|MONDAY 4 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Night Time Industries Association has announced an alliance with an organisation called the Hiscox Action Group. Both are seeking to put pressure on insurance firm Hiscox to pay out on the business interruption policies held by a plethora of companies around the UK that have been affected by the COVID-19 shutdown... [READ MORE]|
Clubs and venues ally with other companies in COVID insurance dispute with Hiscox
The NTIA - which represents the UK's night time sector, including clubs and venues - previously criticised various insurers that were refusing to honour business interruption policies in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Sometimes such policies may be worded to specifically exclude business interruption caused by a pandemic, but the NTIA said that, in the case of many of its members, that wasn't the case and yet insurers were still dragging their heels.
In a statement last month the trade group declared: "Many claims are being disputed by insurers based on ambiguous policy wording to avoid sharing the financial burden during the COVID-19 crisis. We have identified a number of insurers we believe are acting unfairly in these circumstances to protect their own interests and have gathered substantial support from the sector to fight these disputed claims".
That includes the Bermuda-incorporated, London-Stock-Exchange-listed Hiscox. Together the NTIA and Hiscox Action Group represent over 500 COVID-affected companies which have business interruption insurance from Hiscox. The two organisations say that, by collaborating, they can share information, pool resources and collaborate on legal action as they seek to pressure and force the insurance firm to pay out.
One of the lawyers representing NTIA's members, Philip Kolvin of Cornerstone Barristers, said in a statement: "The Hiscox policies we are relying on clearly cover government closure due to the cornonavirus. I hope very much that these claims can be met soon, and in full, to avoid the need for litigation".
Meanwhile, Richard Leedham of law firm Mishcon de Raya, working for the wider-ranging Hiscox Action Group, added: "I welcome this alliance with NTIA. Hiscox has said that it did not intend to cover what has happened. This is irrelevant. We are looking at what is in the contract. Hiscox has provided a very broad form of wording and its natural meaning would cover someone whose business was interrupted by the lockdown".
Amazon hits out at its inclusion in US government's notorious markets piracy report
The latest anti-piracy report from the US Trade Representative was published last week. This annual document identifies countries and companies around the world that are failing to respect and protect the intellectual property rights of American businesses. It is informed by submissions from those US-based IP owners, including the American music industry.
There are two parts to the report - the first criticising the IP regimes of countries and the second criticising individual companies and websites. In the former the countries whose slack approach to intellectual property are currently causing most concern to US officials are identified as: Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Venezuela.
The list of companies and websites criticised in the latest report includes many of the usual suspects, with The Pirate Bay making its customary appearance alongside various other file-sharing and stream-ripping services.
Russian social network VK is also still included because, while it is now in business with the music industry, the movie studios say that the social media site still facilitates the unlicensed distribution of their content. Though the USTR notes positive moves made by VK's owner Mail.Ru Group, partly in response to the anti-piracy initiatives of the Russian government.
But the surprise new entry in the companies list was Amazon. Not least because the notorious markets list is generally of companies based outside the US whose activities affect American IP owners and/or provide unlicensed content or sell counterfeit goods to American consumers.
So, therefore, you'd not expect such a major US-based company to appear. The USTR sneakily got around that issue by specifically stating that its problem was with Amazon's subsidiaries in Canada, Germany, France, India and the UK.
Amazon's listing is actually the result of a complaint by the American Apparel & Footwear Association. That complaint relates to third parties selling goods via the Amazon platform.
The AAFA says that some of those third parties sell counterfeit knock offs of its members products and that Amazon doesn't do enough to identify and remove those sellers from its site. Plus the way Amazon shows seller information makes it difficult for consumers themselves to distinguish the official from the unofficial sellers and products.
Although it was the American fashion industry that got Amazon officially declared a notorious market, at various points in the past the music industry has raised similar concerns about the web giant's vetting of third party sellers.
