|TUESDAY 30 JULY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A jury in the US has ruled that Katy Perry and her songwriting pals ripped off a Christian rap track when they wrote her 2013 hit 'Dark Horse'. After two days of deliberations, the jurors concluded that Perry's team had likely heard 2008 release 'Joyful Noise' before writing 'Dark Horse', and that the latter was sufficiently similar to the former to constitute copyright infringement... [READ MORE]|
Court rules that Katy Perry ripped off Christian rap track on Dark Horse
Perry was among those to testify once the long-running copyright dispute got to court earlier this month, as was prominent producer Dr Luke, a co-writer on Perry's hit. Both said that they had never heard of 'Joyful Noise' or the artist behind it – the rapper Flame, real name Marcus Gray - before they started work on their record.
Luke insisted that the worlds of pop and Christian music were so far apart, it was very unlikely he or his collaborators would have randomly heard 'Joyful Noise' at some point between 2008 and 2013.
Needless to say, Gray's team countered that there had been many opportunities for Perry et al to have heard 'Joyful Noise'. They weren't accusing the pop star of deliberately ripping off the rap track, arguing instead that her team had subconsciously infringed the earlier work, meaning that the defendants having simply heard the 2008 track was sufficient for the case.
And while it's true that 'Joyful Noise' never enjoyed anything like the level of exposure of 'Dark Horse', Team Gray said that his track's YouTube stats showed that the earlier record had been widely listened to, increasingly the likelihood Team Perry had heard it.
The other key argument to be had was whether the two tracks were sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement. The two records share a distinct musical phrase consisting of four C notes followed by two B notes.
The Perry side argued that this was a very common musical phrase that couldn't possibly be protected by copyright. Luke added that if the court did indeed decide that a musical phrase of this kind enjoyed copyright protection, it could set a dangerous precedent that would impede the music making process.
But the other side insisted that the similarities between the two records were, in fact, sufficient to constitute copyright infringement. And the jury obviously concurred, while also deciding that 'Joyful Noise' had been widely enough distributed to mean that Perry and her team probably had been subconsciously influenced by it at some point.
It's another high profile ruling in a song-theft case that is likely to be criticised by many in the songwriting community, who argue that similarities between songs of similar genres are inevitable, and rulings of this kind open up hit makers to no end of legal woes.
The next big question is what kind of damages the Perry side will now have to pay. The court decided to split the case into two phases, meaning arguments over money are yet to occur, but should begin later today. The Gray side previously argued that 'Joyful Noise' had been forever tarnished by its association with "the witchcraft, paganism, black magic and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in 'Dark Horse'". Which sounds like just the sort of claim you might want to reintroduce once you're talking about damages.
It seems likely Perry, and her collaborators and business partners, will seek to appeal the jury decision, citing those in the songwriting community who argue that rulings of this kind set a dangerous precedent. But in that other headline-grabbing song-theft case of recent years, the 'Blurred Lines' litigation, the same arguments at the appeal stage didn't achieve much.
European court provides clarity on sampling rules in long-running Kraftwerk case
The court has basically said that – when it comes to sampling a sound recording – however short a snippet a sampler uses, they still need approval from the copyright owner of the original track. Although there's an important exception that arguably provides some nice new ambiguity alongside the clarity.
A quick recap for all you recap fans. Kraftwerk's Ralf Hutter sued rapper Moses Pelham way back in the early 2000s over a 1990s track that the latter had made with Sabrina Setlur called 'Nur Mir'. It used a tiny sample from Kraftwerk's track 'Metal On Metal' on a loop.
The case bounced around the German courts for years. It was accepted that Pelham had indeed sampled 'Metal On Metal' without permission, but the question was then posed as to whether such a short uncleared sample could constitute copyright infringement under German law. In 2012, Germany's Federal Court Of Justice found in favour of Kraftwerk, in part on the basis that Pelham could have easily recreated the sound he sampled, so clipping the snippet out of 'Metal On Metal' was just laziness.
Four years later the German Constitutional Court overturned that judgement, reckoning that the lower court hadn't properly considered Pelham's "artistic freedom". The higher court reckoned that the negative impact on Kraftwerk caused by the uncleared sample probably wasn't sufficient to outweigh the sampler's artistic rights.
After the Constitutional Court basically sent the matter back to the Federal Court Of Justice, a bunch of questions were subsequently passed on to the EU court requesting clarification on what European law says about sampling.
