|WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The courts in New York yesterday declined to dismiss the potentially explosive lawsuits being pursued against Universal Music and Sony Music in relation to the termination right under US copyright law. The majors argue that the termination right does not apply to traditional record deals, although their motions to dismiss focused more on technicalities around the termination notices previously submitted by the plaintiffs... [READ MORE]|
Courts decline to dismiss the potentially explosive termination right lawsuits against Universal and Sony
The American termination right says that 'authors' who assign their copyrights to another entity have a one-time opportunity to terminate that assignment and reclaim their rights after 35 years. This particular termination right comes from a piece of 1970s copyright law Stateside, so only really kicked in earlier this decade.
On the songs side of the business, American songwriters reclaiming their US rights in this way has become routine. There are formalities a songwriter must go through to reclaim those rights - and many may use the opportunity to re-sign with the same publisher on better terms and with a new advance - but in the main termination notices are accepted.
However, on the recordings side many corporate rights owners have resisted efforts by artists to reclaim assigned rights. This is principally on the basis that record contracts are so called work-for-hire agreements, making the label not the artist the default owner of the resulting copyright. Therefore, there was no assignment of rights from artist to label 35 years ago and as a result the right to terminate that assignment does not apply.
Needless to say, most artists disagree with that argument, in turn arguing that record deals aren't really work-for-hire agreements at all. Which has resulted in years of dispute that led to lawsuits being filed against both Universal and Sony in February 2019.
Those lawsuits - each involving multiple artists - seek court clarification that termination rights do apply to record contracts. And therefore labels which have previously knocked back termination notices and continued to exploit recordings referenced in said paperwork should be held liable for copyright infringement.
Both majors sought to have the cases dismissed by raising issues with the termination notices previously submitted by each plaintiff, in some cases claiming insufficient information was provided and in others that deadlines had been missed.
Universal also reckoned that artists who had signed their record deals via companies - rather than in a personal capacity - couldn't utilise the termination right. And - in relation to one artist - it argued that the original record deal had been done before 1978 when the termination right that is being enforced here first came into being.
The judge actually sided with Universal on those latter points, more or less, dismissing some aspects of its lawsuit as a result (though in relation to the pre-1978 deal, only for recordings also released pre-1978). However, the other technicalities raised by both Universal and Sony were rejected, allowing both lawsuits to proceed.
As noted, the motions to dismiss - and therefore the judgements on those motions - did not focus too much on the core dispute in these cases. Which is to say, whether or not artists can exercise the termination right at all, or whether - because record contracts are work-for-hire agreements - the termination right does not apply.
Although, in the Universal case, plaintiffs had sought declaratory relief in their favour on that point, ie for the court to rule that their interpretation of the termination right - and that it does apply to their record contracts - was correct. For its part Universal wanted that element of the lawsuit dismissed too, which the judge also agreed to yesterday.
However, he only declined to provide declaratory relief at this time, he didn't rule on the issue at hand. After all, he noted, in its motion to dismiss, Universal had only referenced the 'work-for-hire' elements of the artists' record contracts as part of its efforts to have the termination notices ruled void because of the statute of limitations. He added: "The court, therefore, need not resolve, for purposes of this motion, whether the agreements conferred 'for hire' status on the works".
But, of course, that is the big issue that will need to be resolved down the line, the entire dispute over the termination rights of artists pretty much hanging on that point. If the court does ultimately decide that record contracts are not, in fact, work-for-hire agreements (even if they claim to be within the contract itself), then the termination right will likely apply.
That could result in a flood of artists seeking to reclaim the American rights in their old recordings at a time when catalogue is becoming ever more lucrative for the labels.
Prosecutors argue against R Kelly's request for release from prison on COVID-19 grounds
In a motion filed on Monday, prosecutors argued that there was no justified reason to release the musician, despite concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. They argued that, at 53, he is not old enough to be considered at a high risk of complications if he does contract the illness. He is also in good health, with no underlying medical conditions that might lead to concerns for his safety, they said.
As well as this, prosecutors argued that the nature of the crimes Kelly is accused of would make releasing him, albeit temporarily, problematic.
"While the government recognises the seriousness of COVID-19 and the increased risk to certain federal prisoners, a generalised risk alone does not justify releasing the entire Bureau Of Prisons population, much less a prisoner being held for racketeering charges involving crimes against specified victims with a history of obstructing justice", says the filing, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Currently the US Bureau Of Prisons has reported nineteen confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its facilities nationwide - none of which are in Illinois where Kelly is being held. Still, in a filing last week, Kelly's attorney Steven Greenberg claimed that a number of prisoners locked up with the star had been quarantined due to "flu-like" symptoms and that prison staff were not taking adequate safety measures. He argued that forcing Kelly to await his trials in the prison is "tantamount to making [him] drink poison".
