouvel Observateur. “If one starts from the penalty, it will fail”, adding…

UK’s One Direction face name challenge from US band
Artists , General , Trade Mark / May 2012

TRADE MARK Artistes British boy band One Direction, among the hottest new acts in the music business on both sides of the pond, are being been sued for Trade Mark infringement by a Californian pop-rock group with the same name.  Attorneys for the California band are seeking an injunction that would stop X-factor supremo Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment as well as the UK band from using the name One Direction and they also want a share of the profits earned by the chart-topping British boys. In a federal lawsuit filed on Monday in California Central District Court the California band says it is entitled to three times the profits made by their rivals, as well as compensatory damages in excess of US$1 million. The lawsuit said the continued use by both bands of the same name was causing “substantial confusion and substantial damage” to the goodwill earned by the California group. The Northern California band has been using the name One Direction since late 2009 and has recorded two albums, the lawsuit states. It filed an application to register the trademark name in the United States in February 2011. The British band, made up of Niall…

Nettle’s testimony released during ongoing Indiana State Fair claims
General / May 2012

HEALTH & SAFETY Live events industry Jennifer Nettles, one half of the country music duo Sugarland, has said she was never asked to delay the band’s show at the Indiana State Fair because of an approaching storm. She would have complied if asked, Nettles said, according to testimony given during a taped deposition. Seven people died and more than 40 were injured last year when a storm caused a stage at the state fair to collapse, shortly before Sugarland was to perform. Metal scaffolding supporting the stage lights fell onto a crowd of fans and workers as a storm swept through the fairgrounds on August 13th, 2011 one of three serous incidents involving inclement weather at outdoor events in North America that year, mirrored by the Pukklepop tragedy in Belgium. “We’re invited to come into a place and play. It’s not our place,” Nettles said. “I don’t feel it’s my responsibility, or my management’s responsibility, to evacuate the fans in the case of danger. Do I care about their safety? Absolutely”. Nettles also said she did not know whether Sugarland tour manager Helen Rollins prevented a delay or not, and was unaware of conversations that allegedly occurred about a possible…

Terra Firma lose Citigroup claim
Contract , General , Record Labels / December 2010

CONTRACT Record labels The Wall Street Journal report that EMI’s parent company Terra Firma has lost its legal dispute with Citigroup, in which it had alleged the bank misled it into paying too much to acquire the label.  Citigroup was found not guilty of fraud in a federal court in New York, after Terra Firma founder Guy Hands had alleged he was misled by Citi about competing bids for EMI. Terra Firma acquired the major label and music publisher for $6.3 billion in 2007 and the label has carried a heavy debt and Terra Firma has struggled to meet loan repayments to Citigroup. After the jury had revealed its conclusion, Citigroup’s legal representative Ted Wells criticised Terra Firma for pursuing the litigation. He told reporters: “I think Mr Wormsley was put through a terrible ordeal. He was totally innocent, he did nothing wrong. He is a man of honesty and integrity”.  EMI chief Roger Faxon insisted that the major was unaffected by the ruling, telling reporters: “EMI has had a solid operational performance over the last six months, driven by considerable success in both recorded music and music publishing. We are wholly focused on further developing our business, and on…

US appeal court overturn Rod Stewart cancellation case: Rod Stewart’s agent, lawyer win appeal
Artists , Contract , General , Live Events / August 2007

CONTRACT Live event industry, artists ARTICLE LINK : by Susan Butler The California Court of Appeals has overturned the decision of the Los Angeles Superior Court who awarded £$1.6 million in damages from the cancellation of Rod Stewart shows against Stewart’s agent and lawyer. However the appellate court affirmed that Stewart must re-pay $780,000 paid to him as deposits for a number of cancelled South American shows and $472,000 in legal fees to the promoters.


COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Music Publishers, Internet, Telecommunications The phenomenal growth of Asia’s mobile phone market has spawned widespread ringtone download piracy. Copyright owners are battling to claim royalties in Asia – a region which has long been problematical with widespread traditional forms of music piracy, such as the organised distribution of counterfeit and bootleg CDs and cassettes. The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers have said that the problem is prevelant in most South-East Asia territories. Whilst territories such as Japan, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia have systems in place to govern ringtone copyright, and owners are compensated for use, ringtone downloads in countries like Thailand and Phillipines are almost entirely unlicensed with little legal revenue. The ringtone market is now big business (see Law Updates September 2003). In Japan, music publisher collection society JASRAC receives multi-million dollar royalties from ringtone operators. In Singapore, one of the biggest cellular phone markets in Asia (with an ownership rate of 80 per cent) ringtones cost about $S2 ($1.79) on average in the legitimate market. Whilst a number of favourite downloads are mainstream western artists such as Norah Jones and Britney Spears, Asian composers are also being hurt because local hits are…