|TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Ninth Circuit appeals court in the US has announced that it will rehear the still ongoing 'Stairway To Heaven' plagiarism case. This time 'en banc', meaning a bigger team of judges will consider the arguments of both sides. En banc hearings are unusual and are generally only employed in important cases, so if nothing else, at least this long-running song-theft dispute can now officially be classified as "important"... [READ MORE]|
Stairway To Heaven case to return to Ninth Circuit appeals court, with more judges taking part this time
Led Zeppelin, as you may remember, were sued by the estate of songwriter Randy Wolfe, aka Randy California. Its lawsuit alleged that 'Stairway To Heaven' ripped off a song written by Wolfe. However, the band ultimately defeated the litigation in June 2016 with a jury concluding that 'Stairway' wasn't sufficiently similar to Wolfe's song 'Taurus'.
The Wolfe estate then appealed that ruling in March 2017, arguing that the jury had been badly briefed by the judge, in particular regarding some of the complexities of American copyright law that were relevant to the case. Last year the Ninth Circuit concurred with the estate, overturning the original judgement and ordering a retrial.
The appeal court's decision to now rehear the case en banc basically overturns that ruling. Instead of a retrial, the case will go back before a bigger panel of judges in the Ninth Circuit, with oral arguments set to begin on 23 Sep.
Both sides in the dispute had requested an en banc hearing, arguing that some key questions about American copyright law sat at the heart of the case. Both sides have also argued that a ruling in favour of the other party could set a dangerous precedent that would impact on the wider music community.
Among the technicalities the judges will have to consider is what copyright law should do when two songs definitely contain the same elements, but those elements are arguably common features of certain genres of music. It's generally agreed that those common elements are not protected by copyright. However, could the way in which those elements are employed enjoy copyright protection, and if so, does that mean there is a case for infringement if another song then copies that employment?
The other key technicality has come up in other recent plagiarism cases in the US, including the headline-grabbing 'Blurred Lines' litigation. It relates to the often accepted rule that, in America, copyright only protects songs in the form they were originally filed with the US Copyright Office. For older works that will mean the sheet music, rather than any recording of the song. This means that elements of a song that are not in the sheet music but which appear in the original recording will not enjoy copyright protection.
For Led Zep, the former technicality is the priority as appeal judges give the dispute new consideration, while the Wolfe estate are hoping for a rethink on the latter.
When requesting that Ninth Circuit reconsider the case en banc, Led Zep said that the court's decision to overturn the original ruling - partly because common musical elements may be protected by copyright depending on how they are employed - raised issues of "extraordinary importance to the creators of music, movies and other works". The appeals court had erred in its ruling, they argued, and if that judgement was allowed to stand it would "cause widespread confusion in copyright cases in this circuit".
The Wolfe estate, meanwhile, argued that if the appeals court confirmed that copyright only protects any one song as it was originally registered it would devastate the wider songwriting community. In its petition to the court, it said that a judgement endorsing this principle would be "devastating to songwriters who have owned their music for decades, only to be told ... that they do not actually own most of their music created half a century ago".
Both sides will likely welcome the Ninth Circuit's decision to reconsider their case en banc, though there is already some confusion as to what specific elements of the dispute the appeal judges will actually review. The court's website simply says the hearing will consider an "appeal from the district court's judgment after a jury trial in favour of the defendants in a copyright infringement suit alleging that Led Zeppelin copied 'Stairway To Heaven' from the song 'Taurus', written by Spirit band member Randy Wolfe".
However, according to Law 360, a legal rep for the Wolfe estate reckons that September's hearing will centre on its petition rather than Led Zep's, so on the registration point. This is based on the process the Ninth Circuit has gone through so far. The court has not yet clarified how wide its remit will be in this latest hearing but, hey, look at that, we are now discussing the legal technicalities that might impact on which legal technicalities the court is allowed to discuss. These are fun times indeed!
