TODAY'S TOP STORY: BMG announced on Friday that it had reached a "substantial settlement" with American internet service provider Cox Communications, which means the safe harbour testing case will not now go back to court next month as planned... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES BMG settles with Cox in landmark safe harbour case
LEGAL Sony Music denies conceding that fake vocals appeared on posthumous Michael Jackson album
Dr Luke's lawyers accuse Kesha and her management of drawing up "malicious plot" against him
LIVE BUSINESS Indie festivals again criticise Live Nation's dominance in their sector
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Tencent Music to float on US stock market in October, new report claims
ARTIST NEWS Vinnie Paul died of natural causes, coroner rules
ONE LINERS BTS & Nicki Minaj, Nick Jonas, Lamb Of God, more
AND FINALLY... Robbie Williams says Take That would totally have entered X Factor
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BMG settles with Cox in landmark safe harbour case
BMG announced on Friday that it had reached a "substantial settlement" with American internet service provider Cox Communications, which means the safe harbour testing case will not now go back to court next month as planned.

The BMG v Cox case began back in 2014. It tested the obligations of internet companies that claim protection under the so called copyright safe harbour, which says that net firms can't be held liable for their customers' copyright infringement.

BMG argued that Cox had a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with repeat infringers among its customer base, and therefore didn't qualify for safe harbour protection under US law. And therefore could be sued for the infringement of its customers.

When the safe harbour was first being tested in the American courts in the 2000s, judges had a habit of setting the obligations of safe harbour dwelling companies pretty low. However, that has started to change in more recent years, and when a jury ruled in favour of BMG in this case in 2015, a solid new precedent was set regarding the obligations of American ISPs.

That ruling was subsequently overturned on appeal, but on a technicality relating to the way the judge had briefed the jury. It was generally agreed that the appeals court ruling actually enhanced BMG's case against Cox. So much so, the Recording Industry Association Of America ramped up its efforts in its lawsuit with another American ISP - Grande Communications - citing the BMG v Cox appeals judgement. And it then sued Cox itself.

Therefore most were expecting a relatively easy win for BMG when the case returned to court, although Cox continued to pursue various lines of argument as to why it shouldn't be held liable for the copyright infringement of its customers. Both sides had been busy making requests of the judge ahead of the trial. Cox wanted BMG banned from referring to piracy by using emotive terms like "stealing" and "theft". But the judge declined to ban such terminology from his court.

Meanwhile, negotiations for an out of court settlement continued. BMG had been awarded $25 million in damages in the original court case. And in American copyright cases, where courts can award so called statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work wilfully infringed, damages can be huge for those found liable for wilful infringement.

Needless to say, the terms of the out of court deal agreed last week are not known, although BMG says the damages it will receive "reflect the seriousness of this case". It also said that it believes its legal action has proven the obligations of safe harbour dwelling ISPs. For now we will have to rely on the appeals court ruling for that precedent. If the RIAA's cases against either Grande or Cox do get to court, we may as yet get a little more judicial clarification on what exactly those obligations are in real terms.

Confirming the settlement, BMG's General Counsel in North America, Keith Hauprich, said on Friday: "This was a landmark case in which BMG took on the third biggest internet service provider in the United States to defend and establish the principle that in order to benefit from a so-called 'safe harbour' defence, an ISP has responsibilities. While the financial terms of the settlement are confidential, we are happy they reflect the seriousness of this case. Other ISPs should take note that the law gives protection to the work of artists and songwriters. We will not hesitate to take action where necessary".


Sony Music denies conceding that fake vocals appeared on posthumous Michael Jackson album
There was a flurry of excitement online last week amid claims that Sony Music had admitted that the vocals that appear on three posthumous Michael Jackson tracks were not, in fact, those of Michael Jackson. But before you join in with that flurry, please note that's not what happened. It seems that a speculative "what if" remark in court from a lawyer working for the Michael Jackson estate was misinterpreted by onlookers.

Now, I am sure you all remember vividly that glorious day in 2010 when the first of ten planned posthumous album releases from the late king of pop was unleashed. It was called 'Michael'. A second, 'Xscape', followed in 2014. We still await - with bated breath I'm sure - the other eight.

Even before 'Michael' was released, there were allegations - including from members of the extended Jackson family - that three songs on it included fake vocals. The record featured posthumously finished versions of tracks Jackson had been working on in the years before his death. The source material came from various different recording sessions and were prepared for release by various different producers.

The tracks that caused controversy were 'Breaking News', 'Monster' and 'Keep Your Head Up'. These all came from one recording session with producer Eddie Cascio, and - various people argued - the vocals on the final versions of these tracks were not Jackson's.

