Sep 3, 2023 5 min read

CMU Digest 3 Sep 2023: BMI, Brixton Academy, Copyright Office AI review, Johnny & Associates, A Greener Future

Five key developments in the music business this week, including the controversial changes at BMI, the Brixton Academy licensing hearing, the US Copyright Office’s new AI consultation, a damning report about Japan’s Johnny & Associates, and AGF’s new study on the environmental impact of festivals.

CMU Digest 3 Sep 2023: BMI, Brixton Academy, Copyright Office AI review, Johnny & Associates, A Greener Future

American songwriters put further pressure on US collecting society BMI over its plans to sell to a private equity outfit

Organisations representing music-makers had already sent a list of questions to BMI boss Mike O’Neill about the society's decision last year to become a for-profit enterprise and recent reports regarding acquisition talks with private equity firms. Then came the news that New Mountain Capital was in the final stages of negotiating a deal to buy the society, which is currently owned by a group of broadcasters. O'Neill has sought to reassure writers that these developments will help BMI better administrate their rights, but he has so far not answered their specific questions. Noting that fact, a new letter demanded "substantive answers to the questions we posed”. Meanwhile rival US society ASCAP took advantage of the mounting controversy regarding the changes at BMI with a series of social media posts noting that it - like most of the music industry's collecting societies around the world - is a not-for-profit organisation owned by its members.

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BMI reportedly considering acquisition offer from New Mountain Capital
Various groups representing songwriters in the US have written to the boss of American collecting society BMI asking a number of questions about the organisation’s decision last year to become a for-profit enterprise, as well as recent reports that it is again considering selling itself, possibly to…

Lambeth Council announced that a two day licensing hearing later this month will consider the future of the Brixton Academy

The South London venue has been closed ever since a crowd crush during a sold old Asake show last December resulted in two deaths. London’s Metropolitan Police has recommended that the local council revoke the licence of the company that operates the venue, Live Nation's Academy Music Group, criticising its response to last year's incident and stating they have “lost confidence in the premises licence holder”. But AMG insists it has “presented detailed proposals that we believe will enable the venue to re-open safely”. Licensing proposals made by both the police and AMG will be considered at the meeting on 11 and 12 Sep. Councillor Mahamed Hashi said: “We are determined to use the powers we have available to us to make sure the lessons of this tragedy are learnt and that we never see a traumatic incident like this again in Lambeth”.

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Lambeth Council to consider future of Brixton Academy at two day hearing this month
The future of the Brixton Academy will be considered at a two day licensing hearing later this month. Councillors will consider whether Live Nation’s Academy Music Group should be allowed to continue running the South London venue following last year’s crowd crush incident in which two people died.

It follows recent hearings in US Congress regarding the copyright questions and challenges posed by AI, and especially generative AI. The Copyright Office identified four key topics of interest. First, the legal obligations of companies that make use of copyright-protected works to train their AI models. Second, the legal implications of AI models which can generate content that imitates the voice or likeness of established artists. Third, the copyright status of AI-generated works. And finally, who is liable if AI-generated works infringe copyright for one reason or another, ie can the user of an AI tool be liable as well as the company that developed the tool. On the copyright status of AI-generated works, the Copyright Office has already stated that it doesn’t believe such works enjoy copyright protection under US law, a position recently backed by an American court.

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US copyright owners outline key piracy gripes of today
The International Intellectual Property Alliance – which has the Recording Industry Association Of America as a member - has set out its top piracy gripes in a letter to the US Patent And Trademark Office.

A damning report was published about Japanese talent management company Johnny & Associates and how it dealt with claims of sexual abuse made against its late founder

The allegations about Johnny Kitagawa and the boy band empire he ran were common knowledge within Japan's music industry for decades, but they were rarely reported on by the media and the music boss was never charged with any crimes. After a new BBC documentary earlier this year put the spotlight back on the conduct of Kitagawa, who died in 2019, Johnny & Associates announced it had finally instigated an internal investigation. That resulted in the new 71 page report which said that the firm’s leadership should accept that the abuse took place, apologise to the victims and offer them financial relief. It also advised that Kitagawa’s niece, Julie Fujishima, should step down from her current role as President of the company.

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Damning report on sexual abuse at Johnny & Associates tells company to “dismantle and restart”
A damning report has been published following an independent investigation into how Japanese music company Johnny & Associates handled the many allegations of sexual abuse made against its late founder Johnny Kitagawa.

A new report on the environmental impact of music festivals said that certain sources of greenhouse gases have been ignored in previous studies

It has been claimed in the past that 80% of emissions relating to festivals come from audiences travelling to events. The new report from A Greener Future agreed that, across the board, audience travel is the largest contributor to the carbon footprint of the festival sector, but argued that on average it actually accounts for around 41% of emissions. The source of emissions most often overlooked, it added, is food and drink provision. So, while environmental initiatives increasingly implemented by festivals focused on audience travel and waste are to be welcomed, there are other things for festival promoters to consider, such as "moving away from animal and other high impact food and drinks”. AGF CEO Claire O’Neill added: “It’s important to have a fuller picture to understand [festival] carbon footprints”.

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Festival industry overstating environmental impact of audience travel, study finds
Live music sustainability organisation A Greener Future has published the findings of a new study into the carbon footprints of festivals in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. It challenges the often-stated industry position that audience travel accounts for 80% of emissions relating to festivals, sayi…
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