Shearer launches Spinal Tap lawsuit against Universal
Contract , Copyright / November 2016

COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT Film & TV   This Is Spinal Tap star Harry Shearer is suing Universal parent Vivendi for alleged is deliberate under-payment of music and other royalties from the classic spoof rockumentary. His website, Fairness Rocks, opens with this Popular music and films make huge money for rights-owning corporations. Yet, too often, the artists and creators get a raw deal from exploitation of their talent. I want to help rebalance this equation. My case against Vivendi is simple, if perhaps a little shocking. It’s been 34 years since This Is Spinal Tap was released. Yet, the creators have been told that global music sales from the soundtrack album total just US$98. We’re also, apparently, only entitled to share US$81 (between us) from global merchandising sales. This shocks me, given Tap’s enduring popularity. So, Vivendi – it’s not a big ask. Just show us how you’re exploiting our creative work and pay us a fair share   In a lawsuit filed at the Central District Court of California Shearer accuses Vivendi of “fraudulent accounting for revenues from music copyrights” – through Universal – as well as mismanaging film and merchandising rights through UMG sister companies such as Studio Canal.   A press release from…

Avenged Sevenfold face a trial – AND a competing ‘best of’ from their former label
Artists , Contract , Record Labels / November 2016

CONTRACT Recorded music, artistes   Avenged Sevenfold surprise announcement of the arrival of their seventh studio album, on Vivendi SA’s Capitol Records, after playing several songs on the roof of Capitol’s circular building in Los Angeles that was streamed online via a virtual reality app, may have come as some surprise to their former; record label, Warner Music Group, who sued the band earlier this year in California state court for breach of contract after the band left the label without delivering the final album that was apparently due under that deal. The Wall Street Journal says the battle centres on provisions in California’s state labor law that prevents contracts for “personal service” – and that includes recording artistes, actors and athletes –  from extending beyond seven years, but also explicitly permits record companies to sue acts for damages if the departing artiste fails to deliver the agreed-upon number of recordings during that time. Warner Music’s case against Avenged Sevenfold seems to be the first such suit claiming damages.   The surprise release of the new album, titled “The Stage,” by a rival label ahead of the trial could be a welcome development for Warner Music, as it will test the band’s current…

WSJ probe Bon Jovi’s China cancellation
Contract , Live Events / November 2016

CONTRACT Live events sector   The Wall Street Journal has published an article which seemingly alleges that AEG Live used a video of Bon Jovi “performing in front of an image of the Dalai Lama” to convince Chinese censors to ban the rock act – and thus force the cancellation of a concert tour in China which was being promoted by AEG. The supposed reason?  The third party intervention by Chinese authorities would be an instance of ‘force majeure’ – forcing the cancellation of the tour which was not selling well, saving AEG some $4 million. WSJ say that whilst AEG did not offer any explanation for the cancellations at the time, it was widely reported at the time that the Chinese government withdrew permission for the tour after they became aware of a performance by the band a few years earlier in front of an image of the Dalai Lama – and WSJ say unnamed sources have said that individuals close to AEG Live ensured Chinese officials saw the videos with the intent of cutting potentially steep losses for the shows. Jay Marciano, chairman of AEG Live and chief operating officer of AEG, categorically rejected the account, telling the Journal….

US appeals court revisits ‘safe harbor’
Copyright , Internet , Music Publishing / November 2016

COPYRIGHT Internet, record music, music publishing   A U.S. appeals court has agreed that former members of the EMI Group can pursue additional copyright infringement claims in a long-running lawsuit over defunct online music storage firm MP3tunes. In rejecting an appeal by MP3tunes founder Michael Robertson, who was ordered to pay $12.2 million after a federal jury in 2014 found him liable for copyright infringement, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York revisited the ruling by  U.S. District Judge William Pauley that MP3tunes was eligible for safe harbor protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by meeting a requirement that service providers adopt and implement a policy for terminating repeat infringers: Pauley had narrowly defined “repeat infringer” to cover only those users who upload infringing content, rather than ones who downloaded songs for personal entertainment. “In the context of this case, all it takes to be a ‘repeat infringer’ is to repeatedly upload or download copyrighted material for personal use,” U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier wrote saying that the trial judge’s view that only “blatant infringers” need to be subject to banning doesn’t match with the text, structure or legislative history of the DMCA. Whilst MP3Tunes terminated 153…

