Termination Rights and Marital Property

COPYRIGHT Artists, music publishing   From 1957 to 1986, R&B singer Smokey Robinson was married to Claudette Robinson. During that time, Smokey wrote and assigned such hits as My Girl and You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me. In 1986, the couple divorced. Today, Smokey hopes to exercise his termination rights under federal copyright law to reclaim ownership over the songs. Claudette argues that because the songs were written during their marriage, they are community property under California state law and she is accordingly entitled to fifty per cent of the royalties. Furthermore she alleges that Smokey committed fraud by not disclosing this option during divorce proceedings. Smokey has sued Claudette in federal court seeking declaratory judgment that he may exercise his termination rights and that Claudette cannot claim any interest under California law. The leading case on the relationship between federal copyright and state community property law, Rodrigue v Rodrique, 218 F.3d 432 (5th Cir. 2000), holds that an author-spouse maintains exclusive control over his works, but nevertheless the non-author-spouse is entitled to some share of the net economic benefits. Yet, this appears to stand in some conflict to an older Californian case, In re Marriage of Worth, 195…

AIM ink framework deal with BBC
Copyright / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Broadcasting   The Association of Independent Music, which represents independent record labels in the UK, who have an near 30% market share of the recorded music sector,  has announced a new deal with the BBC and its commercial wing BBC Worldwide which will simplify the licensing of live recordings made by the Corporation’s TV and radio channels for future commercial exploitation. Usually the BBC needs permission from the labels of any signed artists whose live performances are recorded for TV or radio shows (although it’s standard for labels to provide such a waver for initial broadcast).  However, should either party want to then commercially exploit that content, by releasing sessions as CDs, as downloads or with other digital or ex-UK broadcast use, then a separate bespoke deal needs to be made. The standard agreement governing the commercial exploitation of BBC recordings with BBC Worldwide means that AIM member labels will have an easier structure to work with the broadcaster, and hopefully many more opportunities for making such content available beyond initial broadcast in the digital age. AIM boss Alison Wenham said: “The new agreement now means that we have in place a commercial licensing framework with the BBC that…

Beggars boss explains digital royalty change
Artists , Copyright / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, artists   Beggars Group boss Martin Mills has discussed the decision made by his company to cease paying a 50/50 royalty on streaming income to artists signed to its labels. At a MusicTank event last month, Beggars Head Of Digital Simon Wheeler confirmed that the company was reviewing its 50/50 split, saying that as streaming now accounts for 40% of the company’s total digital income and a core revenue stream, that split becomes unviable. Speaking to Billboard, Mills has now explained: “A record company such as us, needing to provide the services we do, cannot survive even paying artists 50% of net core income, let alone 50% of gross as we have been doing. As streaming becomes core income, it has to bear its share of all our costs: A&R, overhead, marketing, promotion, back office services, etc”. He added that while the final decision on what royalty will be paid on streaming in the future is yet to be made, it will be “significantly higher than the regular rate” offered by other labels, saying: “Beggars contracts actually only provide for the payment of a regular royalty on exploitation such as streaming. We have been applying the 50%…

ISPs and content industries tease out voluntary three strike scheme in the UK
Copyright , Internet / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Internet   Four of the UK’s leading internet service providers are in talks with the content industries about establishing a “Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme”, which would introduce stage one of a three strikes (graduated response) system to combat online piracy. These schemes usually start with a warning – followed by second warning to stop infringing activities  – and then finally a sanction such as the suspension or ‘throttling’ of the alleged infringer’s broadband connection. The 2010 Digital Economy Act put in place a framework for a three strikes system in the UK but this has yet to be activated (and the ‘third strike’ was never defined) – in part because of resistance from ISPs and the technology sector, and a perceived reluctance of politicians to grasp this thorny ‘consumer facing’ issue. In the US, the ISPs have voluntarily introduced an voluntary ‘six strikes’ scheme called the Copyright Alert System. What is now being discussed between the recorded music and and film industries in the UK and Virgin Media, BT, Sky and TalkTalk is seemingly more similar to the US system  – one or more warnings or ‘educational’ communication(s) – but no actual punitive sanctions will be applied. In a…

Led Zeppelin face copyright claim for Stairway to Heaven 
Copyright , Music Publishing / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   Iconic rock band Led Zeppelin is being sued by a musician claiming Stairway to Heaven rips off the opening riff of his band’s song. Mark Andes, the founding bassist of Spirit, is filing a lawsuit claiming the introduction to Zeppelin’s 1971 anthemic song is very similar to Spirit’s song, Taurus. Andes is seeking an injunction to block the impending re-release of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, on which Stairway appears, so that guitarist Randy California, who wrote Taurus, gets a co-writing credit on the song. It is understood California’s estate is also a party to the claim,  Before California died in 1997, he told a reporter: “I’d say it was a rip off. And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you’, never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.” In order to prove copyright, Andes has to prove that the songs are virtually identical and that Led Zeppelin had access to the source material. Led Zeppelin’s first concert in America was as Spirit’s opening act in 1968, the year in which Taurus was released. The two bands also…