A few years ago labels in US raised concerns that bootleg CDs were being routinely sold by rogue operators via the Amazon platform and - because of the way Amazon operates - the bootleg versions were sitting right alongside the legit versions.
And two years ago four men were convicted in the UK courts for running a copyright infringing bootleg vinyl operation which had, in part, relied on Amazon to sell its pirated discs.
In the latest notorious markets report, the USTR states that rightsholders feel that "anyone can become a seller on Amazon with too much ease because Amazon does not sufficiently vet sellers on its platforms". And that "Amazon's counterfeit removal processes can be lengthy and burdensome, even for right holders that enrol in Amazon's brand protection programmes".
However, Amazon has hit back at its inclusion in the anti-piracy report, arguing that the US government has ignored its extensive efforts to ensure only legitimate products are sold on its websites. Its inclusion, the company said, was simply part of Donald Trump's highly public ongoing feud with Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Trump-criticising Washington Post.
A spokesperson told Politico: "This purely political act is another example of the [Trump] administration using the US government to advance a personal vendetta against Amazon. Amazon makes significant investments in proactive technologies and processes to detect and stop bad actors and potentially counterfeit products from being sold in our stores".
Meanwhile, the US Internet Association, of which Amazon is a member, also suggested that the USTR report was an inappropriate place to criticise a domestic web giant. Its Director of Trade Policy, Jordan Haas, said: "American online marketplaces proactively combat the sale of counterfeits every day and work hand in glove with rightsholders to prevent their sale".
"IA member companies have developed robust notice and takedown procedures, strong partnerships with rightsholders and law enforcement, and proactive tools and measures to prevent counterfeits sales online", he went on. "The industry will continue to develop new tools and partnerships, working closely with USTR, the Department Of Homeland Security, law enforcement, and policymakers, in order to combat this problem".
US record industry's stream ripping battle back in court
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 - fought back when his websites were sued for contributory copyright infringement by the American labels.
In January last year a court in Florida dismissed the record industry's lawsuit on jurisdiction grounds. That was on the basis that FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com were based in Russia and - because no sign-up was required to use the sites - they had no direct business relationships with any American citizens, even though Americans were known to use the stream-ripping services.
The labels then took the case to the Fourth Circuit appeals court. It was there that last week that Kurbanov's people presented the classic argument in cases likes this: FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com have legitimate uses and illegitimate uses, and it's out of Kurbanov's control how people use his websites. His technology is basically just a digital tape recorder, and therefore he can't be any more liable for copyright infringement that the makers of old-fashioned tape recorders were back in the day.
That argument has generally been rejected in past legal battles involving the makers of file-sharing and stream-ripping technologies. Though, the lower court ruling wasn't actually about the credibility of that defence, given the decision was jurisdiction based. On that point, Kurbanov's lawyer last week stressed that his client is based in Russia and - while his websites are available worldwide - he's made no effort to specifically target his service at Americans.
The labels reckon that the court in Florida set a dangerous precedent by deciding it didn't have jurisdiction over a website that is accessible in America and used by Americans to infringe American copyrights. Just because a website's actual base is abroad and no American users have formally registered with it should not be grounds for dismissing a copyright lawsuit.
Last week a lawyer for the labels also stressed that Kurbanov could have blocked American IP addresses from accessing his website and had chosen not to. And more than that, his websites had a registered 'DMCA agent' at the US Copyright Office, which is basically how you tell copyright owners where to send takedown notices as part of the American safe harbour process.
According to Torrentfreak, the labels' lawyer said: "The only point ... of that DMCA agent is to invoke the protections of the DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act". Which is to say, to ensure the stream-ripping sites enjoyed safe harbour protection under US law. That means FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com "have literally invoked the protections of US law". Which should be enough, the labels reckon, to say the sites are also subject to liabilities under US law.
Kurbanov's lawyer countered that registering a DMCA agent for a website with the US Copyright Office did not, in fact, automatically mean that that site subjects itself to US law.