Generally with the song copyright, it's assumed that a couple of notes in isolation are not sufficiently substantial for copyright protection to apply. But what about tiny snippets of recordings?
Some would argue that a similar rule should apply to recordings as with songs. But others say that when a track is sampled it's more straightforward than with song copying, because the sampler is physically copying the original snippet rather than simply replicating a short musical phrase that has been used before.
And that was the conclusion of the EU court's Advocate General Maciej Szpunar when he published an opinion on the Kraftwerk case last year. He wrote: "A phonogram is not an intellectual creation consisting of a composition of elements such as words, sounds, colours etc. A phonogram is a fixation of sounds which is protected, not by virtue of the arrangement of those sounds, but rather on account of the fixation itself".
"Consequently", he went on, "although, in the case of [other creative works], it is possible to distinguish the elements which may not be protected, such as words, sounds, colours etc, from the subject-matter which may be protected in the form of the original arrangement of those elements, such a distinction is not, however, possible in the case of a phonogram".
The Advocate General's opinion isn't binding but is usually influential. And the ECJ judges have now basically endorsed Szpunar's main argument with their final ruling on this matter.
The court said in a statement yesterday: "Phonogram producers have the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit reproduction in whole or in part of their phonograms. Consequently, the reproduction by a user of a sound sample, even if very short, taken from a phonogram must, in principle, be regarded as a reproduction 'in part' of that phonogram so that such a reproduction falls within the exclusive right granted to the phonogram producer".
But what about the artistic freedom of the sampler that the German Constitutional Court was so concerned about? Well, the ECJ has put some constraints on its main ruling. In particular, if the sampler fucks with the sample so that it is unrecognisable in the final track, well, that's fine. Because, it seems, sampling isn't artistic enough to be protected by artistic freedoms, but fucking with samples is.
In the words of the court: "Where a user, in exercising the freedom of the arts, takes a sound sample from a phonogram in order to embody it, in a modified form unrecognisable to the ear in another phonogram, that is not a 'reproduction'". That conclusion is necessary, the court then added, to properly balance the rights of an intellectual property owner with the rights of artistic freedom.
So there you go. A bit of clarity – across the European Union at least – regarding what copyright law says about sampling sound recordings, even when the samples are very short indeed. But with a nice little get out that will likely lead to future debates about quite how unrecognisable a skewed sampled needs to be in order to be "unrecognisable".
Though that debate is unlikely to occur in this particular copyright battle, given Pelham's use of the 'Metal On Metal' snippet was pretty damn recognisable. Which means it's generally felt that yesterday's ruling is a win for Kraftwerk, though a final judgement on their case against Pelham will be made in the German courts.
Big Hit Entertainment acquires Source Music
The confirmed deal is the purchase of Source Music, currently home to K-pop outfit GFriend. Big Hit and Source Music have a history working together on artist projects and, I'm sure you will all agree, definitely definitely definitely share a common philosophy.
Well, that's what Big Hit big boss Bang Si-Hyuk reckons. "A shared philosophy behind artist promotion and management was the main driver that brought Big Hit and Source Music together", he said of the deal. "Since we know each other so well, we expect the acquisition to be a success. I'm pleased that both companies can now begin painting an even bigger picture".
Over at Source Music, CEO So Sung Jin added that the deal was "a prime opportunity for achieving the next level of excellence for the artists, trainees and members of the label. Big Hit's track record of creating global artists quickly and expertly sets a solid foundation for Source Music. We will strive to provide even more amazing content to our fans through this organic relationship with Big Hit".
So that's all lovely. We await confirmation of the other rumoured deal, with is said to be in its final stages and will likely bring another successful boy band to the Big Hit roster.
Barney Artist and Chloe Martini engage Absolute Label Services
Absolute Label Services Director Mark Dowling says: "We are all really excited to be working with Linda, Nadine and Mel at Salute The Sun. They are a dream to work with and we complement each other well. Both Barney and Chloe are artists we've been aware of for some time, and it's great they've chosen to partner with Absolute. Both are extremely talented artists who are forging careers on their own terms".