NMPA sues two lyric websites
Copyright , Music Publishing / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   The US music publishing sector’s trade group, the National Music Publishers Association, has confirmed it has begun legal action against two lyric websites which it says continue to prolifically publish lyrics without licence. Whilst a long term problem, The NMPA has more recently increased it’s efforts in this regard of late, targeting in particular those entities that they see as developing -funded business models  around their copyright infringing websites. Rap Genius was high on the target list last year, but it has subsequently started doing deals with the US publishers, including the NMPA itself. But similar efforts to do deals with some of the other lyric sites have not gone so well, resulting in the litigation against SeekLyrics.com and LyricsTime.com. Confirming his organisation was now going legal against these two sites, NMPA President David Israelite told reporters: “Litigation is a last step. Our goal is to insure that lyric sites and songwriters become partners through licensing. This is not a campaign against personal blogs, fan sites, or the many websites that provide lyrics legally. We are targeting sites that engage in blatant illegal behavior, which impacts a songwriter’s ability to make a living”.   http://www.mi2n.com/press.php3?press_nb=174296

Sugarman claim echoes Marley battle
Copyright , Music Publishing / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   In a case that echoes the recent spat between Cayman Music and Blue Mountain Music over a handful of songs widely believed to have been written by Bob Marley in the early 1970s, but which at the time were credited to his friends, in the case of ‘No Woman, No Cry’ the credit went to Vincent Ford. It has long been speculated that Marley did this to circumvent his contractual commitments to Cayman Music, Now Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” has been pulled into a lawsuit over songs on an album he released in 1970. The dispute centres on ownership of the songs on “Cold Fact” and contracts between Rodriguez and two music companies. Gomba Music Inc. is suing Interior Music Corp. in Detroit federal court, claiming it owns the copyright to the songs penned by Rodriguez, not Interior. The lawsuit says the musician concealed his writing role to sidestep a publishing agreement he had with Gomba   http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/entertainment/2014/05/29/searching-for-sugarman-star-sixto-rodriguez-sued-for-copyright-infringement/  and http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=5794

Digital royalty rates under the microscope in the USA
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / June 2014

COPYRIGHT Artists, record labels   Elsewhere in the USA, A2IM, the organisation that represents indie record labels have criticised Sony and Universal Music Group in “the fight over digital dollars”. The American Association of Independent Music, whose artists include Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift and Adele, argues that Universal and Sony are in effect a de facto “duopoly”— and use their dominance to grab a disproportionate share of streaming music royalties. Streaming services just have to deal with Sony and UMG, who control well over 50% of the recorded music sector (and yes – EU and US regulators let that happen!). The group, which represents around 325 indie labels in the US, has been lobbying lawmakers to take a fresh look at music licensing and outlined its issues in a filing submitted to the federal Copyright Office: The New York Post say that A2IM contends that the streaming music business “is essentially a zero-sum game: The music majors use their distribution muscle to extract the lion’s share of dollars from services such as Spotify and Pandora, leaving the indie labels to settle for whatever is left”. SoundExchange is making a push to change how pre-1972 recordings are treated is the U.S, The Washington D.C. based collection society…

Beastie Boy in court for Monster infringement case
Artists , Copyright , Image Rights / June 2014

COPYRIGHT / IMAGE RIGHTS Artistes, marketing   Fresh from their settlement with Goldieblox – the toy company who used one of their songs without permission – the Beastie Boys’ legal battle with the Monster Energy Drink has finally reached the courts in the US. The rap group sued the energy drink company in August 2012, just a few months after the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who had included a clause in his will that prohibited the use of his music, image or any other artistic creation in advertising.  The suit reads, “The text accompanying Monster’s internet postings, video and MP3 conveyed to consumers the impression that Beastie Boys permitted the use of their name and intellectual property, and participated in connection with Monster’s promotion of its products and events.” Moreover, it says, the Beastie Boys believe and allege Monster infringed on their copyrights “with a wilful disregard of the harm to” the group and it did it “wilfully, maliciously, and oppressively.” The group’s lawsuit claims that the drinks company used their music in videos and downloads without permission, and is seeking damages of $150,000 for each infringement. The lawsuit adds: “The public was confused into believing that plaintiffs sponsored, endorsed…

Joan Jett drops trademark lawsuit against US retailer Hot Topic
Artists , Trade Mark / June 2014

