|TUESDAY 20 AUGUST 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Hole have dropped out of a class action lawsuit in which a number of artists accuse Universal Music Group of covering up the loss of their master recordings in a 2008 fire. The band have tentatively accepted that their masters were not actually destroyed in said blaze... [READ MORE]|
Hole drop out of class action over Universal vault fire
The $100 million lawsuit was launched in June, following a New York Times article that claimed that the music firm had hidden the extent of the damage caused by the 2008 fire at a warehouse owned by former sister company Universal Studios, where some of the major's master recordings were stored.
Back in 2008, the label insisted that losses were minimal and that most masters had been moved away from the site prior to the fire. However, when Universal formally disputed many of the accusations contained in the recent NYT article, the newspaper then published a list of 800 possibly affected artists.
Hole were among the acts on that list, as were the other named defendants in the class action - Soundgarden and the estates of Tupac Shakur and Tom Petty. However, the band have now withdrawn from the litigation after the label insisted that none of their masters were lost. Universal in turn has accused lawyers working on the legal action of acting without first properly establishing the grounds for a case.
"Hole was dropped because UMG is adamant that no Hole master recordings were lost," says Ed McPherson, one of those attorneys leading on the lawsuit. "We agreed to drop Hole from the suit pending confirmation of the non-loss".
In a more stern statement of its own, Universal said: "Over a month ago, without even knowing if the 2008 fire on the NBC/Universal Studios lot affected their clients, plaintiffs' attorneys rushed to pursue meritless legal claims".
"UMG's dedicated global team is actively working directly with our artists and their representatives to provide accurate information concerning the assets we have and what might have been lost in the fire", it went on.
"Even though our work is not yet complete, we have already determined that original masters for many of the artists named in the lawsuit were not lost in the 2008 fire. We will not be distracted from our focus on providing our artists with full transparency even as the plaintiffs' attorneys continue to pursue these baseless claims".
The lawsuit is demanding that UMG shares with affected artists half of the insurance payout and the damages it received from Universal Studios after the fire. None of that money was distributed to affected artists at the time, the vast majority of which weren't told that their masters had been lost in the incident.
US Copyright Office and justice department intervene in Stairway To Heaven song-theft litigation
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 Wolfe's song 'Taurus'. But the band successfully defeated the litigation in 2016 when a jury concluded that the two songs were not sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement.
The Wolfe estate then appealed that ruling in early 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. The Ninth Circuit appeals court ultimately concurred with the estate, overturning the original judgement and ordering a retrial.
Though, before that retrial could happen in the court that originally heard the case, the Ninth Circuit announced it would consider the matter anew. This time en banc, so that more judges would be involved in the court's deliberations.
It's as part of that process that the Copyright Office and DoJ have now intervened. They argue that the original jury ruling was correct, and that the appeals court erred when they initially decided to overturn that judgement.
The new amicus brief deals with two copyright technicities that are very relevant to the case. First, the principle that says that only the version of 'Taurus' as filed with the US copyright registry enjoys copyright protection. And, as the song pre-dates 1978, that means just the sheet music version, as that's all that could be filed when the song was written.
This point has come up in various American song-theft legal battles involving older songs, including the big 'Blurred Lines' case that is dissected in the first of a new series of Setlist specials on the top ten music legal battles of all time, which came out yesterday.
The Copyright Office and DoJ say that both the lower court and the Ninth Circuit were right to apply this principle in this case, so that only the version of 'Taurus' as filed with the copyright registry can be considered. But with that in mind, the amicus brief goes on, the Ninth Circuit was wrong to overturn the lower court's conclusion that 'Stairway' and 'Taurus' are not sufficiently similar to constitute infringement.
It adds that, when you remove the similar elements of 'Stairway' and 'Taurus' that only appear in their respective recordings, not the accompanying sheet music, "the only similarity between the original work and the allegedly infringing work is the selection and arrangement of two basic musical elements: an A-minor chord and a descending chromatic scale".
Those elements, the brief argues "may not themselves be copyrighted. The selection and arrangement of a small number of standard elements such as these is entitled, at most, to a 'thin' copyright that protects only against virtually identical copying. Because the works at issue here are not virtually identical, the district court's judgment should be affirmed".
This second technicality explored in the amicus brief applies to a wider range of song-theft legal battles, and not just those involving pre-1978 songs.