Turtles’ case against Sirius XM reaches New York’s appeals court
Copyright , Record Labels / November 2016

COPYRIGHT Recorded music, broadcasting   New York’s highest court has now heard oral arguments in the case brought by the owner of The Turtles’ 1967 hit song “Happy Together” against Sirius XM Radio. The issue at the heart of the case is  whether the copyright holders of recordings made before 1972 have a common law right to make radio stations and others pay for their use. The lawsuit was filed by Flo & Eddie Inc., the company controlled by two founding members of the band that owns the rights to the recordings. Sirius XM argues it’s not required to pay royalties for recordings made before the federal Copyright Act was changed in 1972 to establish limited protections for recordings. The case was referred to the Court of Appeals from the federal appeals court.

Beatles’ team move to dismiss Shea Stadium copyright claims
Copyright , Live Events / November 2016

COPYRIGHT Live events sector, films and television   Last month we reported that estate of Sid Bernstein, who promoted the Beatles’ famed August 1965 concert at Shea Stadium in New York, was taking legal action against two of the bands’ companies, Apple Corps and Subafilms, for alleged copyright infringement over use of footage from the concert in upcoming documentary film Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years – directed by Ron Howard. The film has been produced in cooperation with both surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Strarr, and the widows of George Harrison (Olivia) and John Lennon (Yoko Ono) and includes 30 minutes of remastered footage from Shea Stadium. It is understood that the the copyright in the film later acquired by Apple Corps, founded by The Beatles in 1968, and film-distribution outfit Subafilms. Sid Bernstein Presents has challenged that ownership of the copyright and in turn claims ownership of the concert footage, parts of which have appeared previously in the Ed Sullivan-produced film The Beatles at Shea Stadium and in the Anthology documentary series.  Billboard reports that the claim proposes several solutions, including having Sid Bernstein Presents named sole author, or joint author (with The Beatles) as well as a declaration that previous use of…

Chicago says DJs and rap are art forms
Licensing , Live Events / November 2016

LICENSING Live events sector   Chicago’s small venues are breathing a sigh of relief following the decision by Cook County to officially recognise popular music and DJ performances as legitimate forms of art. Several Chicago music venues have been locked in a dispute with the county over US$200,000 worth of “crippling” back taxes after one official, Anita Richardson, said DJs, “rap music, country music and rock and roll do not fall under the definition of ‘fine art’”, which would otherwise make the exempt from Cook County’s 3% amusement tax. The Cook County Board of Commissioners has now agreed wording that would accept “the validity of live music and DJ performances as recognised artforms”  and rthis has the support of the administration, the commissioners and the local music industry and that the local athoritry won’t be acting as ‘culture police’ in the near future Last month the city of Berlin afforded a similar tax break to the Berghain nightclub, ruling the techno haven should pay the same lower 7% tax rate as a site of high culture alongside museums, theatres and classical music venues.

Foos settle insurance claim
Insurance , Live Events / November 2016

INSURANCE Live events sector   Foo Fighters have settled a lawsuit relating to a series of cancelled concerts during the band’s 2015 world tour. The American band were forced to cancel portions of their Sonic Highways world tour following lead singer Dave Grohl’s breaking his leg and, later, the November terrorist attacks in Paris.   The Central District Court of California has now dismissed a lawsuit by Foo Fighters which had accused London insurers of failing to cover losses incurred by concerts cancelled last year and accused the band’s own brokers of failing to adequately advise the band of the potential impact additional shows on London could have on their insurance claim” and that Robertson Taylor failed to adequately inform the band that, if it decided to add these shows to the Tour, the London Market Insurers would attempt to recharacterise the cancelled Wembley Stadium and BT Murrayfield Stadium performances” as being “rescheduled,” which would dramatically reduce the amount those insurers would owe in a claim saying their brokers sided with insurers.   The original complaint alleged “London market insurers’ inconsistent, erratic and unreasonable behaviour […] caused significant financial harm to Foo Fighters” by refusing to pay out under insurance…

