Ray Charles Foundation test heirs’ copyright termination claim
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2015

COPYRIGHT: Music publishing   The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to decide an important case between the children of Ray Charles and the Ray Charles Foundation,  he charity which Mr. Charles gave his right to receive royalties from his music publishing agreement with Warner-Chappell Music in his will. Whilst the charity has had the benefit of the royalties to date, Section 304(c) of the U.S. Copyright Act provides the statutory heirs of deceased authors, in this case Mr. Charles’ children, the sole right to terminate the assignment of copyrights from an author to a third party. Can they prevail and in effect overturn their father’s wishes?   Mr. Charles died before he was permitted (under the statute) to send the vast majority of termination notices to Warner-Chappell to regain his songs.  The termination right may not be transferred by will or by any other “agreement to the contrary” and in order to ensure that his Foundation would continue to receive the music publishing income stream after his death for the life of copyright, Mr. Charles entered into agreements with each of his children providing that in exchange for $500,000 they would not take any actions to challenge the Estate….

Returned BB King guitar results in copyright claim
Copyright / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Literary works, advertising   When Eric Dahl purchased a Gibson guitar at a Las Vegas pawnshop in 2009, little did he think it would lead to a copyright battle with Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. and two other companies. Having paid nearly $2,200 for the B.B. King Lucille model, Dahl then discovered it was the original “Prototype 1” model that  the guitar company had presented to the blues legend on his 80th birthday in 2005. King had performed with the guitar until the summer of 2009, when it was stolen from his home. The Las Vegas Review-Journal tells us that In November 2009, Dahl went to King’s office in Las Vegas to return the guitar. To show his appreciation, King autographed another Gibson Lucille and gave it to Dahl during the meeting. All great so far! Dahl then wrote about his experiences in three chapters of his 2013 book “B.B. King’s Lucille and the Loves Before Her.”  and it’s that story is now at the centre of a copyright infringement case filed by Dahl, alleging that  car manufacturer Toyota created a television advertisement that “presented an adapted visual interpretation of the story”. The defendants, along with co-defendants advertising agency Saachi…

More Copyright, More Good Music?
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   More copyright, wore “Quality Works”? Not quite but maybe, says a study of Italian opera before 1900. As Italy had a wide variety of copyright law provisions until  the late 1860s when Italy itself was finally unified, Stanford economists Petra Moser and Michela Giorcelli compared the varying degrees of copyright protection to the output of operas, compiling a database of more than 2,598 Italian operas written between 1770 and 1900 – and then looked at the longevity of each opera right up to how many recordings of any opera were available in 2014 on Amazon. Vox explains “Copyright laws seem to have created significantly more operas that also had staying power and were of higher quality” and details:  “States with copyrights ended up producing 2.68 additional operas per year, a 121 percent increase over states without copyrights. Historically popular operas (as measured by the 1978 publication, the Annales of Opera 1597-1940) grew by 47 percent, and durable operas [those available on Amazon in 2014] grew by 80 percent.”   http://www.vox.com/2014/10/24/7049983/how-napoleons-conquest-gave-italian-opera-a-boost

Swift grabs domain names
Artists , Internet , Trade Mark / April 2015

TRADE MARK Artists, internet   Taylor Swift has bought the web domain names TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult. The addresses were part of a public sale by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) of new domains. The non-profit group has expanded the number of generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, such as .com and .net in 2011. There were 22 four years ago but now there are nearly 550 with new ones released every month. ICANN is clearly aware of the negative repercussions of adding these domains and allowed trade mark owners and public figures to take advantage of the so-called “Sunrise Period” and register the domains before they become open to public purchase on June 1. The Trademark Clearinghouse,  “a global repository for trade mark data” will verify trade mark data from multiple global regions and maintain a database with the verified trade mark records.  This verified data can be used to support ‘Trademark Claims’ and ‘Sunrise Services’, both of which are required for the new gTLDs.  The Trademark Clearinghouses’ ‘Sunrise Services’ allow trade mark holders an advance opportunity to register domain names which correspond to their marks before domain names are generally available to the public. The Trademark Clearinghouse service…