In this week's filing, prosecutors refuted claims that the COVID-19 outbreak was not being taken seriously in US prisons, noting that inmates' movements are being restricted and there is currently a ban on visitors. Inmates are also being allowed to self-isolate in their cells.
Kelly, of course, has not yet been convicted of any crime. He is being held in custody awaiting trial due to his perceived flight risk and - as noted above - accusations of witness tampering during his previous trial on sexual abuse charges.
The musician is facing numerous new charges relating to sexual abuse, with trials pending in New York, Illinois and Minnesota. The New York jury trial is currently scheduled to begin in July. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Harold Arlen estate files new lawsuit against Apple over bootleg recordings
Arlen wrote 'Over The Rainbow', 'I've Got The World On A String' and 'Get Happy', among many other famous works. His estate argues that an assortment of labels and distributors have uploaded bootleg versions of recordings of those songs to otherwise legitimate download stores and streaming services.
The Arlen estate is suing not as the owner of the recording rights in those tracks, but in relation to the accompanying song rights. Although the mechanical copying of songs is covered by a compulsory licence in the US - via which the Arlen estate would usually get paid its song royalties - that compulsory licence does not apply if a recording is unlicensed. So the digital delivery of such recordings would infringe the song copyrights too.
The estate has sued various digital platforms over this alleged infringement, as well as the labels accused of actually uploading the bootleg recordings and the distributors they utilise. Other estates have also joined some of those lawsuits, in particular the estates of Harry Warren and Ray Henderson.
The original Arlen estate lawsuit - from which various defendants had already been removed - was recently dismissed at the estate's request. But that seems to have been a mere technicality, because litigation continues. For starters the three songwriter estates had already separately sued Google and Amazon in January. And now a new lawsuit has been filed in the Californian courts against Apple.
The new lawsuit also targets a British label called Adasam which, the estates argue, is selling, via iTunes, "recordings by virtually every well-known recording artist from the 1920s through the 1960s, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Mel Tormé, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett and Judy Garland".
The extent of its apparent roster is proof, the new lawsuit goes on, that this is a bootleg operation, given there is no way an unknown record company with no online presence could have secured the digital rights to so many classic recordings, which are still also available on iTunes via the major labels that originally released them (usually at a higher price).
"The scope and flagrant nature of defendants' piracy cannot be understated", the lawsuit adds. Adasam is wilfully infringing "thousands" of copyrights, while Apple "did not perform any investigations or due diligence to confirm that Adasam had authorisation to reproduce, distribute, make or authorise the making of digital phonorecord deliveries" of these tracks.
With another lawsuit now on the pile, we await with interest to see what happens next in the various cases now being pursued by the estates of Arlen, Warren and Henderson.
Live Nation launches COVID-19 relief fund for live industry practitioners
Countless crew members have found themselves out of work since measures to restrict and delay the spread of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of shows, tours, festivals and conferences in numerous countries. Many of those people are self-employed and lost all upcoming work as a result of the cancellations.
Live entertainment giant Live Nation is committing $10 million to its new Crew Nation fund, while also encouraging artists, fans and employees to contribute, either through donations or by buying bespoke merch. Live Nation's contribution includes $5 million up front and then - like Spotify's COVID-19 support scheme - it will match any donations made by other parties, up to another $5 million.
Although a number of schemes have now been set up around the world to provide short term financial assistance to those in the music community negatively hit by the COVID-19 crisis, many are primarily focused on artists, songwriters and musicians. This new scheme will therefore provide valuable support for those who work behind-the-scenes at those artists' shows.
Launching the fund, Live Nation said: "Live music inspires millions around the world, but the concerts we all enjoy wouldn't be possible without the countless crew members working behind the scenes. As COVID-19 puts concerts on pause, we want to extend a helping hand to the touring and venue crews who depend on shows to make a living".
The Crew Nation scheme is being administered by the existing Music Forward Foundation that was originally set up by the House Of Blues venue business that Live Nation acquired in 2006. You can already donate to the fund online, while information about how affected crew members can apply for support will be published soon.
Eurovision organisers announce "non-competitive" show in place of cancelled contest
Titled 'Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light', the exact format of this show is not yet clear. It will be made by the Dutch broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS, which had been preparing to produce the 2020 contest. Presenters for the show will also remain actor Chantal Janzen, singer Edsilia Rombley (both former Dutch Eurovision entrants) and other singer Jan Smit.