It remains to be seen how the Fourth Circuit now responds.
R Kelly's legal team makes third attempt to secure release, says singer is "likely diabetic"
The musician's attorney Steven Greenberg says that Kelly has recently learned that he has tested "1/10 of one point below diabetic", which - the lawyer argues - would put his client at a high risk of complications from COVID-19. Greenberg also adds that Kelly is overweight and has high blood pressure and cholesterol issues, which puts him at further risk.
The lawyer says that COVID-19 is continuing to spread in the American prison population, and also accuses prison authorities of not providing Kelly with proper medical care. As an example of this, Greenberg claims that Kelly's diabetes test results were withheld from him for a month and that he has still received no treatment for that condition as of yet.
Kelly is currently being held in custody in Chicago as he awaits trials there and in New York on various charges related to accusations of sexual abuse. He was incarcerated pending trial because of fears that he will attempt to flee the country, evidence of witness tampering in a previous trial, and evidence that he committed several crimes while previously out on bail.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the US, his legal team has been attempting to get Kelly released from prison to be held under house arrest. But on two previous occasions formal requests for release on COVID-19 grounds have been denied.
Prosecutors and the judges overseeing his trials all seem to agree that Kelly is a flight risk, despite his attorney's claims that the star has no financial means to flee. Meanwhile judge Ann Donnelly last month added that, due to the ongoing pandemic, the authorities would not be able to properly monitor him if he was not in prison, giving him ample opportunity to go on the run.
Donnelly also argued that Kelly now has more reason to abscond compared to his previous sexual abuse trial in 2008 because his "circumstances and incentives are vastly different". The severity of the charges in the new trials mean he now faces spending the rest of his life locked up if found guilty.
Both prosecutors and the judges have also raised concerns about evidence that Kelly previously tried to intimidate witnesses during that 2008 trial. Plus prosecutors add that, even while locked up, Kelly has a "significant network of individuals to assist him" in various activities, including attempting to coerce his accusers into retracting their claims against him.
The previous requests for Kelly's release have also been knocked back in part because he does not have any underlying health conditions and there are no other factors, such as age, that put him at high risk of death if he contracts COVID-19. It remains to be seen if this new indication of possible diabetes changes that.
Warner's Arts Music to distribute Mattel recordings catalogue
The deal includes more than 1000 songs that are already out in the world, as well as plans for hundreds more - both existing tracks that have never been commercially available and some brand new toy-based tunes. The first of these new releases will be a Thomas & Friends birthday album, which is set for release on 8 May.
Children's songs are, of course, a good business to get into in the streaming age, because they tend to get played over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, regardless of quality. Particularly once children work out how to use smart speakers. Oh god. Make it stop.
"Music is an important part of Mattel's DNA, and has been integral to our brands' ability to connect with children of all ages to help them learn and grow", claims the toy company's Fred Soulie. "WMG's Arts Music division will unlock our substantial library of music to help us broaden our reach across digital and streaming platforms. Additionally, their significant expertise in nurturing music creation across genres will enable us to significantly expand our catalogue with new music for generations of children to come".
Arts Music President Kevin Gore adds: "Arts Music has been steadily building a powerful repertoire of family-friendly material over the last few years and adding Mattel to our offering absolutely takes it to a new level. Mattel's iconic brands have been bringing joy to children around the world since its founding 75 years ago, and we are honoured that they've trusted our team as the exclusive stewards of their musical enterprises".
"We very much look forward to releasing new music full of positive messages, fun adventures and educational themes to delight kids and families for generations to come", Gore concludes.
This latest deal between a music company and a toy maker follows another last week between Universal and Lego, although Warner is actually an old hand at this. Last year, the mini-major signed a deal with retail brand Build-A-Bear to launch a whole record label for the teddy bear company.
