|TUESDAY 23 APRIL 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation has submitted a so called amicus brief in support of FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com, the Russian stream-ripping sites which the American record industry is trying to sue out of business. The EFF supports the classic line of defence that the two sites have legitimate uses, presented by the man behind them, while also arguing that a US district court was right to dismiss the case on jurisdiction grounds earlier this year... [READ MORE]|
EFF intervenes in key stream-ripping legal battle
Stream-ripping, of course, has been at the top of the music industry's piracy gripe list for a while now. And the record companies have successfully forced offline a number of sites that allowed users to turn temporary streams into permanent downloads. This was achieved by either suing them or - in many cases - simply threatening to sue them.
However, Tofig Kurbanov - operator of FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com - has chosen to fight back after the labels sued him for contributory copyright infringement in the US courts. In January the record industry's initial lawsuit was dismissed when a district court in Florida said it had no jurisdiction over his sites.
That judgement was reached on the basis that the two sites are based in Russia, only a very small percentage of their users are based in the US, and no sign-up is required to rip a stream, meaning Kurbanov doesn't have a direct business relationship with any US users.
Unsurprisingly, last month the Recording Industry Association Of America appealed that ruling, arguing that it set a dangerous precedent. The trade group wrote: "The district court's decision gives carte blanche to internet pirates to set up shop outside of the US, safe in the knowledge that they are effectively immune from the reach of US courts seeking to vindicate the rights of US plaintiffs for violations of US copyright law, even as they cater to US users".
Kurbanov responded last week by asking the Fourth Circuit appeals court to uphold the initial ruling in the case. The EFF's submission followed that request, supporting Kurbanov's arguments on both the copyright infringement and jurisdiction points.
Like pretty much every software maker and website operator accused of facilitating copyright infringement, Kurbanov argues that his website has both legitimate and illegitimate uses. He can't be held responsible for policing how people use his technology, he says.
Although this argument hasn't generally worked in past online piracy cases, the EFF reckons it's a solid defence in this dispute. It writes in its court submission: "As with nearly every technological tool in the world, video converters like FLVTO and 2conv have both legal and illegal uses. And simply providing a tool for copying digital media does not give rise to infringement liability".
Honing in on the legal uses, it goes on: "People around the world upload hundreds of hours of video and audio every minute to YouTube and other video sharing websites. Much of this content is uploaded with the rightsholder's permission for users to download and save it. Millions of videos on YouTube are licensed under Creative Commons licenses, which grant permission for anyone to make copies. Millions more are uploaded with the intention that select people will download them, such as business associates and family members".
Then there are the copyright exceptions or - as this is an American case - good old 'fair use'. The EFF writes: "Even where a rightsholder has not granted permission for copying, there are numerous circumstances in which downloading audio and video from YouTube is a non-infringing fair use. These include using portions of a video or song as part of a critical review, in a parody, or as raw material for new and different creative work".
To conclude, the EFF restates: "The law is clear that simply providing the public with a tool for copying digital media does not give rise to copyright liability".
Of course, the judgement actually being appealed in this case didn't reach any conclusion on the copyright liabilities - or not - of stream-ripping websites, because the record industry's lawsuit was dismissed on jurisdiction issues alone. The EFF's amicus brief deals with that too, first by arguing that the district judge's reasons for concluding his court did not have jurisdiction over FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com were sound.
Secondly, it then criticises more generally copyright owners who pursue legal action in their home courts against foreign websites. Those foreign websites, the EFF argues, often choose not to fight lawsuits of that kind, meaning default judgements are awarded to the copyright owners without their legal arguments being properly scrutinised.
Those judgements may then be used to pressure domain registrars and server hosting companies to stop providing services to the targeted websites. In some countries - though not the US - a web-block injunction might follow, forcing internet service providers to stop their customers from accessing accused sites. Default judgements of this kind, the EFF argues, are not good for the law at large.
"Over the last several years", it writes, "major copyright ... holders ... have sued foreign website owners who are unlikely, or indeed unable, to appear in a US court to respond. Upon the inevitable default, the plaintiffs request staggeringly broad injunctions that purport to bind nearly every type of intermediary business that forms part of the internet's infrastructure, enlisting them to help make the foreign website disappear from the internet".
When this happens, the EFF reckons, questions about the liabilities of websites and the companies that provide them services are not properly dealt with. Its court filing goes on: "Confronting these questions in cases that seem designed to lead to default risks short-changing the development of the law, effectively resolving challenging questions by default, without adversarial honing".
As mentioned above, the "but we have legal uses too" defence has not generally stood up in past piracy lawsuits. Mainly because, when those accused of facilitating online infringement then say "and we can't control how people use our technology", the courts have ruled that that's not in fact true. Such sites could install some kind of filtering system to try to stop their services from being used to infringe, even if such systems have limited success.
As for the jurisdiction point, the music industry will always point to those piracy platform operators which deliberately choose to base themselves or their servers in countries where copyright law is hard to enforce. Thus requiring copyright owners to seek injunctions or web-blocks back home.