The estate, which worked with Sony Music's Epic label on the releases, took the allegations seriously at the time. It had its lawyer, Howard Weitzman, put out a letter to fans outlining the process it had been through when stitching together the various recording sessions that made up 'Michael', and the efforts it had gone to in order to ensure the authenticity of vocals.

Weitzman said that various long-time collaborators of Jackson had confirmed said authenticity. The estate, he added, had also asked six producers who had previously worked with Jackson - Bruce Swedien, Matt Forger, Stewart Brawley, Michael Prince, Dr Freeze and Teddy Riley - to listen to a cappella versions of the tracks from the Cascio-led sessions. All of them, Weitzman said, had confirmed it was Jacko's voice they were listening to. On top of all that, some of those forensic musicologists were also hired to confirm that it was Jackson singing.

The attorney's open letter to Jackson's fans concluded: "Although there still seem to be concerns being expressed in some quarters about the authenticity of the lead vocals, notwithstanding the opinion of those who worked with Michael, and two independent forensic analysts, ultimately, Michael's fans will be the judges of these songs, as they always are".

Well, one fan in particular did judge the three disputed songs on 'Michael' and she decided that they definitely did contain fake vocals. With that in mind, Vera Serova went legal in 2014, suing Sony Music, the estate and others linked to the release. Which is why we are still discussing all this eight years after the record was put out.

Serova's lawsuit continues to go through the motions. In the most recent phase, lawyers for Sony and the estate have been trying to get the case dismissed under California's free speech protecting anti-SLAPP laws. So far without success. Last week they had another go, presenting their arguments before three appeal judges.

It was there that a lawyer working for the estate seemingly made some kind of "assuming that" statement in order to present the argument for dismissal, which was then reported as the Jackson side conceding that the vocals on 'Breaking News', 'Monster' and 'Keep Your Head Up' were definitely super faked.

Last week's hearing wasn't actually discussing the core allegation of the case, more the status of the album's liner notes and to what extent they enjoy protection under free speech laws. Therefore any suggestion that the vocals might have been fake from the Sony/Jackson side was simply conjecture to illustrate a point regarding anti-SLAPP laws, and not a statement of fact.

Confirming this to Variety, lawyer Zia Modabber, who is repping both Sony Music and the estate, said on Friday: "No one has conceded that Michael Jackson did not sing on the songs. The hearing Tuesday was about whether the First Amendment protects Sony Music and the estate and there has been no ruling on the issue of whose voice is on the recordings".

Lawyers for Serova also subsequently confirmed this was what had happened. So stop that flurry of excitement immediately. Nothing exciting has happened here. At all. Still, it reminds us that this whole hoo haa is still ongoing.


Dr Luke's lawyers accuse Kesha and her management of drawing up "malicious plot" against him
Dr Luke's legal team has used the unsealing of various documents in the producer's defamation case against Kesha to launch a new attack on her claims that he raped her.

The producer's lawyers say that the documents show that claim was always false, concocted by Kesha and her representatives to try to get her out of her deals with Luke's companies. Her lawyers dispute this interpretation.

Among the documents, a series of emails show - say Luke's lawyers - that Kesha's managers Jack Rovner and Ken Levitan, along with music industry veteran Irving Azoff, "maliciously plotted to destroy Dr Luke's business and reputation to pressure him to give in". In one 2013 email, Levitan writes to Rovner, "Let's battle this guy in the press. Take down his business".

This, say Luke's lawyers, proves that the rape claims are false and were invented specifically to harm the producer's reputation. Those claims have been the subject of various lawsuits in various states, though all but Luke's defamation action have now been withdrawn or dismissed.

Another of the unsealed documents is a deposition from Katy Perry, in which she denies she was raped by Luke. Allegations involving Perry have appeared before in this long-running case. Earlier this year the producer's legal team fought to have a text message sent by Kesha to Lady Gaga claiming Luke had assaulted Perry included in his defamation case.

In the newly unsealed deposition, Perry - who worked with Luke on a number of her albums - repeatedly states that he never raped her. Or that they have had any sort of relationship beyond their professional connection.

"The false narrative Kesha created about being raped became widely accepted, damaging Dr Luke's reputation irreparably", say his lawyers in a new statement. "Compounding this malicious act, in 2016, Kesha told Lady Gaga that Dr Luke raped Katy Perry, which is outrageous and untrue. Katy Perry testified under oath in this case that Dr Luke never raped her".

"Regardless, Kesha refused to apologise", they go on. "Instead, she issued a press release which again irresponsibly suggested that Katy Perry was actually raped by Dr Luke. It seems that Kesha wanted to perpetuate the falsehood that Dr Luke raped Katy Perry".