DJ Khaled could sue Billboard over chart position
The bundling of new records with tickets or other products has become increasingly common, of course. There has been much debate over whether it's entirely fair to count all the bundle sales in any chart counting, especially if it feels like the music is actually the smaller part of the overall bundle. Nicki Minaj has been particularly vocal on the issue.
Still, the bundling still goes on and usually those sales are counted by the Billboard chart counters in the US. However, it seems that when Khaled bundled his new album 'Father Of Asahd' with some energy drinks, not all the bundle sales were included in Billboard's number crunching.
That, the DJ/producer reckons, meant his album went into the chart at number two behind Tyler, The Creator's 'Igor', which had all of its bundle sales included in the final tally.
According to gossip site Page Six, Billboard chart chiefs initially said that they would count all the energy drink bundles but then changed their mind because of "anomalies" in the data that subsequently came in from the online promotion.
Khaled's people reckon that decision lost him 100,000 sales in the final chart count and with it the number one spot. A Billboard source has confirmed that the energy drink bundle sales weren't counted, but then denied that the impact was quite so significant.
Either way, Page Six says that, having shouted at Sony label Epic for not doing enough to beat up Billboard over its bundle sales decision, Team Khaled have now got their lawyers to send a stern letter to the industry trade mag's SVP of charts Silvio Pietroluongo.
So that's all fun. Billboard has already been reviewing its policies on what to do with album bundles when calculating its music charts. Maybe everyone could just agree that no one outside the record industry cares about the charts anymore so it doesn't really matter.
MegaUpload extradition case reaches New Zealand Supreme Court
US authorities are still trying to extradite MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and his former colleagues to face charges of criminal copyright infringement in relation to the file-transfer service they used to run. This has been ongoing ever since said authorities shut the site down back in 2012.
Lower courts have said that there are sufficient grounds to extradite Dotcom et al, but the appeals process is yet to be exhausted. The NZ Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last December and has set aside five days for both sides to present their arguments, a process that began yesterday, albeit without Dotcom in attendance.
If the case ever does reach an American courtroom it will put the spotlight back on the pesky copyright safe harbour which, Team Mega will argue, protects them from liability for all the infringement that occurred on the old MegaUpload site.
Though don't expect that anytime soon. Supreme Court judges will likely take months to make a ruling after this week's hearing. Plus, even if they concur with the lower courts, any extradition will still need to be approved by New Zealand's justice minister Andrew Little, and his decision could also be appealed.
So plenty more appealing to go yet. For the full MegaUpload story so far check out this Setlist special here.
AEG to build new 20,000 capacity arena in Seoul
The Seoul Metropolitan Arena will be part of the in-development CJ LiveCity entertainment complex, which aims to attract K-pop fans domestically and internationally. Located between five of South Korea's largest cities, it is in easy reach of two international airports and will be a stop on the country's new express train route, expected to open in 2023.
Once open, the arena will put on shows by K-pop artists and also host AEG-promoted tours by international artists.
"This collaboration combines CJ's long-standing cultural business capabilities with AEG's venue development and operations expertise and its global live touring and promotions capacities", says CJ LiveCity's CEO Michael Kim. "Seoul Metropolitan Arena, which will be designed by a leading architectural firm, is expected to be a competitive venue not only across Asia, but also globally due to performances of K-pop as well as world-renowned artists".
He continues: "Securing qualified content based on building a world-class facility is a key success factor for the arena in CJ LiveCity. In this context, the collaboration with AEG, which is one of the world's leading venue operators and global live music companies, will be one of the most important factors for the arena's success".
No pressure. AEG Asia's President and CEO Adam Wilkes adds: "We believe that the combination of CJ LiveCity and the new Seoul Metropolitan Arena will revolutionise Korea and the region's entertainment landscape".
"Both AEG and CJ share a vision of Korea as a world-leading entertainment destination", he goes on, "and we are THRILLED to work with such an innovative leader. CJ has an in-depth understanding of the Korean and Asian markets and unparalleled experience in entertainment. We believe that Seoul Metropolitan Arena will become a must play destination for world tours and look forward to breaking new ground together".