In the main, precedents set in the US courts over the last two decades, in cases like this one, have generally favoured the copyright owners on points of liability or jurisdiction. Which is why the US record industry is so keen to get January's ruling overturned. It remains to be seen if Kurbanov and his friends at the EFF can stop that from happening.
Sepultura barred from Lebanon, accused of "devil worshipping"
Promoters Skull Session and 2U2C expressed "shock and disbelief" at the decision, adding that they are "outraged and angry". The company explained that the General Security department of the Lebanese government "has banned Sepultura from entering Lebanon and refused to process their artist visas".
In a further statement, they explained: "After duly applying for artist entry visas for the band, we were informed that band members had been banned from entering Lebanon. The concert organisers were not even allowed to view the decision".
"However", they went on, "after enquiring before the artists' division, we were told that the issue is delicate as it relates to insulting Christianity, that the band members are devil worshipers, that they held a concert in Israel, that they filmed a video clip supporting Israel, and that the decision was issued by the head of the General Security Forces".
"We would like to clarify that these accusations are totally untrue", they continued. "The band did not play in Israel. The aforementioned video clip mentions Israel's racism without naming it ... As for insulting religion, current members of Sepultura fight against all forms of corruption, and call on the world to return to goodness and nature and to reject corruption. Since it's the nature of metal music, the band uses a violent style of expression. But they did not directly attack Christianity".
They added: "It is a shame to see such censorship in Lebanon, a country that claims to be the only democracy in the Arab world, where freedom of thought and belief is safeguarded impartially".
The promoters also noted that other Middle Eastern countries "that are more religiously stringent" have allowed Sepultura to perform, including Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The band have shows in Istanbul and Dubai scheduled for next week.
Sepultura's manager Frank Hessing has also issued a statement, saying: "The band is NOT satanic. Most of the band and crew members are Catholic. Yes, sometimes they criticise political or other injustices. That can occasionally include criticising church, companies or institutions, but not in a destructive way".
In 2016, Sepultura had a show in Egypt shut down by authorities on the grounds that the correct permissions had not been obtained. However, at the time the lead investigator said that police were acting on a tip-off that a "satanic party" was being held.
PledgeMusic may still be sold to a new owner, according to reports
According to Hypebot, a number of people with knowledge of the situation have said that a potential buyer is still moving towards acquiring the company. However, the deal is taking longer than expected because that buyer has been discussing with record labels and management companies whether or not they would return to the platform after its high profile payment issues.
PledgeMusic admitted last October that it was experiencing financial problems, but said that it had made internal changes in order to overcome this. However, in January, after numerous artists complained of continued issues with receiving payments, the company said that it was still having difficulties.
The company's founder Benji Rodgers returned to advise on navigating a way forward. Meanwhile, artist payments were suspended. Money owed is still being withheld, causing significant problems for those artists who have completed their pre-order campaigns but not yet received the money. Many require this to manufacture physical releases and other items.
Those artists still waiting for payment have expressed concerns that there has been no news of late, speculating as to what that might mean. However, last week the co-founder of NoiseTrade, which was acquired by PledgeMusic in 2016, said on Twitter, in response to complaints about the ongoing problems from the band Jesus Jones: "Benji told me by text there is in fact a buyer going through due diligence. I trust him that that is taking place".
Rodgers has also posted the Hypebot story to his LinkedIn profile without comment, which would suggest that he believes a sale is still possible.
Amazon and Google launch freebie streams to help upsell subscriptions
Amazon's move into freebie streaming had been much rumoured before it made the option available to American users of Alexa-controlled devices. The web giant, which is fast becoming the third global player in premium streaming, already offers a selection of streaming music options at different price points.
Amazon Prime members can already access a limited catalogue streaming service for free. They can then upgrade for $3.99 a month to access a much bigger catalogue of music (ie pretty much in line with Spotify or Apple) via their Amazon Echo devices. Then, for the market standard $9.99, they can use Amazon Music Unlimited on all devices.
The new free-to-access limited-functionality service offers an entry point for possible subscribers who are not part of the Amazon Prime programme, which most people initially sign-up to either for the free delivery of products bought from the Amazon store or to access Amazon's much more high-profile video-on-demand offering.
The freebie service will take users to pre-programmed playlists and 'stations' based on the song title, artist name or genre that they angrily shout in Alexa's general direction.
Although there was more chatter about Amazon's move into freebie streaming, Google last week also announced a similar free music service that works on its Google Home devices and any other smart speaker using the Google Assistant.
Users of said devices in multiple countries - including the UK - can access a free limited-functionality version of YouTube Music. Which is to say, a free version of the YouTube audio streaming service launched last year, rather than the main YouTube site, which has - of course - long been a free (only slightly) limited-functionality music platform too.
The move is also a further sign of Google shifting all of its music activity over to the YouTube brand, and away from its Google Play platform.
The music industry, of course, has long had a love/hate relationship with free streaming. Music companies generally recognise that ad-funded streaming has helped with the battle against piracy worldwide and has kick-started new opportunities in certain emerging markets.
