Big win for PRS, even if for small beer

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, live events News reaches us of a decision by Mr Kevin Prosser QC sitting as a Deputy Judge of the Chancery Division on the case of PRS Ltd v Alexander Burns and William Burns  [2012] EWHC 221 (Ch) in an action against father and son defendants to restrain them from infringing PRS’s copyright in musical works by performing music in public and damages. It’s an interesting read and Prosser QC is somewhat critical of the role of Alexander Burns, the father, an acting solicitor in the running of the Remix Bar in Woking; the Judge was less than impressed with Mr Burns as a witness and went further saying “I wish to make a further, important, comment about Mr Burns. He had a very lax attitude towards the legal obligations which he and William owed to PRS”. Burn’s DJ son William’s activities were not without criticism with the judge saying “I was not impressed by his recollection of events. He was not at all concerned about performing music at Remix Bar in public without a licence from PRS (although I accept that he was relying on his father to advise him on this) and he failed to…

Is workplace music licencing ‘double taxation’?
Copyright / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Broadcasting Back in September 2011 the 1709 Blog posted a very interesting blog titled “two may be company but can one be a crowd?” – which attracted a wide range of comments – on how copyright should define the use of private radios in the workplace – and the interpretation put on the current legal provisions in the UK of the use of radios in public places by PPL and PRS, the UK’s recorded music and music publishing collection societies. Now Andrew Harrison, the boss of the RadioCentre, the trade body that represents the commercial radio sector, has called on the UK government to change the current regime so that those who listen to or provide radio services in public places do not need a an additional music licence beyond that already paid for by the broadcaster. Harrison was speaking at the Westminster Media Forum about government plans to review the Communications Act, and whilst his talk included pleas to de-regulate the radio sector and remove the current ‘genre’ licensing governing the music commercial radio stations can play, saying this was “a blunt instrument in an era of infinite music choice available through smartphones, downloads and streaming” , it was his comments…

Spain’s anti-piracy law “may already be obsolete”
Copyright , Internet / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet Reuters report that Spain’s new anti-piracy laws – the so called ‘Sinde’ web blocking law and procedures may be having little effect with users switching away from websites providing links to copyrighted material, which were targeted by the law, towards peer-to-peer or content-sharing services instead. It seems that the closure of the MegaUpload site has simply accelerated the trend, and many of the pirates have simply re-directed their activity towards peer-to-peer platforms to access copyrighted material. Such platforms are not covered by the new legislation and have been protected in Spanish courts provided they are “not for profit”. About half of Spanish adults admit to having downloaded audiovisual content from the Internet for free, according to a poll by the state-run CIS public opinion surveyor. Microsoft has confirmed that users of its instant messaging app are now being stopped from sharing links to The Pirate Bay, though the IT firm says the block has been instigated because of malware fears rather than any bid to block Bay-enabled copyright infringement. A spokesman for the company told The Register: “We block instant messages if they contain malicious or spam URLs based on intelligence algorithms, third-party sources, and/or user complaints. Pirate…

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

Canadian music industry comments on C-11 copyright reforms
Copyright / April 2012

COPYRIGHT All areas reports that internet service providers, social sites and satirists appear to be in the cross hairs of the Canadian Independent Music Association, the national trade organization that represents English-language Canadian companies in the music, sound recording and music-related industries. The site reports that CIMA have now made their representations to the federal legislative committee on “Bill C-11” – the copyright revision bill –  and are seeking a series of amendments that would extend the proposed law’s power saying “While Bill C- 11 does makes in-roads to modernize the [Canadian] Copyright Act  in regards to Canada’s obligations under international treaties, CIMA believes that some provisions of the bill will lead to significant problems for copyright owners in their efforts to protect their rights, determine the use of their works and to enjoy reasonable compensation for their intellectual property”.  Among CIMA’s proposed changes are:   Changes in the wording of Section 18 of Bill C-11. This touches on the so-called “enabler provision” of the bill which currently, the law requires that a site be found to be “designed primarily” to enable copyright infringement to be considered engaged in violation of copyright laws. CIMA wants the phrase “designed primarily” cut…

News from the digital sphere
Copyright , Internet / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet There are now a plethora of online services offering legal ways to listen to music, but I was interested to see the announcement that new music service has reached a deal with all four of the major record labels (EMI, Sony-BMG, Universal and Warners) allowing it to “to leave the legal gray zone it had been operating in and expand into international markets.”  One of the reasons I was interested is because Turntable offers a ‘twist’ on the usual music services, its  not a streaming service like Pandora or Spotify,  but really is a social platform,  allowing users to create an online ‘room’ in which they can the programme and ‘DJ’ for other users – so the DJ actively picks his or her own music Seth Goldstein, the company’s chairman, told his audiuence at the South by South West convention in Austin, Texas, “Basically this means we’re legitimate,” Mr. Goldstein said. “There are no eggshells, no wondering whether or not what we’re doing is viable as it relates to rights holders.” The company already had agreements with the main two US music publisher ad songwriter collection societies, ASCAP and BMI Mr. Goldstein said Turntable’s audience had started…

