Oct 14, 2023 5 min read

CMU Digest: RIAA, Utopia, Easy Life, Coldplay, Hipgnosis

Catch up on key events this week, including the RIAA adding voice cloning sites to its piracy gripe list, more revelations about Utopia’s finances, Easy Life conceding defeat in trademark battle, Coldplay suing their ex-manager, and unhappy Hipgnosis shareholders planning to block a catalogue sale

CMU Digest: RIAA, Utopia, Easy Life, Coldplay, Hipgnosis

The Recording Industry Association Of America said that voice cloning platforms should be added to the US government's list of piracy sites. In a submission to inform the annual Notorious Markets list of websites and marketplaces that facilitate copyright infringement, it said there has been "an eruption of unauthorised AI vocal clone services that infringe not only the rights of the artists whose voices are being cloned but also the rights of those that own the sound recordings in each underlying musical track". Its submission highlighted in particular UK-based Voicify. The trade body also welcomed proposals in US Congress for a NO FAKES Act, which will make it illegal to produce or distribute an "AI-generated replica of an individual to perform in an audiovisual or sound recording" without the consent of that individual.

US record industry adds voice cloning sites to its official piracy gripe list
The RIAA has included voice cloning services - in particular UK-based Voicify - in its latest submission to the US government as it works on its next Notorious Markets report that lists piracy operations of concern

It emerged that Utopia Music is still waiting to access some of the funds that were paid by Believe when it acquired Sentric Music earlier this year. As is common practice with corporate finance M&A transactions, a portion of the funds paid by Believe were held in escrow. Utopia originally expected to receive that money - which could be up to $7 million - back in July, but there have been some delays which, CMU understands, relate to official bodies or third parties providing necessary documentation. The delay has had a significant knock-on effect on the finances of Utopia Music. A recent report from Breakit noted that Kronofogden - Sweden’s official register of debt - shows a new round of mounting debts at Utopia’s Swedish subsidiary, Utopia R&D Tech AB. Responding to that report, a spokesperson explained: “We are waiting for a final payment from a large deal that was closed last spring - the delay of which has created an unfortunate chain reaction with us - which will settle our temporary debts”.

Utopia “needs incoming funds” to clear debts
Senior sources close to the sale by Utopia Music AG of Sentric Music to Believe SA have confirmed that Utopia is waiting for “up to” €7 million in funds to be released from escrow. These funds will be released “on completion of paperwork”, some of which is “reliant on third

The band Easy Life announced that they are going to change their name as a result of a trademark legal battle with easyJet owner easyGroup. In its lawsuit, easyGroup said that the band have infringed its rights in the name easyLife, which come from a relatively recent trademark registration and a deal it did with a mail-order website that has used that brand for more than 20 years. It also alleged infringement of the easyJet trademark because of a tour poster and merchandise which presented the band's name in the style of the easyJet logo. In a statement on social media, the band said they couldn't afford to fight the litigation so would pick a new name and then seek to settle with easyGroup.

Easy Life concede defeat in EasyGroup battle, will change name
Easy Life have said that “having explored literally every possible avenue” they have concluded that they will have to change their name, as a result of legal action from EasyJet owner EasyGroup. They will play two final shows under their current name this week

Coldplay countersued their former manager Dave Holmes seeking damages in excess of £14 million. Holmes went legal earlier this year, claiming that the band reneged on his most recent management agreement, and sacked him after he had already started work on their next album and tour. In their lawsuit the band insist that they never renewed their management deal with Holmes because of concerns about his conduct. That included costly errors he allegedly made on their last tour and the fact that - unbeknownst to the band's members - he secured loans from Live Nation to help finance a property project which, they reckon, potentially hindered his ability to negotiate their subsequent deals with the live giant. A legal rep for Holmes said that the band's lawsuit used "non-existent ethical lapses and other made-up misconduct" to cover up the fact that they are refusing to honour their contract with their ex-manager.

Coldplay countersue former manager Dave Holmes in £14 million lawsuit
Coldplay have counter-sued their former manager Dave Holmes, who they accuse of making mistakes in the management of their last tour which cost the band millions - Holmes accuses them of reneging on his most recent management deal

It was reported that some major shareholders in the publicly listed Hipgnosis Songs Fund are preparing to block a proposed sale of a number of its catalogues. A deal has been negotiated to sell the catalogues to the separate Blackstone-backed Hipgnosis Songs Capital for $440 million. The profits of the proposed deal would be used to buy back up to $180 million worth of shares in the Songs Fund and to make some payments on its credit facility, with the aim of boosting its share price. Although investors in the Songs Fund are unhappy with the current share price, the FT reported that some still plan to vote against the proposed Hipgnosis-to-Hipgnosis deal, reckoning that the price being offered for the catalogues is too low. One source told the FT: “It's all about price - if it was 30% higher then it might make sense".

Key shareholders could block Hipgnosis to Hipgnosis catalogue sale
FT sources say that key shareholders in the publicly listed Hipgnosis Songs Fund could seek to block a sale of several catalogues to the Blackstone-backed Hipgnosis Songs Capital, reckoning that the music rights being transferred in the $440 million deal have been under-valued
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