Salute The Sun Director Nadine Persaud adds: "We've worked with several distribution partners but the enthusiasm and passion shown by the Absolute team for our projects has really set the standard for us. As managers, you care deeply about your artists and their music, so it's vital that everyone on your team carries that same energy. Our projects can run smoothly because even at the most senior level, Absolute make themselves available to deal with issues and deliver creative solutions".
The first releases under the deal are Martini's new EP 'Daydream', which came out last week, and Artist's upcoming EP 'Bikes Are Bikes', which is out next week.
BMG appoints new chief for international marketing in the US
Hradil joined BMG back in 2011 as the company's first US-based employee focused on super fine recordings rather than boring old songs (assuming you are ignoring all the people who worked on recordings at the earlier iteration of the BMG company, which we most definitely are). In his new role he will report into the music firm's Berlin-based EVP Global Recordings Fred Casimir.
That there Casimir says: "Recordings is BMG's fastest growing business, the US is by far our biggest territory and international is our greatest opportunity, which all means the job of growing our international recordings business in and out of the US is of vital importance. I am delighted that Jason, who has been working our US recorded business from day one, will now step up to this position. Jason exemplifies BMG's values and has shown himself able to work across a wide range of genres".
Tool confirm back catalogue coming to streaming ahead of new album release
The band are one of the last big streaming holdouts, with the streaming boom having happened, of course, during the thirteen year gap between their last album '10,000 Days' and the soon-to-be-released follow-up. But yesterday the band confirmed on Instagram that they would finally relent and make their music available on those pesky streaming services.
Coinciding with this announcement, frontman Maynard James Keenan also appeared on the latest edition of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, explaining: "We're a very difficult band. We're very stubborn and kind of ignorant to what goes on in the rest of the world ... and the whole Betamax thing didn't work for us, and neither did LaserDisc, so we have this new thing called digital media streaming. We're gonna try it out. It's a new thing, streaming. It's brand new. We're going to put some songs on it".
A common complaint about digital music from artists, of course, is that it allows albums to be broken up into individual tracks, meaning people often access them in a different order to that originally intended. But Keenan says that, while Tool did previously moan about that fact, concerns over the splitting up of albums were put to bed sometime ago.
"We tried that before [saying] 'no no, we want you to hear a whole album in sequence', and people were like, '...like you play them live?' We've never played an album from start to finish live". A good point well made. And duly well received by the band, it seems.
Keenan also suggested that it was his bandmates, rather than him, who had been opposed to putting the band's music on streaming services for so long. Though he admitted that there had been "no discussion" about doing so until recently.
Anyway, 'Fear Inoculum' is out on 30 Aug, at which point it will join the other four Tool albums on streaming services. So that'll be nice.
Downtown Music Publishing has signed singer songwriter Evie Irie, having already worked with her on songs from her recently released debut EP 'Five Weeks In LA'. "Downtown added value from the moment Evie arrived in LA", says her manager Troy Carter. "Their level of commitment and creativity showed us right away this was the best partner for Evie".
BRANDS & MERCH
Wu-Tang Clan have launched a new range of footwear with Clarks, the shoe company of choice for school children and your gran. I'm not sure which demographic they're going for. By the looks of it, they're quite keen on wooing your gran.
EVENTS & EDUCATION
The team behind Liverpool Sound City are launching a new music industry conference in Ipswich. Sound City Ipswich will feature live music showcases across four venues, as well as networking for the local music community allowing them to meet professionals from across the UK. It happens on 4 Oct. More info here.
Skepta has released the video for 'Love Me Not' from his 'Ignorance Is Bliss' album.
Bring Me The Horizon have released the video for 'Sugar Honey Ice And Tea' from their 'Amo' album.
Big Sean has released the video for new track 'Single Again'. The track is taken from his upcoming new album 'Don Life'.
Sophie has made a remix album of tracks from her debut album 'Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides' available on YouTube. Previously limited to 100 CD copies, the 25 track release is split into two parts, here and here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Lily Allen aiming to corner the "celeb sex toy market"
Speaking at the Port Eliot Festival, where she was interviewed on stage by Guardian writer Sophie Heawood, she said: "I am developing a sex toy. It is a clitoral massager. I probably shouldn't talk about it. I haven't done a press release or anything like that. Orgasms are important, ladies, and I feel like the celeb sex toy market hasn't been capitalised upon".
Allen may not be the only pop star getting into this market though. The Sun recently reported that Spice Girl Mel B is preparing to launch an "upmarket range" of vibrators.