Copyright Tribunal settles Welsh music dispute
Copyright , Music Publishing / February 2014

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, broadcasting In January 2013, Welsh language music ceased to be played on BBC Radio Cymru when the BBC lost the right to use the music in a row with Eos, the then newly formed collection society set up by the Welsh Music Publishers and Composers Alliance (Y Gynghrair)  to represent Welsh sonqwriters and composers in the broadcast environment.  The WMPCA had said that changes to PRS for Music’s distribution policies meant that most Welsh language composers had “lost around 85% on average of their royalties” and Eos attracted 297 composers and 34 publishing companies as new members, who ‘opted out’ of PRS for Music, transferring the broadcast rights to some 30,000 works into Eos. Eos did reach agreement with S4C – Channel 4 in Wales before the end of December 2012. The Welsh music, previously core to the BBC’s Welsh services, went off air for just over a month, making it hard for the national broadcaster to meet Welsh language targets – and of course with Welsh music not being played on the radio in Wales, Eos’s songwriters and publishers were not getting paid either – and nor were the performers of the songs getting any ‘needletime’….

Review of Copyright Collecting Societies launched
Copyright / February 2014

COPYRIGHT All areas   Is there music playing in your local pub or restaurant? Is an article you wrote being photocopied for college students? Do you need to get blanket clearance to reproduce text and images for your company website? The Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd says that these are just some of the issues dealt with by the 12 UK copyright collecting societies that are subject to an independent review that has been launched. To this one might add “is your collection society working efficiently – and properly representing member’s interests?  The CLA says that the societies exist to enable people who want to use copyright material to pay for a licence, distributing that money to those who have created the work that is being re-used. The societies are private bodies but should they be more transparent and accountable? Two years ago the societies decided to be more open and to put in place codes of conduct detailing how they operate. The Government has also set out standards and is taking powers to ensure societies have adopted satisfactory codes and to discipline societies where necessary. Now the societies – through the British Copyright Council, have asked Walter Merricks CBE, the…

Sound alikes cause Antipodean angst
Copyright / February 2014

COPYRIGHT Advertising, recorded music Music sound-alikes used in advertising campaigns are leading to a number of legal wrangles in New Zealand and Australia according to Kelly & Co partner Peter Campbell in an article in Adelaide Now.  There is the current dispute between Audi and New Zealand band OMC and their label Universal Music: UMG have accused the car company of copying the 1996 hit song Land of Plenty in the Land of Quattro advertisement. Mr Campbell said if the case proceeded, it would be the first in New Zealand to address passing off and misleading and deceptive conduct for a musical sound-alike, on top of the issue of copyright infringement. Mr Campbell believed this could lead to different tests being applied to copyright infringement and misleading conduct claims in Australia. Last year, dairy company Dannon used a soundtrack in its advertisement aired during the US Superbowl, which resembled the John Butler Trio’s 2003 hit Zebra. Dannon and the John Butler Trio negotiated an arrangement, so that the advertisement no longer contains the similar music. In other jurisdictions some musicians have had similar success. In the US the singer Bette Midler sued an advertising agency over a sound-alike version of her…

Research says that French “three strikes” law has no deterrent effect
Copyright , Internet / February 2014

COPYRIGHT Internet   The effectiveness of graduated-response anti-piracy systems that have now been implemented in France, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea and the USA has always been debated, and new research from American and French researchers, based on a survey of 2,000 internet users in France, has found that the so called 2009 ‘three strikes’ system in France (the ‘Hadopi’ law) has not deterred individuals from engaging in digital piracy and the system does not reduce the intensity of illegal activity of those who did engage in piracy. The researchers from the University of Delaware Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and the Université de Rennes I – Center for Research in Economics and Management also noted that for those internet users with closer links to the piracy community – a classification based on the piracy chat in said users’ social networks – the introduction of three-strikes in France, which targeted exclusively P2P file-sharing, pushed file-sharers down other routes to accessing unlicensed content.  More than a third sampled —37.6 percent—admitted to illegal downloading, with 22 percent using P2P networks and 30 percent using “alternative channels.” About 16.4 percent of those who had engaged in the downloads received a warning from Hadopi, the government agency with the…

FCC blow to net neutrality
Internet , Regulation / February 2014

COMMUNICATION REGULATION Broadcasting, internet   In what could be a major blow to the concept of net neutrality, a federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule essentially aimed at keeping Internet service providers from being able to charge content companies to speed the rate of their downloads. The court ruled the FCC doesn’t have the authority to prevent the practice of “discrimination” because it hasn’t classified broadband Internet as a “common-carrier” service, like traditional phone service. The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has now suggested that he has no immediate plans to formally reinstate his agency’s net-neutrality regulations. Instead, Wheeler touted the benefits of waiting for abuses to occur and then cracking down on a case-by-case basis. The FCC chief said he favours addressing problems “in a dynamic rather than a static way.”