Viewers are promised "plenty of surprises", thanks in part to only vague details having so far been supplied. As well as this year's entrants being invited to perform a past Eurovision hit "with unifying lyrics appropriate for the current situation we find ourselves in", former Eurovision singers will perform "other familiar songs from the past, performed in iconic European locations".
Executive Supervisor of the Contest, Jon Ola Sand, says in a statement: "Sadly there will be no Eurovision Song Contest this year. Instead, we intend to unite Europe on 16 May with a unique primetime TV programme. We are encouraging all broadcasters who were due to take part in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, and EBU Members in other countries, to air this show in the spirit of unity and togetherness".
The BBC had already announced its own show to replace this year's Eurovision final, 'Eurovision: Come Together'. The broadcaster has not yet announced what effect the new official show will have on these plans.
Meanwhile, the Rotterdam arena that was being prepared to stage the contest is now being transformed into a temporary hospital, according to Dutch media company AD. In an effort to increase the Netherlands' capacity to manage the COVID-19 outbreak, the building will provide a further 680 beds for those requiring hospital treatment for the illness.
Public Enemy reveal Flavor Flav dispute was just a very confusing hoax
Despite claims early last month that Flavor Flav had been fired from the hip hop group due to either his political beliefs or lack of commitment - depending on which side you believed - he now appears on the new single from Enemy Radio. Enemy Radio (or Public Enemy Radio) is the version of the hip hop outfit that has been performing without Flavor Flav for a number of years. Don't worry, this is going to get even more confusing.
Flavor Flav appeared to send a cease-and-desist letter to his bandmates in February, after they were booked to perform - in their Radio guise - at a benefit for US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. He then claimed to have been fired from Public Enemy at large because he didn't support Sanders. The group then denied this and said that he'd been dropped because "he always chose to party over work".
That was all a big hoax though. A big hoax which, Chuck D said in an interview of Talib Kweli's People's Party podcast, was inspired by Orson Welles' 1938 'The War Of The Worlds' radio broadcast. Somehow. Because Flav is on this new Enemy Radio single. But not on the Enemy Radio album as a whole, as he's not a member of Enemy Radio. But because he's on it, the single is credited as featuring Public Enemy, because the full line up of Public Enemy is on it.
Maybe a statement from Chuck D will help clear all this up. He says: "So it's 1 Apr 2020 and as we hoard food and empty store shelves, Chuck D and Flavor Flav hijack it as April 'FlavChuck' Day to end the HOAX with Enemy Radio's new song, 'Food As A Machine Gun' - 'Don't Believe The Hype' 2020 style".
"That's right", he goes on, as if he's answered any questions about this, "this is Enemy Radio featuring Public Enemy, with more around the corner: Enemy Radio's debut album, 'Loud Is Not Enough', is here. 'Food As A Machine Gun' is the first taste, an attack on the food industrial machine that opens minds to the direct need, dependency and necessity - yet killer - of our current lives, taking inspiration from Kristin Lawless and her book 'Formerly Known As Food'".
April Fool's Day law, of course, states that you have a twelve hour window from midnight to midday to get your gags in. You can't start setting them up in February. Those are the rules. Also, I thought we'd all agreed that in this internet-fuelled everything-lives-on-forever age, and with the boom in year-round fake news, April Fool's Day doesn't work as a thing anymore.
Not to mention the fact that, given everything else that's going on just now, we'd all forgotten about this Public Enemy dispute, and it seems quite bizarre to have carried it through to its perplexing conclusion.
Anyway, I don't know if anyone - including Chuck D and Flavor Flav - has any idea what's actually happened here. But the album, 'Loud Is Not Enough', is out on streaming services now. And you can listen to 'Food As A Machine Gun' here.
COVID-19 SUPPORT INTIATIVES
Elton John's big quarantine concert on Sunday - seeing artists including Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong and other artists not called Billie perform on US TV and radio from their own homes - raised $8 million for the Feeding America and First Responders Children's Foundation charities. The show is still streaming on a loop on iHeart's YouTube channel.
BMG Production Music has hired Dan Pounder as EVP & Commercial Director. He joins from Sony/ATV's Extreme Publishing. "I am excited to join BMG Production Music to drive the business forward as it focuses on strong organic growth, service excellence and strategic investments", says Pounder.
Indian collecting society PPL India has appointed GB Aayeer as its new CEO, replacing Rajat Kakar. "I am excited at being chosen to lead PPL in its rejuvenated avatar", says Aayeer. "Rajat has made PPL into a data oriented, transparent and professional organisation and I now look forward to continuing the momentum built in the last two years".
The Madison Square Garden Company's board of directors has approved plans to fully spin off the firm's entertainment business from its sports business. The proposal was announced last November after losses were higher than expected in its latest quarterly figures. The split is expected to be complete by the middle of April.