Live Nation sued over US booking fees
Competition , Live Events / November 2016

COMPETITION Live events sector   A New York man is suing Live Nation over its practice of charging booking fees on tickets, accusing the promoter and its ticketing companies of violating the Truth in Lending Act by “advertising one price for a ticket and then charging a higher price when people arrive at the box office”.   David Himber, of West Hempstead, had complained that the price for an advertised $49.50 ticket to Rascal Flatts’ show at the Jones Beach Theater (15,000-cap.) was actually $55.50 and his lawyer told the New York Daily News that “The advertised price is available to nobody”.   In Himber v. Live Nation Worldwide, Inc. et al, Himber is seeking to have Live Nation to refund the fees (including his $6) and pay statutory damages of $50 per ticket and $500 per purchase to all Live Nation box-office customers from the last three years.   Himber has filed three previous lawsuits in the Long Island federal court, although his lawyer Abraham Kleinman told the Daily News that his client wasn’t a prolific litigant. “Mr Himber successfully prosecuted his case against the Automobile Club of New York which displayed too much of his credit card information…

Rock am Ring organisers cleared of blame for extreme weather evacuation
Health & Safety , Live Events / November 2016

HEALTH & SAFETY Live events sector   There will be no prosecution of the organisers of the storm-hit Rock Am Ring 2016. Following a anonymous complaint The Koblenz public prosecutor, investigated the safety procedures and emergency storm plan drawn up by festival promoters Marek and Andre Lieberberg/CTS Eventim and licensing authorities and found no evidence of negligence on either part.   At the International Festival Forum in an interview with both Marek and Andre Lieberberg, the promoting father and son due suggested that the authorities had compounded an already bad situation caused by the extreme weather by making unfounded decisions and putting concert goers at further risk. The final day of Rock am Ring was called off by local authorities who revoked the licence after another lightning storm warning:  72 people were treated in hospital and some people had been injured by lightning, some seriously. In fact the last day was relatively free of bad weather, with just one heavy downpour as storms swept across Europe. In a statement, the festival asked fans to leave the site “no later than noon on Sunday” (the predicted storms were die by 13.00).   “The organisers accept the decision [of local officials] because of our…

Radiohead fatality case can progress despite slow pace
Health & Safety , Live Events / November 2016

HEALTH & SAFETY Live events sector   Live Nation Canada’s moves to have charges it faces over the death of a drum technician before a Radiohead concert four years ago dismissed because of “unreasonable delay” in the case have failed. Scott Johnson, 33, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was killed when the stage collapsed in Downsview Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on June 16, 2012.  Live Nation Canada, Live Nation Ontario and Optex Staging and Services each face four charges under the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Act.  Engineer Dominic Cugliari faces one charge of endangering a worker by negligence. All have pleaded not guilty and the trial had begun last year after charges were brought in June 2013. The trial is not due to conclude until January 2017   According to the Toronto Star, the trial judge Justice Shaun Nakatsuru has agreed that the long period of time so far taken up by the case was acceptable because of the complexity of the evidence needed to determine “The issue of how the stage collapsed, and who is responsible for that” saying this was “complex”.   The trial is scheduled to resume on December 5th. The maximum fine against a corporation, if convicted, is $500,000…

Anti-graft law may threaten K-pop concerts
Live Events , Regulation / November 2016