BBFC offers new regulations for music videos
Censorship / February 2014

CENSORSHIP Broadcasting, cinema   The British Board of Film Classification is to pilot voluntary ratings for online music videos, as the exemption threshold for music DVDs is narrowed The threshold at which physically released music videos – primarily DVDs and Blu-rays – must receive an age classification from the BBFC is to be lowered. The organisation is also planning to launch a voluntary pilot for online music videos, in partnership with record label trade body the BPI, a spokesperson confirmed to the CMU Daily. This follows a review of the Video Recordings Act by the UK government, which was completed last year. Until now, only physically released music videos containing “extreme” content have required an age rating. Under the pending changes to the Act, expected to be implemented in the spring, anything that fits the criteria for a twelve certificate or above will have to be classified by BBFC examiners. Previously these would have been stamped ‘exempt’, or simply not put forward for review at all. Government has also asked the BBFC and the BPI to launch a pilot scheme to rate online music videos. At the moment online content does not come under the BBFC’s remit, and so anything…

Partial settlement of “Blurred Lines” copyright dispute but Thicke battles on…

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, recorded music, artistes Guest post by by Lale Kemal, solicitor   The copyright action brought by musicians Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr (T.I.) against Marvin Gaye’s family and the owner of Funkadelic’s catalogue Bridgeport Music Inc (Bridgeport)  relating to the chart topping hit “Blurred Lines” has been partially settled.   Specifically, the Gaye family has settled its claim against Sony/ATV, owner of music publisher and producer of “Blurred Lines” EMI April. The complaint was initially filed by Thicke and others in the Californian District Court in August 2013 in reaction to multiple claims made by the defendants that the song “Blurred Lines” had the same “feel” or “sound” as Marvin Gaye’s critically acclaimed track “Got to Give It Up” and Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways”. The plaintiffs claimed declaratory relief against the Gaye family and Bridgeport on the basis of their respective rights to the copyright in the songs. At all material times, the plaintiffs denied copyright infringement and use of elements of “Got to Give it Up” or “Sexy Ways” in “Blurred Lines”. The plaintiffs sought a declaration from the Court confirming that the track did not infringe either song or otherwise violate the Gaye family…

Insane Clown Posse take to the law
Artists , Criminal Law / February 2014

CRIMINAL LAW Artistes   Rappers Insane Clown Posse, aka hip hop duo Violent J and Shggy 2 Dope, have filed a lawsuit against the US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, over a report which labelled their fans as ‘gang members’ and have announced that they have gained support for their legal action against the FBI from civil rights organisation the American Civil Liberties Union and law firm Miller Canfield. The band’s fans, known as ‘Juggalos’, were referenced in the FBI’s ‘National Gang Threat Assessment: Emerging Trends’ report in 2011, which said: “The Juggalos, a loosely-organised hybrid gang, are rapidly expanding into many US communities. Although recognised as a gang in only four states, many Juggalo subsets exhibit gang-like behaviour and engage in criminal activity and violence – law enforcement officials in at least 21 states have identified criminal Juggalo subsets”. Violent J, real name Joseph Bruce, and Shaggy 2 Dope, real name Joey Utsler, along with four fans filed the legal paperwork in the US Federal District Court in Michigan, claiming their constitutional rights of free expression and association and due process were violated by the 2011 Assessment. The fans also allege they have been subject to…

MPs form All Party Group to investigate ticketing abuses
Contract , Criminal Law , Live Events / February 2014

CRIMINAL / CONTRACT Live events sector   A new All Party Parliamentary Group has been sent up by MPs Mike Weatherley (Conservative) and Sharon Hodgson (Labour) to investigate the secondary market for event tickets and ‘industrial scale’ touting that involves promoters and artistes. The Group also includes Andrew Bingham MP (Con), Kerry McCarthy MP (Lab), Steve Rotheram MP (Lab) and Nigel Adams MP (Con). According t Hodgson the APPG will “build cross party consensus on the need to enable event organisers to protect their tickets and customers from being exploited by touts” and it is hoped that a new survey in 2014 will underpin new legislation to support the live sector and inquiry sessions have been set for January, February and March 2014 to hear from the re-sale sector, the live events industry and consumers as well as one meeting set aside for technology solutions. A study from UK consumer group Which? In December said that theatre-goers and music fans face massive mark-ups on the value of some online tickets. The study shows that compulsory charges are added to 72% of tickets sold online, and nearly half of those surveyed (49%) said the charges had put them off buying tickets…