The arena is still awaiting planning permission from local government.
Efterklang announce first album for seven years
The band completed touring their 2013 album 'Piramida' in 2014 with a show in the small Danish town where they grew up, Sønderborg. That show was later released as live film 'The Last Concert', which suggested that Efterklang might be over for good.
"We needed a break from the album and touring routine, and we needed a break from Efterklang", says vocalist Casper Clausen. "After the Sønderborg show, things felt very exciting - and a bit scary too. We could think freely, and move in new directions again, just focusing on the things that excited the three of us".
Those new directions saw the trio co-write and perform an opera with composer Karsten Fundal and release two albums as Liima, a band they formed with percussionist Tatu Rönkkö. Now they are back together as Efterklang though, with an album that sees Clausen perform entirely in Danish for the first time.
"[The new album's] songs are about belief and togetherness", he explains. "Not in a religious way - none of us are believers of a defined religion. The words are searching for meaning in intimate relationships, in nature, in death and eternity. The bonds we create; to gather, hold hands, sing or share a moment together. We're all connected, across nations, age, sex and gender. We come together with all of our backgrounds, and we move apart in all sorts of directions, always together".
The band are set to perform at this year's Edinburgh International Festival in August. They will then head out on a tour of Europe that will bring them back to the UK for a show at The Barbican in London on 29 Feb.
'Altid Sammen' itself is out on 20 Sep. Here's the video for 'Vi Er Uendelig'.
Futureheads announce tour dates for debut album's 15th anniversary
The tour and new record end an extended break for the band, who haven't released an album since 2012's acapella 'Rant'. It's their first featuring instruments since 2010's 'The Chaos' and sees them delving into "the balance of power in a personal, political and relational sense".
Covering topics such as mental health and fatherhood, the band also throw themselves into politics - particularly from the perspective of being residents of Sunderland - on album track 'Across The Border'. "As a band, we were always interested in personal politics and behaviour, but we never spoke about the state of the nation or big picture politics", says the band's Ross Millard.
"But in the meantime the world's changed so much and there are things to really kick against", he adds. "We live in a region that's somehow or other been tagged as the poster boy for Brexit, and the misinformation and aggression that this referendum has brought out in people has become a really terrifying thing that I haven't seen in my lifetime. It's a defining moment in British politics that's impossible to ignore if you're making art".
Here are the new tour dates:
6 Dec: London, Electric Ballroom
Music rights firm Reservoir has signed A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie to a worldwide publishing deal. "My team and I are THRILLED", says the rapper.
Torres has signed a new record deal with Merge. She will release her fourth album next year, the follow-up to 2017's amazing 'Three Futures'. "I feel like I've lived an entire lifetime in the three years since recording 'Three Futures'", she says. "This new record documents the significant fruits, for better or worse, of some terrifically delusional pursuits".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Inspired by Warner Music's admittedly inspirational new logo for what was Warner Bros Records - you know, the circle with a bit sliced off - BMG's production music division - aka BMG Production Music - has also had a rebrand, employing the always popular red arrows in a square concept. What a time to be alive!
Trade bodies BPI, AIM and MPA have announced details of this year's UK trade mission to India, supported by the government's Department For International Trade. It takes place from 26-30 Aug and will coincide with the All About Music conference in Mumbai. British music firms interested in participating should download this form here.
The Raconteurs have released new single 'Bored And Razed'. New album 'Help Us Stranger' is out on 21 Jun.
Bat For Lashes has announced her fifth album, 'Lost Girls', the follow-up to 2016's 'The Bride'. Set for release on 6 Sep, the album's first single, 'Kids In The Dark', is out now.
Jorja Smith has released the video for 'Goodbyes', from her 'Lost And Found' album.
Clutch have released new single 'Evil', a cover of the song originally made famous by Howlin Wolf in the 1950s. The track is the first release as part of the band's new 'Weathermaker Vault Series'. "We've had a good amount of downtime since our last tour", says frontman Neil Fallon. "And since the devil finds work for idle hands, we kept ourselves busy by recording some tunes. 'Evil' is the first of them, a song we've loved for many many years".