Kraftwerk trade mark claim powers up
Artists , Trade Mark / April 2015

TRADE MARK Artistes   Kraftwerk co-founder Ralf Hutter has launched a trademark infringement lawsuit against a German company called eZelleron who plan to manufacture a portable phone charger which they plan to call … Kraftwerk. Hutter, who owns trademarks to the Kraftwerk name in multiple territories in various classes, is claiming that eZelleron’s chosen name for its product suggests at least an endorsement on his part. However, the meaning of the band’s name is ‘Power Station’ in German which in the circumstances might prove a burden for the musician. The Hollywood Reporter says that Hutter is launching his legal actions in Delaware in the U.S. rather than Europe, demanding that US internet service providers and crowdfunding platforms be barred from displaying references to eZelleron’s “Kraftwerk” in order to avoid confusion amongst consumers. Hütter said that the sale and distribution of the portable phone charger would contribute to the dilution of the band’s trademarks, which are “widely recognised by the general consuming public” of the US and that  eZelleron’s portable charger infringes three US ‘Kraftwerk’ trademarks. eZelleron raised $1.5 million from a successful Kickstarter campaign,   http://www.worldipreview.com/news/kraftwerk-founder-says-phone-charger-infringes-band-s-trademark-8028

Greg Allman biopic death leads to two year prison sentence
Criminal Law , Health & Safety / April 2015

HEALTH & SAFETY / CRIMINAL Film, TV   The director of the ill-fated Gregg Allman biopic has issued a statement after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. Randall Miller was prosecuted over the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones while filming ‘Midnight Rider‘, a movie based on Allman’s autobiography. The crew had been preparing to film on a railway bridge when a train unexpectedly appeared, hitting a metal framed bed that had been placed on the tracks, injuring six and killing Jones. Miller agreed to a last minute plea bargain ahead of his trial which meant that producer Jody Savin, who is also Miller’s wife, had charges against her dropped, Miller received a two year jail sentence. He also agreed to serve an additional eight years on probation and pay a $20,000 fine.Executive Producer Jay Sedrish agreed to ten years probation. Miller’s statement reads: “On 20 Feb 2014, a great number of mistakes were made and the terrible accident occurred which took Sarah Jones’ life. It was a horrible tragedy that will haunt me forever. Although I relied on my team, it is ultimately my responsibility and was my decision to shoot the scripted scene that caused this…

Fishbone plead for funds to fight stage diving claim
Health & Safety , Live Events / April 2015

HEALTH & SAFETY Live events sector   Angelo Moore, the front man of Fishbone, has posted a fundraising plea on fundrazr.com explaining that the band are still facing legal action from a litigant named as Kimberley Myers over a stage diving incident. These are Angelo’s words: “Kimberly Myers and Her 4 man Lawyer team THE JOKELSONS have successfully sued the Philadelphia campus, the club, our management and our booking agent and for some strange reason, have been given Yet ANOTHER opportunity to re-open the $1.4million law suit ………..AGAIN! We had legal representation but could’nt afford to keep them. Believe it or not we are barely living month to month with the money that we make from our shows which does’nt allow us any Funds to pay for a lawyer. But with your donation and support we can hire another lawyer  to face the judge and represent us one last time. This will put and end to this FaLse and unfair acusation and completley dropped once and for all. If you love Fishbone and the music that we have brought to you all these years along with the right of freedom of expression through dance. Please donate to our legal fund.” Kimberley Myers had…

Weatherley welcomes review of online copyright sanctions in the UK
Copyright / April 2015

COPYRIGHT All areas   Mike Weatherley MP has welcome the UK’s Intellectual Property Office’s report into criminal penalties for copyright crimes. Weatherley had highlighted the disparity between penalties for offline and online copyright infringement, with copyright crimes leading to up to ten years custody for physical piracy – but a maximum of two years if the crime takes place online. The IPO has confirmed this and has now suggested that UK copyright law should be amended so that serious online copyright infringement is treated in a similar way to offline activities that those activities result in similar levels of harm to copyright owners. Responding to Weatherley, who had previously been Prime Minister David Cameron’s advisor on IP, IP Minister Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe wrote: “I am writing to update you on the study commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office into criminal sanctions available for online copyright offences. I know that you have taken a keen interest in this matter and that you have pressed for action to be taken to address what you felt was an anomaly in the level of penalties available for online copyright offences” adding “Given the uncertainty surrounding the potential impact brought by the increase to custodial sentences,…

More artistes voice Blurred Lines concerns
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Music publishing   With the appeal by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in the Blurred Lines case now confirmed, rapper and producer RZA says there should be a limit on how much an artist can recover if their songs are sampled without consent. Speaking at SXSW, the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder said that while artists who inspire should be paid, there should be a limit to how much they can demand, especially if the money isn’t actually going to the artist: “Art is something that’s made to inspire the future,” he said during his stay in Austin, according to the Daily Beast. “If you utilize somebody’s artistic expression blatantly, to [the point] where it’s an identifiable thing, then there should be some sort of compensation to the person who inspires you.” Arguing the sampling itself is creative and an art form, the Shaolin producer, known for crafting unexpected beats from esoteric samples, called for a 50% cap for retroactive payments of sampled material saying “There should be a cut off. Fifty percent is the most” commenting “The Greeks could come sue everybody because one generation teaches the other” and “When you hear an A chord to the D to the E, there are over one million…