MVT's #saveourvenues secures £1 million in donations, but more needs to be done
MVT announced last month that at least a million was needed to ensure the UK's network of grassroots venues can survive the COVID-19 shutdown. Then last week the trade group launched its multi-layered #saveourvenues campaign, encouraging artists to stage fundraising livestreams in aid of their favourite venues, while also calling on a music industry that relies on the grassroots venue network as a key talent development channel to donate more cash.
Confirming its support for the campaign, Beggars Group boss Martin Mills said this morning: "We fully support this campaign. Live music in small venues is where it all starts for most of our artists, and many of our best times are spent in them. Whether it's White Stripes at the Dome, Dry Cleaning at the Lexington, or Adele - and Aldous Harding - above a pub in Islington, we need these places to survive and thrive. We miss them".
Meanwhile, the Director of Amazon Music Europe, Paul Firth, added: "The UK live music industry is incredibly special and a key part of British music culture, and in uncertain times like these it's been great to see many in the music community come together for the #saveourvenues campaign to help protect and save grassroots music venues across the UK".
The MVT confirmed that last week's donations will have major positive impact, but stressed that more still needed to be done to ensure all of the country's grassroots venues are able to come out at the other end of the COVID-19 pandemic still in business.
The group's CEO Mark Davyd said: "We cannot begin to say how grateful we are to Beggars Group, Amazon Music and the BPI, the mayor of London, Sony Music, SJM, Kilimajaro Live, DHP and others for stepping up and helping us with the #saveourvenues campaign. These are critical times for over 500 grassroots music venues many of whom simply won't survive this crisis without donations from the music industry and music fans".
"This is a great start but there is still so much more to do, and we dare not get complacent", he added. "We urgently need the music industry to help us so please get in touch if you can support this campaign".
Gorillaz have released new single 'How Far?', featuring legendary drummer Tony Allen, who died last week, and Skepta.
Marshmello and Halsey have released a new single together called 'Be Kind'. "As soon as we finished the song, I was instantly obsessed", says Marshmello. "Halsey and I connected and were both on the same page with what we wanted the final outcome to be! And it turned out great".
Jorja Smith has released 'Kiss Me In The Morning', a song recorded for new Netflix show 'The Eddy'.
Charli XCX has released the homemade video for her latest homemade single 'Claws'.
Moby has released new single 'Apollo Jane'. His new album, 'All Visible Objects', is out on 15 May.
Dagny has released new single 'Somebody'. The first half of her new two part album is out on 22 May.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Gene Simmons spars with fans over COVID-19 facemasks
A fierce debate raged on the musician's Twitter feed over the weekend after he innocently retweeted a picture of a teenage fan using a Kiss bandanna to cover her face. As with all things on Twitter, this throwaway post quickly turned into lots of people calling each other idiots.
Simmons, who at least claims to have thoroughly researched the matter, then battled various mask objections. The first such objection, which seemed reasonable, was that whatever you think about proper facemasks, a piece of Kiss-branded cotton cloth wasn't really going to be that effective in stopping you from getting the disease.
"You are incorrect and misinformed", shot back Simmons. "The idea of cloth masks or any other kind of mask, is not to protect you. It's to protect everybody else around you in case you cough or talk. It's not about you, David. It's about protecting everybody else. From you".
The same fan then argued back that using facemasks is "more of a psychological thing" and those urging others to use them are creating unnecessary divisions between people at a time when we should be coming together. Simmons responded by telling him to wear a mask.
Though the musician himself did then later argue that all divisions should be put aside and everyone should "get together, once and for all". However, based on a string of tweets prior to that statement, that coming together would seemingly have to involve everyone agreeing with him and wearing masks (Kiss-branded or otherwise).
Among Simmons' arguments was that wearing a mask is more effective at stopping the spread of germs than covering your mouth with your hand or arm, and that everyone who disagrees with him on this point is basically just denying the existence of the pandemic entirely. I'm not sure if that includes the first person he responded to, who - after all - actually began by arguing that surgical masks are better than bandanas.
Anyway, I hope that's cleared up any medical questions you may have today.