Elsewhere, the lawyers give Luke's account of the night on which Kesha claims she was drugged and raped. This account states that both attended a party at Paris Hilton's house. After Kesha became drunk and vomited in a cupboard, she was taken out of the party and to Luke's nearby hotel room, where she fell asleep. The statement says that he slept on the sofa and had no sexual or physical contact with her.

Among the arguments used to rebut Kesha's version of what happened, the statement points to a song she and her mother wrote after that night called 'Paris Hilton's Closet'. The lyrics include the chorus: "I threw up in Paris Hilton's closet / I got drunk and totally lost it / When I woke up, the first thing that I thought of was, 'Oh my Kesha, those hot Jimmy Choos. Hey Paris, did I lose it on that pair too?'"

"That the Seberts made light of that night speaks volumes about what actually happened", say the lawyers.

"There is nothing worse than abuse and sexual assault", the statement concludes. "Dr Luke supports any woman or man who seeks to address sexual abuse in the legal system. That is not what happened here. It is also horrendous to falsely accuse someone of a heinous act. That is what has happened here. Kesha's voluntarily dismissed rape claim has caused great harm to Dr Luke, his family, and his businesses".

In response, Kesha's lawyers said in their own statement: "Contrary to Dr Luke's legal team's assertion that today's evidentiary record reveals something Kesha doesn't want the public to see, Kesha has consistently requested that the evidence in the case be unsealed, while Dr Luke has fought vigorously to keep the evidence from seeing the light of day. Kesha looks forward to defeating Dr Luke's meritless $40+ million damage claims at summary judgment or trial".


Indie festivals again criticise Live Nation's dominance in their sector
The Association Of Independent Festivals has again raised concerns about the dominance of Live Nation in the UK festivals market. The trade group has done some number crunching and reckons that, of all the UK's larger music festivals (over a 5000 capacity), Live Nation-controlled events account for 25.3% of available tickets.

AIF previously raised concerns about Live Nation's dominance in the UK festivals market when the Competition & Markets Authority was investigating the live giant's acquisition of the Isle Of Wight festival last year. That deal was subsequently approved.

In its latest stats pack, AIF reckons that festivals owned or part-owned by Live Nation - often through subsidiaries like Festival Republic, MAMA, DF and Cuffe & Taylor - together account for 25.3% of the total capacity of larger music festivals. Its closest competitor is broadcaster Global, which is still a sizeable player in the festivals market from its various dabblings in the music industry. Though through its Broadwick Live subsidiary it only controls 7.6% of capacity.

Live Nation's biggest competitor across the board, AEG, has 5.0% of capacity, according to AIF, while its 37 members together account for 20.2% of capacity. The other 42% of capacity is controlled by other independent events.

Although Live Nation controlling just over a quarter of the larger festival market - by this metric - may not sound that significant, critics point out that the live firm is also a major venue operator and tour promoter, it owns the UK's biggest ticketing platform, and has interests in artist management and brand partnerships. It also remains acquisitive in the UK.

In terms of competition concerns, most of the issues raised by indie promoters relate not to competition for ticket-buyers, but competition for booking talent. When hitting out at the IOW Festival deal last year, AIF said it had "concerns around so-called 'exclusivity deals', whereby artists can effectively be restrained as to where they can and cannot perform and the pool of talent available to non-Live Nation events is greatly reduced".

Revealing the new stats yesterday, updated to include recent Live Nation acquisitions, AIF boss Paul Reed said the figures "paint a stark picture of the sector. Allowing a single company to dominate festivals, and the live music sector in general, through vertical integration reduces the amount of choice and value for money for music fans. It can block new entrants to market, result in strangleholds on talent through exclusivity deals and stifle competition throughout the entire live music business".

AIF has also launched a new kitemark for its members to use to demonstrate their independent status. Launching that, while urging politicians and regulators to consider its new stats, Reed continued: "We have also today launched a stamp of independence to celebrate our member events and so that customers can clearly identify when they are buying a ticket to an independent festival. AIF has been sounding the alarm for some time now but the effect on the independent festival sector continues. Simply put, this damaging market dominance needs to be given the scrutiny it deserves".


Tencent Music to float on US stock market in October, new report claims
Chinese web giant Tencent will officially float its music division on the US stock market in October, according to tech blog IPO Zaozhidao.

The company previously confirmed its intentions regarding Tencent Music in a statement issued on the Hong Kong stock exchange in July. Citing an unnamed source, China-based IPO Zaozhidao says an official filing will now be made on 7 Sep, with trading set to begin on 18 Oct, with a valuation of between $29 billion and $31 billion. The shares are reportedly set to be underwritten by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

The main Tencent business is listed in Hong Kong. It's thought that the web firm had originally considered spinning off its music business via an IPO on the same stock exchange, but by earlier this year had decided to list in the States instead.