The government agencies are basically arguing that, although the specific selection and arrangement of basic musical elements may be protected by copyright, this should be treated as a very narrow form of protection. So that infringement only applies if someone else's employment of that selection and arrangement is identical, or as near as.
Explaining why the Copyright Office and DoJ felt the need to intervene in this way, earlier in their amicus brief the two government agencies explain: "The United States has an interest in the proper interpretation of the copyright laws, which foster innovation and creative expression by protecting the rights of authors to profit from their original works while simultaneously allowing the creation and dissemination of new works".
They then add: "The United States has a particular interest in this case because it concerns the legal effect of depositing a complete copy of a work with the Copyright Office, an agency of the federal government, as well as the standard for originality applied by the Copyright Office in examining and registering copyrighted works".
It remains to be seen if interventions like this prove influential when the Ninth Circuit considers this whole dispute for a second time. And also whether that ruling - and government statements like these - impact on other song-theft disputes that are working their way through the American courts as we speak.
Two more estates join the Harold Arlen litigation against Apple, Amazon et al
This lawsuit was originally filed by the son of Harold Arlen - the man who wrote 'Over The Rainbow', 'I've Got The World On A String' and 'Get Happy', among many other famous works. The litigation argues that an assortment of labels and distributors have been uploading old recordings that they don't actually own onto an assortment of streaming platforms and download stores.
That would mainly be a matter for whoever owns the sound recording rights in those tracks. But, the Arlen legal case points out, the labels and/or digital platforms also need a licence covering the accompanying song rights.
And while there is a compulsory licence covering the mechanical copying of songs in the US, that only applies where the recordings being distributed are legit. If the downloading or streaming of a recording constitutes copyright infringement, then the compulsory licence does not apply, so the song rights are being infringed too.
Lawyers involved in the litigation said when filing the original lawsuit: "This case is about massive music piracy operations in the digital music stores and streaming services of some of the largest tech companies in the world. Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Pandora and their distributors have joined with notorious music pirates to sell and stream thousands of pirated recordings embodying copyrighted works owned by [the Arlen estate]".
That lawsuit was filed in May, but now an amended complaint has been submitted listing the estates of two more songwriters as plaintiffs. Those are Harry Warren - whose works include 'I Only Have Eyes For You', 'You'll Never Know', 'That's Amore' and 'Nagasaki' - and Ray Henderson - whose credits include 'I'm Sitting On Top of the World, 'The Best Things In Life Are Free' and 'Has Anybody Seen My Girl?'
Confirming the expansion of the lawsuit, one of the lawyers working on the case, Matthew Schwartz, told reporters: "The case confirms that music piracy continues to be a serious problem. This new filing joining the works of Harold Arlen with those of Harry Warren and Ray Henderson demonstrates that the case is gaining momentum as more songwriters and music publishers realise the scope of the problem and what is at stake".
Faber Music joins IMPEL
"Joining IMPEL is a bit like being adopted by a particularly friendly and warm-hearted family", says the firm's Director Of Commercial Rights And Business Affairs, Richard Paine. "But this is a family with a passionate belief in the power of the collective, which we share, and that seems to be very well serviced by the amazing people at SACEM, who have impressed us immensely".
Of course, you could argue that if you believe in the power of the collective, you should just let your collecting societies handle all your digital licensing. But, I suppose, it was the majors who first went the direct licensing route in the streaming domain. And, as Paine notes, a collecting society - France's SACEM - still does a bulk of the work.
IMPEL CEO Sarah Williams adds: "We are delighted to be welcoming Faber into the IMPEL collective. Not only are we proud to be representing their amazing catalogue but also we appreciate the opportunity of working with some really excellent music industry executives. IMPEL is all about pooling rights, knowledge and experience for the common good and we know that Faber will enrich our collective endeavours".
As well as repping classical big badgers like Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, Faber Music also publishes catalogues by composers who are still alive, including Paul McCartney, Danny Elfman, Johnny Greenwood and Anna Meredith. Through its Faber Alt division, it also works outside classical music, working with artists including Boy Azooga, Penelope Isles, BC Camplight and more.
The National to release live film and EP through Amazon
It features a performance at New York's Beacon Theatre that took place in April, as part of a series of five shows around the world launching the band's latest album, 'I Am Easy To Find'.
The full performance film will be released on Amazon Prime Video on 23 Aug, with a five track EP available the same day on Amazon Music. Screenings of the film will also take place in New York, LA and Seattle on 20 Aug.