What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling?
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling” was a headline from the New York Times two days after a civil jury found that Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and TI’s song infringed Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’. In it Jon Caramanica says “Owing to the specifics of copyright law, the jury was instructed to base its decision on the sheet music, a fact that reflects how inadequate copyright law is when it comes to contemporary songwriting and production practices. In 2015, the arrangement of notes on a sheet of paper is among the least integral parts of pop music creation. We’re decades beyond the time when a songwriter penned a tune on paper, then gave it to musicians to perform.   Pointing to the difficulties in this area, Caramanica also comments on the recent ‘Stay With Me’ settlement where Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne were given 25% of that song which allegedly plagiarised Petty’s 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down” – although Caramanica points out the argument there was structural — “both choruses have a similar pace and syllabic emphasis. But Mr. Smith’s song is ecstatic and soaring, and Mr. Petty’s is quietly tenacious. “Stay With Me”…

Gaye family keep on suing
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   The family of Marvin Gaye has been awarded $7.3 million by a civil jury in Los Angeles, who decided that Robin Thicke and Pharrell William’s massive 2013 hit Blurred Lines did copy Marvin Gaye’s 1977 Classic “Got to Give It Up“.  Howard E King, The lawyer for Thicke, WIlliams and co-writer rapper TI, said the decision set a “horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward”. The decision will almost certainly be appealed. Williams, Thicke and T.I. said in a joint statement: “‘Blurred Lines‘ was created from the heart and minds of Pharrell, Robin and T.I. and not taken from anyone or anywhere else.  We are reviewing the decision, considering our options and you will hear more from us soon about this matter.” The Gaye family’s lawyer Richard S Busch said “We’ll be asking the court to enter an injunction prohibiting the further sale and distribution of Blurred Lines unless and until we can reach an agreement with those guys on the other side about how future monies that are received will be shared”.   In the wake of the jury’s verdict in the “Blurred Lines case”, Marvin Gaye’s children have filed a new motion to list three record labels and…

YMCA writing credits re-written
Copyright , Music Publishing / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Music Publishing   The writing credits and ownership of the classic Village People recorded track YMCA have been amended to just two writers: Since the song appeared in 1977, “YMCA” has always had three listed authors– Jacques Morali, Victor Willis, and Henry Bololo. But now after a two week jury trial in San Diego federal district court, Bololo was removed from the copyright. Willis now shares “YMCA” 50-50 with Morali. Attorney Brian Caplan, who handles many intellectual property cases, represented Willis, an original member of the Village People. In addition to “YMCA,” Willis regained half ownership in eleven other songs. For almost 40 years Bololo maintained that “YMCA” was one of several French songs he repurposed. But after two weeks of testimony, a jury decided that Morali wrote the music and Willis penned the now famous lyrics. Willis first brought action over the Village People copyrights back in 2011. There were two elements to his dispute. First, whether or not Willis could use the so called ‘termination right’, added to US copyright law in the 1970s and now relevant, to reclaim control of copyrights he had previously assigned to the company behind the Village People franchise.In this he succeded and…

Wu Tang will auction single CD pressing
Copyright , Record Labels / April 2015

COPYRIGHT Recorded music   Rappers Wu-Tang Clan have set up a website to run the auction for their album, ‘Once Upon A Time In Shaolin’ which has been released with a single pressing of the 31 track, 128 minute record – the person places the highest bid will buy the lone CD and the box that contains it. And according to the record’s producer Cilvaringz, after a 88 year holdback – the owner of the physical CD will be assigned the copyright in the recording as well and could choose to release the album. Cilvaringz told Forbes: “After 88 years the copyright, which includes public and commercial rights, automatically transfers to the owner of the work. [But] it will still be his or her choice at that [point] to release it or not release it”. This week 200 people attended the sole public airing on the album at in a heated dome outside New York’s MoMA PS1. Guests and journalists were forced to put their cell phones in plastic bags at the front desk to avoid the 13-minute album excerpt from leaking.  According to Wu-Tang leader the RZA, bids have reached $5 million.   http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/inside-wu-tang-clans-first-last-only-listening-session-for-new-lp-20150303