Kanye West and Jay-Z settle Syl Johnson’s lawsuit

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, artistes, sound recordings We had previously reported news of a lawsuit iled by soul singer  Syl Johnson before US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division against rappers Jay Z ad Kanye West. The singer had claimed that the hip-hop duo’s 2011 song The Joy was a plagiarism of his 1967 track Different Strokes. According to Johnson, Kanye West had failed to obtain permission to use an excerpt of Different Strokes for his 2010 record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Therefore, at that time no sampling of Syl Johnson’s song had been included. In August 2011, West and Jay-Z released new album Watch The Throne, which includes The Joy.  In October last, when filing suit against the duo plus Rock-A-Fella Records, UMG and Def Jam, Johnson had asked the Court to order a full accounting from defendants arising out of the sales and publishing activities relating to any of his rights, as well as punitive damages for the alleged sample usage. Now Eleonora Rosati  on the 1709 Blog has updated us that the parties have agreed to settle the federal lawsuit. As always happens, the details of the settlement have not been made public. However, Eleonora suggests that those UK-based readers of this Blog who fancy both hip-hop music and…

Bollywood rejoice!
Copyright , Internet / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet The High Court in Calcutta, India, has responded to a complaint from music industry trade body IMI by ruling that access to 104 alleged copyright-infringing music websites must be blocked at ISP level. India’s Internet service providers will utilize DNS and IP-based blocking as well as “deep packet inspection” to block access to the sites which include, and Frances Moore, chief executive of worldwide recording industry rights group IFPI said “”This decision is a victory for the rule of law online and a blow to those illegal businesses that want to build revenues by violating the rights of others” adding  “It highlights the importance the Indian courts place on the creative industries and their contribution to the economy. The court ruled that blocking is a proportionate and effective way to tackle website piracy. The Indian government should build on this progress by moving forward legislation to effectively tackle all forms of digital piracy to enable the country’s digital music market to reach its full potential.” With a large proportion of music sales in India tied to the movie industry both sectors will no doubt be pleased with the court’s actions. “There is a lot to be…

Bollywood film faces Iranian strike
Copyright / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Film industry My new favourite copyright read, the Hindustan Times, reports that just as the song Pungi Bajaa Kar from Saif Ali Khan’s soon to be released remake of the spy thriller Agent Vinod, is gaining popularity, an Iranian band has slapped a legal notice on music director Pritam Chakraborty and the film’s distributors for alleged copyright violation. The band, Barobax Corp. was founded in 2003 by three Iranian nationals Kashayar Haghgoo, Kevian Haghgoo and Hamid Farouzmand and claim that they had already released the song as a track on their 2010 album Soosan Khanoom saying “On March 12 this year, the band came across the promotions of the movie Agent Vinod on satellite television in Iran. The song Pungi Baja De was being aired. On listening to the song, the band realised that the initial portion of the song is lifted without any change from the title song of their album” further stating “We demand the music director, producers and directors to refrain from releasing the song in the movie or use it to promote the movie. Failing to do so, the band shall be compelled to initiate proceedings to seek a restraining order and necessary compensation”. According…

Pirates take to the skies
Copyright , Internet / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Internet As Pirate Bay co-founder Carl Lundstrom prepares to serve his four month prison sentence under house arrest in Sweden, it seems the current Pirate Bay organisers are planning to put copies of their database onto servers in the sky – on “small airborne drones” connected to the mobile internet – that would have to be literally “shot down” to take the site offline.  A blog post by a certain MrSpock that appeared on the Swedish site on Sunday said: “We can’t limit ourselves to hosting things just on land anymore. These Low Orbit Server Stations (LOSS) are just the first attempt. With modern radio transmitters we can get over 100Mbps per node up to 50km away. For the proxy system we’re building, that’s more than enough. This way our machines will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war.”

Tony Seddon defeats claim by Musicial Youth
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2012

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing Former members of a child reggae band Muscal Youth, who had a big hit in 1982 with Pass the Dutchie, have lost a legal battle with their former lawyers Woolf Seddon (which no longer exists) who they said gave them bad advice over royalties they might receive from the song. Pass The Dutchie was an adaptation of Pass The Kouchie (recorded by the Mighty Diamonds) and the relationship between those two songs formed the background to the legal proceedings with the band claiming their version should have attracted a new copyright. The High Court ruled in favour of partners in the law firm, dismissing the claim by Dennis Seaton, Michael Grant, Kelvin Grant, Frederick Waite Junior – aka Junior Waite – and a representative of the estate of the late Patrick Waite saying the claim had no merit. Mr Justice Roth said that the ex-members began legal proceedings in 2004 claiming that solicitor Tony Seddon – and other partners in Woolf Seddon – had “been in serious breach of their duties” by failing to “protect a distinct copyright” held by Musical Youth. Mr Seddon and former colleagues argued that the claim was an abuse of process” at…

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”.