New laws ban music in Syrian province
Copyright / February 2014

SHARIA LAW All areas   An Al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria has issued new decrees restricting certain personal freedoms in the areas under its control in Raqqa province. The new laws prohibit music, and smoking cigarettes and shisha. Violators will be “punished by sharia law.” The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has issued four statements that “decree new laws” coming into force on January 23rd. Starting on that day, women are obliged to wear the niqab, or full face veil, and cover their hands with gloves. They will also not be allowed in public without a male guardian. Walking late at night will also be prohibited for the women in Raqqa, which is the first and only city to have fallen completely under the jihadist group’s control. The statement issued by the group  says “Any sister who does not comply with this moral code will be punished by the rules of sharia, her male guardian will also be punished.” In its second statement, the jihadist group has also prohibited music from being played in public and photographs of people being posted in shop windows. It has also declared selling music CDs or musical instruments illegal, and the playing of…

Chesney files suit in merchandise dispute
Artists , Trade Mark / February 2014

TRADE MARK Artists   Kenny Chesney has filed suit against a merchandising company for copyright and trade mark infringements. The Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper has reported that the country superstar has filed suit in federal court this week, alleging unauthorised sales of merchandise bearing his name and a logo that he owns. According to the complaint, country singer Chesney owns the trademark to a logo that features a guitar leaned against a palm tree. The huge popular US singer contracted with a licensing company called Latitude to license t-shirts and other branded merchandise bearing his name and that logo. Chesney’s suit alleges that although the singer was supposed to have final approval of any licensing agreements between Latitude and third-party merchandisers, a company called T&M Enterprises began selling t-shirts and other merchandise without Chesney’s consent. Chesney contacted T&M and instructed them to stop producing the unauthorized goods, and the two parties reached a settlement in January 2013 that would allow the company to sell off the remainder of its Chesney-related stock. But according to the singer’s filing, T&M continued selling the unauthorized merchandise even after it was supposed to have stopped. “We believed we had an equitable settlement in place,” a spokesman for Chesney…

Twitter threats result in prison sentences
Criminal Law / February 2014

CRIMINAL LAW All areas   Two people who sent abusive and menacing tweets to banknote campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and Labour MP Stella Creasy have been jailed in the UK. Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, posted dozens of abusive tweets against both women before they were arrested. District judge Howard Riddle jailed Sorley for 12 weeks and Nimmo for 8 weeks and ordered them to each pay £400 compensation to each victim. Criado-Perez successfully campaigned to have a woman appear on one of the UK’s banknotes – only to be tweeted by Sorley ‘fuck off you worthless piece of crap’ and “go kill yourself” and “rape is the last of your worries”. Unemployed Nimmo tweeted “shut up bitch” to Criado-Perez and “Ya not that good looking to rape u be fine” and that he would “rape her nice ass” and “I will find you (smiley face). He told Creasy she was a “dumb blonde bitch” after she had congratulated Criado-Perez on her campaign. The Judge said it was “hard to imagine more extreme threats” and that “substantial fear was caused” – Creasy had a panic button installed at her home. Earlier this month the pair pleaded guilty to sending…

France looks set to drop French language quotas on radio
Competition / February 2014

COMPETITION LAW Broadcasting   Back in 2011 music industry representatives in France aired concerns over quotas on French-language titles saying that it was almost impossible to fulfil requirements that demanded 40% of songs played be French-language titles, half of which are required to come from new artists, with the number of French pop songs being produced dwindling. The law was introduced in 1994 in an attempt to stem an invasion of English-language songs. Increasingly French singers have switched to singing in English in recent years due to ease of export and the languages perceived better-suitability for pop music  Now the Higher Audiovisual Council has admitted that the legislation has been rendered obsolete by the collapse im the number of French albums being produced – and the fact that many are sung in English. The Council is now calling for a new law to allow radio stations to play more songs in languages other than French.  The Council said that just 264 French language albums were produced in 2012, compared to 531 a decade earlier and noted artistes such as Daft Punk, David Guetta, Lou Doillon, Shaka Ponk, Air and Phoenix all sing in English.

Prince has launched a $22 million lawsuit against bootleg sharers.
Artists , Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / February 2014

COPYRIGHT Internet, artists, sound recordings    Pop idol Prince caused some controversy at the end of January when he initiated a copyright action against twenty two fans who had shared bootleg videos and albums. The defendants in question had created fan websites dedicated to the musician through the use of platforms like Facebook and Blogger. Prince alleges that the defendants used these websites to post links to torrent sites where recordings of Princes’ concerts could be downloaded for free.  He is seeking $1 million in damages from each defendant, only two of which are identified by name (the others remaining as John Doe defendants). The lawsuit notes that the file-sharers in question have all used Google’s Blogger platform and/or Facebook to share bootlegs of his performances, one in particular providing links to 393 recordings on various different file-sharing services. It also notes that Prince has not been able to identify the real names of any of the file-sharers, hence they are being sued under their online usernames. The suit notes that the defendants often speak to each other to exchange bootlegs directly; according to the claim, the sharing of these recordings has “caused and will continue to cause substantial, immediate and irreparable injury…