No one likes the fact free streams result in much lower royalties though. To that end, labels and publishers tend to prefer free services which are - in part at least - trying to upsell a premium offer, with the aim of converting more consumers to more lucrative paid-for streaming options. Which is what these new free services seem to be mainly about.
Mabel announces high expectations for debut album
"'High Expectations' - the title says it all", she reckons. "It's about the expectations I have of myself, other people's expectations of me and vice versa, especially in relationships. The general topic of the project is the negatives and positives that come with that. I want to send a positive message to everyone that's going to listen to it. I've gained so much confidence from writing this album and that's what I want people to take from it".
Set to play various festivals over the summer, and support Khalid on his UK tour in September, Mabel will release 'High Expectations' on 12 Jul.
Lewis Capaldi announces anxiety support teams for 2020 arena tour
"I always get tonnes of messages from people online who have said they want to come to my shows but can't because they're struggling massively with anxiety or are just generally afraid they will have a panic attack during the show", says Capaldi.
"I really wanted to put something in place to help those people feel comfortable and offer them support to allow them to experience the shows", he goes on. "I hate to feel that anyone's anxiety is making them miss out on anything they want to do and LiveLive is my attempt at helping make these shows enjoyable for as many of those people who have been supporting this journey for me".
There will be a surcharge of 50p on each ticket sold by primary sellers for the tour. This will then be used to fund a dedicated team at each venue qualified to assist any fans with panic attacks and anxiety.
The dates for the tour are:
2 Mar: Manchester, Apollo
Capaldi's debut album, 'Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent', is out on 17 May.
Downtown, Florence And The Machine, Jonas Brothers, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Downtown Music Publishing has launched a joint venture with independent publisher Cowboys & Pirates. "We are running the marathon with our songwriters", says the latter's Ty Baisden. Actually, they're going to develop new songwriting talent in R&B and hip hop. No marathons will be run. The first two signings are instrumentalist John Key and songwriter James 'SuperChilly' Carver, who may or may not also enjoy long distance running.
• Kobalt has signed a worldwide publishing deal with producer duo Loud Luxury, aka Andrew Fedyk and Joe Depace. "We are THRILLED", says Fedyk.
• BMG has signed The Allman Betts Band to release their debut album, 'Down To The River', across the globe. The band is led by Devon Allman and Duane Betts, sons of the Allman Brothers Band's Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts. "We're really psyched", says Allman. "We are very happy", says Betts. "We are extremely grateful", says BMG's John Loeffler.
• The dance and electronic music focused Brighton Music Conference takes place this Friday and has published its full schedule online. CMU insights will be there to explain what exactly all that copyright directive and article thirteen shouting was all about.
• Florence And The Machine have released 'Jenny Of Oldstones', which featured in episode two of the new series of 'Game Of Thrones'. Played over the credits, it is a version of a song performed by character Podrick Payne earlier in the episode. Listen here.
• Those Jonas Brothers have announced that they will release a whole new album, titled 'Happiness Begins', on 7 Jun. Imagine that.
• IMPALA has awarded its European Album Of The Year award to a Swedish band for their album 'Street Worms'. They do have a name, but we thought you'd rather not have to dig this out of your junk folder.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Danish rapper reckons record industry nepotism may have stopped the release of his Tekashi 6ix9ine collaboration
According to the lawsuit, filed with a New York court and seen by Billboard, Sleiman paid 80,000 euros to one of 6ix9ine's companies in order to set up the collaboration. In return for the cash, 6ix9ine recorded vocals for a Sleiman track, which the latter then planned to put out via a deal with Universal Music Denmark.
However, 6ix9ine is signed to 10K Projects, an LA-based indie founded by a certain Elliot Grainge back in 2016. It has seemingly intervened, arguing that its record contract with 6ix9ine includes the customary exclusivity clause, meaning only it has the automatic right to release the American rapper's recordings. Any other releases need its approval.
That's a pretty common clause in a record deal. Though Sleiman would presumably argue that - if 6ix9ine is in breach of his contract with 10K - that's really a matter for 6ix9ine and his label. It shouldn't affect Sleiman's ability to release their collaboration, which is something his own contract with his collaborator seemingly allows.
Enter the family connection. Elliot, see, is the son of Universal big cheese Lucian Grainge. According to Billboard, Sleiman's lawsuit states: "On information and belief, Universal Music Denmark is related to the Universal Music Group, whose chairman is the father of 10K's owner. As a direct and proximate result of 10K contacting Universal Music Denmark, [it] did not proceed with entering into a recording agreement with Sleiman".
The major may have been reluctant to release a record that's already subject to a legal dispute anyway. Though the implication is that the fact the indie label involved in said dispute is run by the big boss's son might have also swayed Universal's Danish division.
It remains to be seen what the court makes of all this, though Sleiman is seeking judicial confirmation that 10K can't block the release of his 6ix9ine collaboration and the return of that 80,000 euros he handed over to his collaborator.