Chugg calls for anti-touting laws in Australia
Competition , Live Events / April 2012

COMPETITION Live events industry Australian promoter Michael Chugg has called from new ‘anti-scalping’ laws after tickets for Radiohead’s latest tour sold out in minutes and fans fumed over tickets at inflated prices posted on eBay. As fans took to social media to vent their frustrations, prompting Chugg Entertainment to release a statement advising against buying from unauthorised sources. Chugg says action needs to be taken on a national level, including co-operation between promoters, federal and state government and websites, to curb the ongoing issue of ticket on-selling saying “The federal government should be bringing in a blanket policy but the state governments also need to act,” Chugg told AAP. But Live Performance Australia, which sets policy for the music industry, continues to oppose any moves to make scalping illegal with Suzanne Daley, Director of Policy and Programs for LPA saying “Scalping is a very difficult practice to monitor and stamp out” adding “We believe resources would be better focused on educating consumers around the risks rather than trying to prevent it via legal means.” Scalping comes under commercial law which is decided at a state level. The practice is illegal only in Queensland and only after a scalper makes a…

Will MAMA sale herald a new competition query?
Competition , Live Events / April 2012

COMPETITION Live events industry HMV’s plan to sell its live music division, the MAMA Group, has now entered its second stage, after passing the deadline for first round bids. It seems interested bidders include both AEG Live and Live Nation’s Academy Group, both of whom already own UK venues. Live Nation’s acquisition of the Academy Music Group itself in 2007 prompted a Competition Commission enquiry which passed the sale, subject to the sale of two of AMG’s London venues and it will be interesting to see what competition regulators make of a combined Live Nation-MAMA or AEG-MAMA. The jewel in the MAMA crown is the Hammersmith Apollo, which CMU Daily reported “would be a perfect addition to AEG’s UK venue portfolio, especially in the burgeoning live comedy market, the West London Apollo venue being the stepping stone a-list stand ups take before reaching the ultimate goal of selling out AEG’s The O2 Arena on the east side of the capital”. Whether AEG would be interested in MAMA’s other businesses, in the festivals, artist management and marketing partnership domains, isn’t clear, and it seems possible that MAMA co-founder Dean James could head a partial management buy-out. In a statement HMV said…

Channel Isles to fight on over VAT reforms
Taxation / April 2012

TAXATION Retail CMU Daily reports that the long running campaign to close the VAT loophole that gave mail-order CD sellers based on the Channel Islands an unfair advantage over mainland retailers is facing its final hurdle as legal representatives for Jersey and Guernsey try to fight the UK government’s plan to end the tax arrangement through the courts. Highlight the fact that any such move would radically increase the admittedly low unemployment rate on the islands and that back-end providers such as Indigo Starfish (who service Amazon) and will simply move to other tax free havens, the first attempt has already failed in the High Court. The relevant taxation exception, the Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR), meant that companies could sell products under £18 (or more recently £15) by mail-order from outside the EU into the UK without charging Value Added Tax. The tax dodge was originally set up because the quantity of such sales was so low, and the cost of administering the collection of the VAT was relatively high, meaning HMRC would potentially lose revenues. High Street retailers such as HMV have long campaigned against the Relief. An appeal against Mitting J’s decision is being considered.

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…

Sony and Cheap Trick agree settlement in digital royalty dispute

CONTRACT / COPYRIGHT Record labels, artistes It seems that Sony and a group of artistes including Cheap Trick, the Allman Brothers and the Youngbloods have come to an agreed settlement in their dispute over the appropriate royalties the label should be paying the artistes – the label want to pay a ‘per unit’ royalty as they would with vinyl and CDs with various deductions meaning the royalty is reduced to a faction of the sale price, with the artistes arguing that their proper share was one half of all digital licensing income, less only publishing royalties. The settlement, proposed by the plaintiffs in a court filing, has yet to be approved by the court, but proposes that Sony will pay its recording artists a total $7.95 million to resolve outstanding claims in the case. Lawyers’ fees alone will account for $2.5 million of this (The case has been running since 2006). The deal also provides for a 3 percent “bump” in artists’ royalty rates with respect to digital income – seemingly acknowledging that digital royalties should be higher than those for physical product. My previous post on the recent Kenny Rogers claim over his royalties highlighted some of the more…

SonyBMG rejects Toto digital royalty claim
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / April 2012

CONTRACT Record labels, Artists Billboard reports that Sony BMG has asked a US court to dismiss the latest case filed against the label by 80s icons Toto, who are looking to challenge the basis of the way in which their digital download royalties are accounted for. With The Temptations having recently launched a new action against Universal, who have lost one case in the ‘Eminen’ action (actually brought by the rapper’s producers FBT), Sony BMG has now agreed to pay $7.95 million to settle a similar class action (see above, with Cheap Trick and the Allman Brothers amongst others) but is separately defending the lawsuit brought by Toto, who recorded the hit song “Africa”. The music company says the band is “dissatisfied with the bargain that it struck.” Billboard report that Sony have said that the argument that artistes should receive a share of ‘licence’ income from digital sales rather than a (much lower) per unit sales royalty is incorrect in this case because the “license” vs. “sale” dispute misses a third word — “lease” — which could play a role in determining whether musicians get roughly 50 percent of digital income or merely about 15 percent of the net sales…