Pixx has released the video for 'Funsize' from her latest album 'Small Mercies', which came out last week.
Babii has released new single 'Poiison'. Her debut album, 'Hiide', is out on 5 Jul.
Empara Mi has released an orchestral version of her latest single 'Blood In The Water'.
Tolliver has released the video for 'Twisted', from his 2018 EP 'Rites'.
Momoiro Clover Z's Ayaka Sasaki has released solo single 'Bunny Gone Bad'.
GIGS & TOURS
Travis Scott has announced that he will play the O2 Arena in London on 16 Jul. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
The Chemical Brothers have announced new UK arena tour dates in November, winding up at the O2 Arena in London on 30 Nov. They've also put out the video for 'Eve Of Destruction', the opening track from new album 'No Geography'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Woodstock 50 loses venue
The Watkins Glen International motor racing track, where the festival was due to take place, announced yesterday that it would no longer be hosting the event. In a statement it said: "Watkins Glen International terminated the site licence for Woodstock pursuant to provisions of the contract. As such, WGI will not be hosting the Woodstock 50 Festival".
In keeping with the public statements issued throughout Woodstock 50's various mishaps, organisers are insisting that the show will go on. Organiser Gregory Peck said in a statement that his team are already "in discussions with another venue", and expect to announce where the event will now take place in the next few weeks.
This is the latest in a series of misfortunes that have befallen Woodstock 50. The Woodstock company was initially working with a division of marketing group Dentsu in order to stage the event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original festival. But then, in April, Dentsu bailed on the project and duly announced that the festival was therefore cancelled.
That then resulted in legal action from the Woodstock company, which said that its financial backer had no right to unilaterally cancel the festival, which is due to take place in August. And last month a New York judge agreed that, while the contract between Woodstock and Dentsu included provisions for the latter to either cancel the partnership or take more active control of the event, it didn't allow the marketing firm to cancel the whole show.
There are still legal proceedings pending over $17.8 million of funding for the festival that Dentsu withdrew from the event's bank account when it pulled out. The Woodstock company argues that it should be allowed to keep that money, while Dentsu reckons it is its to take back. That money is now being held in escrow while a court decision is awaited. Meanwhile, Woodstock is looking for new financial backing.
With ongoing questions over financing, some speculation as to what Dentsu pulling meant for its contracts with the artists booked to perform, and now the small matter of losing the venue, you might think that it's not looking especially good for Woodstock 50. However, throughout all of this, organisers have remained upbeat - publicly at least.
Still, losing the venue might actually be a positive thing. Court documents in the battle between Densu and Woodstock showed that one of the issues at hand was related to Watkins Glen. While the Woodstock 50 team had budgeted and planned for a 150,000 capacity event, the venue had been officially given a capacity of 60,000.
Speaking to the Poughkeepsie Journal, Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said that Watkins Glen International's decision to tear up its contract was "a major disappointment" to local government officials, who had "looked forward to hosting this iconic event in our community".
Although he added: "While today's announcement is difficult to absorb, it is not completely unexpected, given the well-publicised delays related to this planned event. We commend Watkins Glen International for their actions, which we feel are in the overall best interest of the community".
A countdown on the Woodstock website tells us that there are now just 66 days to go before the festival is due to begin. Despite tickets not yet being on sale, the homepage is also covered with messages of support and a statement from the Woodstock 50 organisers, which reads: "Our intention holds firm. To deliver a world-class, one-in-lifetime festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. To honour a cultural icon that changed the way we think about music and togetherness... and will do so again".
Of course, the original Woodstock festival had similar problems, in that it struggled to find a venue and then didn't have enough time to prepare the site properly. Then 400,000 people turned up to the 50,000 capacity site and most left early due to heavy rain. So, maybe all the chaos around Woodstock 50 makes this a proper celebration of the original.