That was possibly partly influenced by Spotify's decision to list on the New York Stock Exchange and partly by recent regulatory changes in Hong Kong. Spotify and Tencent have an alliance, of course, with the two companies each having equity in the other following a share swap deal late last year.

Tencent's music division operates the market-leading streaming services in China, including QQ Music, as well as owning and distributing music catalogues in the region.


Approved: Puffyshoes
Puffyshoes split in 2013, following one last self-released album. The announcement was made with a brevity that matched their songs: "Hello, we will be breaking up in December okay", they wrote in a tweet.

Actually, the split came sooner than that, the duo throwing in the towel a couple of months earlier, which suggested this might not be one of their occasional brief break ups.

But less than two years later they were back together. However, it's only now that things seem to be really grinding into proper action again. New song 'Let's Fall In Love' has just appeared on their Bandcamp page.

In typical Puffyshoes style, the 60s garage rock influenced song just scrapes past a minute and a half in length. Nonetheless, they manage to fit an amazing amount of drama and intrigue into the equally economical lyrics.

Listen to 'Let's Fall In Love' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.

Vinnie Paul died of natural causes, coroner rules
Former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul died of natural causes, a coroner's report states.

According to Las Vegas broadcaster KTNV, the primary cause of death was dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump blood effectively. Another contributing factor was severe coronary artery disease.

Paul died, aged 54, in June this year. An initial statement gave no indication as to the cause of death.

Real name Vincent Paul Abbott, the drummer formed Pantera with his guitarist brother Dimebag Darrell Abbott in 1981. After the band split in 2003, the brothers formed new band Damageplan and released an album the following year. However, in 2004, Darrell was shot and killed on stage at a show in Ohio.

More recently, Vinnie Paul had been performing with Hellyeah, a band also featuring Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray and Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell.


BTS & Nicki Minaj, Nick Jonas, Lamb Of God, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• BTS have released a new version of their song 'Idol', featuring Nicki Minaj. The video for the original version of the track, which was released on Friday, broke YouTube's record for the biggest music video debut, with more than 45 million plays in its first 24 hours.

• Nick Jonas has released new single 'Right Now', featuring Robin Schultz.

• Lamb Of God - in their Burn The Priest covers band guise - have released a video for their version of Ministry's 'Jesus Built My Hotrod'.

• Tove Styrke features on new NOTD single 'Been There Done That'. She will also be touring the UK in November and December.

• Noga Erez has released new single, 'Cash Out', featuring Sammus. "The intention [of the song] is to list out things that can make you a successful woman, in the most twisted, chauvinistic way", Erez explains.

• Mmph is set to release his second EP, 'Serenade', on 7 Sep. It is fantastic. Here's new single, 'Woodlawn'.

• Fifi Rong and producer Lo are set to release an EP together titled 'The Crown', on 28 Sep. Here's the title track.

• I Am Karate have released new single 'News'. "This song is about someone chasing a dream and the spotlight, but if you take a closer look it's also a love story", they say.

• Hidden Orchestra have announced three new live dates. They will play London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on 30 Nov, followed by The Haunt in Brighton on 2 Dec and the Trinity Centre in Bristol on 3 Dec.

• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


Robbie Williams says Take That would totally have entered X Factor
Robbie Williams is a judge on 'X Factor' now, so the obvious question is, would he have entered the waning TV talent competition had it existed when he was looking for his big break in music? The obvious answer it "hell no", but Williams is now in the employ of the show, and has appeared on it several times in the past as a guest, so he was more positive about it all.

"Take That didn't have the option of being seen by ten million people each weekend", he tells Digital Spy. "If we had have had that option, then we would have obviously grabbed it with five sets of hands. As it happens, these lucky people will have just that and they should grab the opportunity with both hands and make everything they can from it".

So, just think, in another reality, Take That could have been the next One Direction. Or one of the other ones who dropped like a stone the moment the series was over.

Williams isn't thinking about the longterm success of any of the contestants right now though, he's totally focussed on his own shortterm achievement. Asked how likely he thought he was to mentor the winning act, he said: "Am I confident I can win? Give me any category and I'm confident I can win".

So, at least he's throwing himself into it. The show, after all, spent years trying to get Williams on the panel of judges and had to make do with Gary Barlow for a while. Barlow once said he couldn't imagine Williams taking the job "having done the show and knowing how much time goes into it".


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU bulletins and website, coordinating features and interviews, reporting on artist and business stories, and contributing to the CMU Approved column.
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