Sony and UMG actions could re-shape the digital pie
Artists , Contract , Copyright / April 2015

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Recorded music, artistes, streaming     Sony Music has failed to have a wide-ranging lawsuit filed by Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment a year ago dismissed, though some elements of the case have been thrown out. The federal lawsuit alleges that Sony Music Entertainment cheated 19 out of more than $7 million in royalties for “American Idol. Sony Music had traditionally signed ‘Idol’ winners. The suit claimed that it had found “systemically incorrect calculations” on two separate audits of royalty payments made by the major. It then added that the record company had failed to allow 19’s auditors access all the data they required to do a full audit. 19 Roster includes Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks, David Archuleta and David Cook, Sony responded a few months later with a motion to dismiss, countering the various allegations made by the management company. U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams commented that the companies set up a “highly complex royalty structure” and said that four of 19’s eight claims in lawsuit should be allowed to proceed to court. 19’s claims includes the argument that digital income should count as ‘licensing’ or ‘sales’ income with artist contracts that don’t specifically…

Lufti’s claim against Spears will be heard in court
Artists , Contract / April 2015

CONTRACT Artistes   Sam Lutfi, the one time self appointed manager for Britney Spears at the time when spear’s life seemed to be spinning out of control, is back in the news. Pushed away from Spears when her family took control of her life, the somewhat controversial Lufti subsequently sued the family claiming he had been defamed by Spears’ mother, Lynne, in a book about her daughter’s struggles. She accused Lutfi of “exasperating Britney’s problems and drug taking, whereas he claimed that he had actually pressured the singer to deal with her addictions.” There were also allegations that Spears’ father assaulted Lutfi, while the latter claimed that he had, for a time, been Britney’s manager and was therefore due a cut of her income from that period. That libel case reached court in 2012, with both Lutfi and Mrs Spears taking to the witness stand, but after two weeks Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bruguera  dismissed the proceedings, noting various weaknesses in Lutfi’s arguments and inconsistencies in his testimony. However Lufti’s claim breach of contract and outstanding commissions has continued, and appeal judges in California have now said that the dispute should be considered by a jury saying “We must determine whether Sam’s inconsistent testimony…

Korn’s former drummer thumps out his claim
Artists , Contract / April 2015

CONTRACT Artistes   Korn have sold more than 10 million albums in their long career, with releases including “Life is Peachy” and  their third album, 1998’s “Follow the Leader” which debuted at No 1 in the U.S Billboard charts. Now one of the founding members, David Silveria, is suing his four former bandmates in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Silveria laims that lead singer Jonathan Davis, guitarists James Schaffer and Brian Welch, and bassist Reggie Arvizu owe him an accounting for revenue since 2006 and damages for breach of partnership agreement. He also seeks an order dissolving the Korn partnership. Silveria says he, Schaffer and Arvizu disbanded their heavy metal group L.A.P.D in 1989, and they then joined with Davis and Welch to form Korn and tat he and his bandmates formalised their partnership and agreed to share equally in Korn’s future successes and failures – including its trademarked name.  In 2005, Welch left the group, but retained his partnership interest in Korn. Silveria left in 2006 in a move he calls “a temporary hiatus” in his complaint, saying he always intened to return to the band and he retained his interest in the Korn Partnership, which entitled him to his percentage interest in profits…

Wonder faces $7 million claim from attorney’s widow
Artists , Contract , Music Publishing / April 2015

CONTRACT Artistes. Music publishing   Stevie Wonder (Stevland Morris) is being sued by the wife of his former attorney who claims the singer songwriter owes at least $7 million in unpaid royalties.  Susan Strack is the widow of Johanan Vigoda, a veteran entertainment lawyer with more tha 40 years service for Wonder, who died in 2011. The federal claim says that having helped Wonder escape onerous and oppressive contracts, Wonder agreed to pay her husband a 6 percent fee on royalties “forever.” She claims that several royalty fee agreements and a trusted witness always read the terms to the blind Wonder before he placed his mark on them, which was his fingerprint followed by the signature of the witness. Black Bull Music, Taurus Productions, Sawandi Music, and Stevland Morris Music are also named as defendants. Stack says that whilst payments were made for  a 20 month period they have now ceased and she clains “fees and compensation to which she is rightfully and legally entitled” as well as damages, and punitive damages, for breach of written agreement, intentional interference with contract, and conversion. Strack also seeks declaratory judgment that Wonder and his heirs and successors must continue paying her and Vigoda’s heirs and successors the…