TRADE MARK Artists Law360 reports that Joan Jett has reached a settlement with US clothing retailer Hot Topic over the allegedly unauthorised use of her label Blackheart Records’ logo on a line of lingerie, Lingerie for Girls Who Rock & Roll”. According to Jett’s complaint, filed last June, Hot Topic had legitimately distributed products made by Blackheart itself for more than a decade, but then started using the company’s logo on its own range of underwear without permission. This, said Jett, constituted false advertising, unfair competition and was an attempt to trade of the “substantial goodwill associated” towards the record label. Hot Topic said in response at the time that it had compensated Jett “with mutually agreed-upon license agreements for the sale of t-shirts featuring her image”, arguing that Jett had actually given up her trademark on the logo anyway.   http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6084878/joan-jett-settles-blackheart-hot-topic-lawsuit

Gregg Allman reaches settlement with filmmakers
Contract , Image Rights / June 2014

CONTRACT, IMAGE RIGHTS Artists, film Gregg Allman has settled his recently launched legal action, which was an attempt to halt the production of a film based on his 2012 autobiography. This followed the death of a camera assistant on the movie, Sarah Jones, who died when she was hit by a train during filming. The accident occurred on 20 Feb during the filming of a dream sequence involving a bed being placed on train tracks. The bed was to be passed by two trains, but a third appeared un expectedly, striking Jones, who was killed, while several other members of the crew were injured by flying debris. Investigators have said that the operator of the tracks on which the accident occurred claims that the production company did not have proper permission to film there. A decision is yet to be made on whether or not anyone will be charged over the incident. Following the accident, actor William Hurt, who was playing Allman, quit the film, and the production company, Unclaimed Freight Productions, postponed shooting indefinitely. However, there are now plans to begin filming again in June. In his lawsuit, Allman says that the company has lost its right to make…

CJEU upholds ‘right to be forgotten’
Artists , Privacy / June 2014

PRIVACY Artists   The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled Google must amend some search results at the request of ordinary people in a test of the the application of the so-called “right to be forgotten” on the search giant. In a now already criticised ruling, the CJEU  said links to “inadequate, “irrelevant” and outdated (“no longer relevant”) or excessive data should be erased on request. The board of 13 judges ruled that information could be suppressed under the 1995 Privacy Directive and subject to data protection rules, even if it was ‘true, accurate and lawfully published’ saying “[T]he activity of a search engine consisting in finding information published or placed on the internet by third parties, indexing it automatically, storing it temporarily and, finally, making it available to internet users according to a particular order of preference must be classified as ‘processing of personal data’ within the meaning of Article 2(b) [of the Data Protection Directive] when that information contains personal data and, second, the operator of the search engine must be regarded as the ‘controller’ in respect of that processing, within the meaning of Article 2(d).”   According to the Court: “the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove from the list…

Cavern Club plea to Seminole Tribe leader in continuing trademark dispute
Live Events , Trade Mark / June 2014

TRADE MARK Live events sector Owners of the modern day Cavern Club in Liverpool have appealed to the Council Chairman of the Seminole Tribe Of Native Americans in Florida in a bid to end a long-running trademark dispute in the US – as the Tribe own a very valuable US trade mark for the Cavern Club – registered in 1994 by the Hard Rock Café Group – which was subsequently acquired in 2007 by the Seminole Tribe Of Native Americans in a $965 million deal. Now, the Cavern Club have ‘reached out’ to James E Billie, Council Chairman of the tribe, and also a Grammy-nominated musician himself, performing as Chief Jim Billie, asking the ultimate overseer of the Hard Rock business to intervene. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Cavern Club director Bill Heckle said: “We are sure that as a musician Chief Jim Billie will see the history and the right to our claim. This trademark row began long before the Seminole Tribe took ownership of the Hard Rock, so we don’t consider it’s of their making. If Chief Jim Billie instructs the Hard Rock to try to see it our way not only will right be done but we’ll…

Electric Picnic dispute settled
Contract , Live Events / June 2014

COMMERCIAL, CONTRACT Live events sector   The founder of Ireland’s Electric Picnic festival, John Reynolds, has settled his legal action against the company that now operates the Electric Picnic. Reynolds took legal action against Festival Republic Dublin, alleging breach of a March 2009 shareholders agreement and oppression of the petitioner’s interests. Reynolds argued that management decisions made by Melvin Benn, the chief executive of FRD, relating to the 2012 and 2013 festivals were damaging to Reynold’s POD Music Ltd, the 100 per cent shareholder of EP Republic Ltd, but were to the benefit of the FRD Group. In 2009 FRD paid €4.2m on acquiring a 71 per cent stake in EP Festivals Ltd, then a subsidiary of POD. Reynolds also claimed he was kept out of volume discounting on sales of tickets and lost out as a result – estimating a discounting sum of €450,000 was involved over the five Electric Picnics between 2009 and 2013 which had a direct impact on the value of his shareholding. Reynolds had previously secured an order requiring Ticketmaster to provide him with information about volume discounts paid on the sale of tickets for five Electric Picnic festivals up to 2013. In response FRD alleged Mr…