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Collaborative jamming app Endlesss has launched for iOS devices. With any level of musical ability (including none) you can make music with friends remotely. The app has been in development for some time, but this seems the ideal moment for it to launch. It's fun. Download it immediately.
Kings Of Leon have released new single, 'Going Nowhere'. "Stay safe. Stay home. We will see you as soon as we can", say the band.
Brendan Benson has released new single 'Richest Man'. The track is taken from his new album 'Dar Life', which is out through Third Man on 24 Apr.
Converge frontman Jacob Bannon has launched new band Umbra Vitae with Twitching Tongues' Sean Martin, Red Chord's Mike McKenzie and Greg Weeks, and Job For A Cowboy's Jon Rice. Their debut album, 'Shadow Of Life', is out on 1 May. From it, this is first single 'Return To Zero'.
Ane Brun has released new single 'Trust'. Her new as-yet-untitled album is out later this year.
Yaeji has released new single 'What We Drew' - the title track from her upcoming new mixtape, which is out this week. "This song is about sharing love and gratitude with the people you call family", she says.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
George Ezra gives royalties from Joe Wicks PE class play to NHS, other musicians also pitch in
Ezra's 'Shotgun' featured in yesterday's video, thanks to the musician's primary school teacher mum. After Wicks mentioned in a previous video that there was no music in his online classes due to copyright issues, Mrs Ezra got on the phone and made things happen.
"So, yesterday my mum rang me on her lunch break", said Ezra on Instagram, picking up the story. "She's a teacher at a primary school and each morning her and the kids are tuning in for PE with Joe. Joe mentioned that it was a shame that there was no music on during the classes but, because of copyright issues, he couldn't use songs in the background. My mum suggested I offer Joe and the kids my songs to use. I got in touch with Joe and we made it happen".
He also seemingly managed to rope Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran into signing up, with Wicks also playing their songs through a speaker in his living room during the video, which you can watch here.
This isn't a big pay day for Ezra and co though, despite the popularity of Wicks' lessons. "The coolest thing", he goes on, "is that all royalties made from the songs being used are going directly to the NHS! I'd like to say a huge thank you to Joe for being the world's fitness coach throughout all of this and an even bigger thank you to my amazing mum and all the other incredible teachers up and down the country for everything they're doing".
Ezra is not the only musician offering support to the incredible NHS staff directly facing the coronavirus down. Rick Astley and Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott have both announced free performances for NHS staff once this is all over.
Heaton and Abbott will play the Nottingham Arena on 13 Oct, and to ensure that as many members of NHS staff as possible have the opportunity to go, they will be sending coaches out to thirteen locations around the UK to pick them up.
"The coronavirus pandemic should remind everyone, and let no one forget, that our National Health Service is the most brilliant and significant institution in our lives", says Heaton. "The men and women who serve us and care for us, give us hope and sacrifice their own wellbeing, can never be thanked enough. We are just musicians, so there is little we can do but sing for you. By way of appreciation, we announce the following gig for all frontline NHS staff. From the porters, the cleaners and the drivers, to the doctors and the nurses; thank you".
Meanwhile, Astley will play a free show for NHS staff, primary care workers, paramedics, fire fighters and police officers at the Manchester Arena on 28 Oct. "Our NHS and emergency services are amazing", says Astley. "This concert is a thank you to all those fantastic frontline staff. I promise my band and I will give it everything to give you a great night out".
On the business side of things, Download Festival - which last week cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak - has launched a limited edition t-shirt, being sold to raise money for NHS staff.
Elsewhere, comedian Matt Lucas is releasing a song called 'Thank You Baked Potato' - a reworked version of his 'Baked Potato Song' from BBC Two's 'Shooting Stars' - to raise money for the FeedNHS campaign. The fundraising initiative is aiming to raise $1 million to get hot, healthy meals to NHS staff on a daily basis.
"'The Baked Potato Song' was something I sang on 'Shooting Stars' 20 years ago and in an idle moment on Tuesday night I rewrote the lyrics and updated them", says Lucas. "'Baked Potato' is always giving good advice and the new advice in the new version of the song is about washing your hands, staying indoors and only going to grocery stores. I urge everyone to go out and buy the single this week and raise vital money for the FeedNHS campaign".
Speaking of feeding healthcare staff, in the US Lizzo has been personally donating meals to hospital staff. "You guys are putting yourselves on the frontline, so because of that, I wanted to treat y'all to a meal", she told staff of one hospital in a video message. "Lunch on me! I love you guys. Thank you so much for being the heroes in this story".