The National will be in the UK for live shows later this year. Here are the dates:
7 Dec: Brighton Centre
Melt Banana announce UK tour
"We don't care much about so-called genre definitions", says vocalist Yako Onuki in a new interview with Kerrang, while refusing to be pinned down on how their sound is developing.
"Maybe because we don't write music according to genre", she goes on. "Some people say 'rock', some people say 'pop', some people say 'punk, noise, metal', etc. 'Loud music' fits for music like ours, but we also have some tender songs. It's difficult".
Here are all the dates:
16 Oct: London, Dingwalls
The Hipgnosis Songs Fund has acquired the publishing catalogue of The Chainsmokers. "The Chainsmokers are the highest paid duo in the world not only because they know how to spin records better than anyone else but because they have created amongst the very biggest hits in the world for the dance and pop community over the last seven years", enthuses Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis.
Former Sony/ATV Director of A&R Richard Aurigema has been hired as VP Copyright at Downtown's song rights management platform Songtrust, leading its copyright and publishing operations teams. "I'm very excited", says a giddy Aurigema.
Having launched the UK branch of Chinese entertainment company Modern Sky in 2006, Sound City founder Dave Pichilingi is now set to head up its LA-based US operation too. "We're seeing a big increase in the demand for Chinese repertoire and want to generate new opportunities for our artists", he says.
Spotify has upgraded its Family plan. Among the new features, parents (or whichever of your housemates set up the account) will now be able to stop their kids (or their housemates) listening to music marked 'explicit', and each account on the plan will have access to a family playlist, featuring music everyone likes. "We're creating more ways for families to bond over music together", claims Chief Premium Business Officer Alex Norstrom.
New film 'Uncut Gems' will have a soundtrack composed by Oneohtrix Point Never. The movie will star Adam Sandler and The Weeknd.
Korn will debut a new song in video game 'AdventureQuest' today, as part of what they're billing a "video game battle concert".
Enter Shikari have released the video for new single 'Stop The Clocks'. The band are set to play four sets at this weekend's Reading and Leeds festivals.
Mayer Hawthorne has released the video for new single 'The Game'. "In order to successfully shoot this video, I spent the last few years developing an immunity to iocane powder", says Hawthorne, referencing the video's 'The Princess Bride' influence. "Huge shout out to Pele and co for taking my preposterous idea and making it come to life. Rest in peace, William Goldman".
Bat For Lashes has released new single 'Jasmine'. Her new album, 'Lost Girls', is out on 6 Sep.
Girl Band have released new single 'Going Norway'. "I decided not to use any pronouns within 'Going Norway' and the whole [upcoming new] album", says vocalist Dara Kiely. "That came about when I came across this quote from the Buddha which was 'nothing is to be clung to as I, me or mine' - and I removed all that in a way to kind of find an abstract world to live in".
Vex Red have released the video for recent single 'Tarantula'. The band's new EP, 'Give Me The Dark', is out on 4 Oct. They'll headline the Camden Assembly on 13 Sep.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
"Known copyright troll" lawyer files new lawsuit over Nextflix Fyre Festival doc
The lawsuit was filed yesterday by lawyer Richard Liebowitz, and comes two months after he secured a settlement for a client in an almost identical case. There, a woman named Clarissa Cardenas said that footage she had filmed from inside one of the tents at the festival was used without permission.
In this new case, it's not footage from the festival itself that was used. Pinedo claims that the filmmakers used a video she shot of Fyre Festival co-founder Ja Rule and two others made at parties hosted by Magnises, a now defunct company set up by the event's other co-founder Billy McFarland.
That Liebowitz has filed another lawsuit similar to the Cardenas case will probably come as no surprise and some dismay to New York judges. The lawyer has launched hundreds of copyright infringement cases in recent years, mainly related to unauthorised images on websites.
Although he enjoyed some success in his previous case against Netflix, things have not always gone so well. According to Law360, during one case a judge referred to him as a "known copyright troll" and ordered the attorney to attend a training course on "ethics and professionalism".
In another, one of Liebowitz's clients was ordered to hand over $120,000 in attorney fees to the defendants on the grounds that they had put their name to a lawsuit that "no reasonable lawyer with any familiarity with the law of copyright" should have filed. The lawyer has also been sanctioned himself numerous times.
Still, he clearly has enough success that he continues to secure clients. Presumably, now that Netflix has paid an out of court settlement once, he's hoping the same will happen again with minimal contact with actual judges.