CORPORATE REGULATION Live events sector   The new “anti-graft” law (the Kim Young-ran Act) could have profound effects on live music in South Korea – something already seen in the classical music sector as conglomerates have moved to reduce or discontinue their support for concerts to avoid corruption charges – meaning symphony orchestras and concert organisers will lose the main buyers of bulk tickets, with concerts relying on corporate sponsorship for about half of ticket sales with the companies often using the tickets VIP customers as part of marketing promotions. “Orchestras are desperate for funding but it’s always difficult to find a patron. The new law will discourage companies even further from sponsoring orchestras,” said a public relations (PR) official for a renowned Korean orchestra, declining to be named adding “Companies will find it harder sending out invitation tickets and some are considering ditching sponsorship. I heard that one company has pulled out of sponsorship entirely.” Major domestic companies said they will cut their sponsorship of various cultural events as the anti-graft law mean companies cannot give out tickets to customers with one telecoms company saying “The ridiculous law will practically outlaw the sponsorship of classical concerts by big companies, taking a toll on…

SFX oppose Sillerman claims
Business , Live Events , Record Labels / November 2016

BANKRUPTCY Live events sector, recorded music   SFX’s founder Robert FX Sillerman, who stood down as CEO shortly after the firm applied for Chapter Eleven bankruptcy protection, has filed a claim for monies to cover legal costs and financial guarantees he made on behalf of the business. According to Amplify, Sillerman has requested just over half a million dollars o pay the law firm he has hired to represent him in litigation where both he and SFX are co-defendants. The Company has objected to the claim. Sillerman is also seeking over $15 million in relation to guarantees he made as part of deals between SFX and both Spotify and Chicago-based promoter React Presents. Here lawyers for SFX argue that there is no evidence that Sillerman has, to date, made any payments to the beneficiaries of the guarantees, arguing that his claims against the company are contingent on such payments having been made. As well as seeking to block the claims for legal fees and other cash, SFX are also opposing several requests made by Sillerman to indemnify himself from future lawsuits in relation to his former business. It also seems that SFX Entertainment has fallen out with another high-profile brand partner –…

Mobb Deep’s Prodigy looks to break free from UMG
Contract , Record Labels / November 2016

CONTRACT Recorded music   Having seemingly settled a legal action with Universal last November, Prodigy of Mobb Deep (Albert Johnson) is taking the industry powerhouse to court again, in efforts to completely break free from the major. HipHopDX reports that Prodigy’s attorney Corey D. Boddie said “This particular case involves Prodigy actually looking to get out of his contract based on what is called a ‘mutual mistake.’ There was a term in the actual agreement that was overlooked by both parties and because of that, Prodigy is looking to get out his contract.” The suit was filed in New York and Boddie told HipHopDX that the only motivation behind the new case is the expiration of the contract and that this particular legal action is targeted against the publishing side of Universal. “There is no motivation, in the contract there was what’s called a mutual mistake,” Boddie explains again. “That is a term of the contract that states that they were in the fifth option period. That fifth option period was exercised and over. They continued to refer to the fifth option period, so the lawsuit is basically saying ‘that’s a mistake, what option period are we in?’ We contend that we’re…

Ticket re-seller faces fraud allegations
Fraud , Live Events / November 2016

FRAUD Live events sector   42 year old Traci Monti, who allegedly raised more than US$5 million from investors to buy and sell tickets on the secondary ticketing market, has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud – each of which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison – and two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of ten years. It is alleged Monti ispent the money on a house and car, and had been arrested by Chicago police. According to the indictment by the US attorney for the northern district of Illinois and the Chicago offices of the FBI and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Monti, who was once Joan Jett’s publicist,  told investors she had “business relationships with multiple primary market sources, such as event promoters and venues, through which she purportedly purchased tickets at face value”. The indictment alleges these relationships didn’t exist, and that in reality Monti used the victims’ funds to fund her lifestyle and to make “ponzi-type payments to other investors”.   Monti pleaded not guilty in the arraignment. A pre-trial status hearing is set for the 9th of November.   In 2012, Monti faced a legal action…