|WEDNESDAY 26 AUGUST 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Tracy Chapman has hit back in her legal battle with Nicki Minaj, disputing the latter's recent claims that a win for the former could set a dangerous precedent that would stifle the creativity of all artists. That conclusion, says Chapman, requires ignoring a vital element of the case: the fact Minaj went out of her way to get a track containing an uncleared Chapman sample played on the radio... [READ MORE]|
Nicki Minaj's Sorry claims ignore both the facts and the law, reckons Tracy Chapman
Chapman first went legal in October 2018 over a sample that appears on an unreleased Minaj track called 'Sorry'. That track was originally intended to feature on Minaj's album 'Queen', but was dropped from the LP at the last minute because her label couldn't clear a sample of Chapman's 'Baby Can I Hold You'.
This was all public knowledge, because - in the run-up to the release of 'Queen' - Minaj had been tweeting about how her people were struggling to get clearance for a sample from the famously anti-sampling Chapman. This meant that her fans were well aware there was a song called 'Sorry', a collaboration with Nas, that was unlikely to get an official release.
All of which meant that, when the unreleased track was then played on Funk Flex's show on New York radio station Hot 97 FM the day after the album's release, a lot of people noticed. Some of whom grabbed the track from the broadcast and started circulating it online. All of which led to Chapman's copyright infringement lawsuit two months later.
Minaj first formally responded to the lawsuit last year, raising some issues about the registration of the 'Baby Can I Hold You' copyright in the US and pointing out that 'Sorry' had only been played on the radio once, so hadn't made Minaj any money or caused Chapman any real damage. That response also included the customary fair use defence, something her lawyers then expanded on somewhat in a new legal filing earlier this month.
Chapman's litigation accuses Minaj of both "creating an illegal derivative work" and "distributing that work". But the most recent legal filing from the defence focused mainly on the former of those claims, arguing that artists playing around with uncleared samples behind closed doors in the studio is common practice and constitutes fair use under US copyright law. Suggesting otherwise would result in copyright interfering with the creative process, thus stifling music-makers everywhere.
Responding to those arguments this week, the Chapman side say that the defence's interpretation of the fair use principle is fundamentally flawed, and - while they may be able to back up their arguments with examples of music industry practice - they are simply not backed up by the case law.
But, perhaps more importantly than all that, those arguments also totally ignore the fact that Minaj didn't just play with an uncleared Chapman sample behind closed doors, she distributed the resulting track to a radio DJ, urging him to play the record.
This week's legal papers run through the latter events in some detail. They allege that - having been denied a licence to sample Chapman's song twice - Minaj then got in touch with Funk Flex, aka Aston Taylor, via her verified Instagram account. She told the DJ that 'Sorry' would not be getting an official release for licensing reasons, but asked him to nevertheless play the finished track on his radio show.
She then started liaising with Nas and sound engineer Aubry Delaine about getting a final version of 'Sorry' mastered and signed off by her collaborator. "The same day she released the album", the lawsuit then claims, "[Minaj] followed up with Mr Taylor to confirm that he would play the infringing work on his radio show and [to] get his number so she could text him the infringing work".
"Within 24 hours", it goes on, "Mr Taylor received the infringing work via text. On 11 Aug 2018, he publicly broadcast it on his number one rated radio show to a huge audience of [Minaj's] core targeted consumer market. Days later, on 14 Aug 2018, [Minaj] was interviewed by Mr Taylor on his radio show to discuss her album".
It adds: "Numerous copies of the infringing work were then reposted to the internet causing Ms Chapman to incur significant expenses monitoring these improper postings and issuing DMCA takedown notices. To this day, copies of the infringing work remain on the internet despite various efforts by Ms Chapman to have them taken down".
Therefore, while the courts could involve themselves in a big debate over the extent to which the fair use principle allows artists to make use of other artist's work without permission behind closed doors, that is basically a hypothetical debate. Because in this case Minaj didn't just do that, she carried on making her track even after a licence had been declined and then got a radio DJ to make it public.
It was odd that Minaj's most recent legal filing pretty much glossed over the radio airing of 'Sorry' that is fundamental to this case. Though there is a parallel between the arguments presented in that legal filing - regarding Minaj's use of uncleared samples in the studio - and the subsequent distribution of her record to a radio DJ. In that music industry practice and copyright law aren't always in sync.
On the former point, Chapman's lawyers argue that, while the creative process Minaj's team described in their recent legal filing may be commonplace, especially in the hip hop community, that doesn't mean that's what US copyright law says about fair use.
As for the radio airing of the uncleared track, there is often an assumption in the world of hip hop that copyright concerns mainly apply to commercial releases, not promo content. After all, the industry routinely turns a blind eye to the unlicensed mixtapes hip hop artists put out for promotional purposes.
So, from a hip hop perspective, copyright issues mainly kick in when you commercially release something. But Chapman's team are right to say that, from a copyright law perspective, copyright issues can definitely kick in as soon as something is simply made public.
It remains to be seen how Minaj now responds, both to the Chapman side's allegations regarding the radio play of 'Sorry', and the accompanying copyright debates.
Judge confirms Apple can ban Fortnite but not cut off the Unreal Engine in Epic dispute
'Fortnite' maker Epic has, of course, gone to war over Apple's App Store policies, in particular the rules relating to in-app payments. It argues that Apple forcing app makers to use its propriety payment system - where the tech giant gets to charge a 15-30% commission - and other rules banning the inclusion or sign-posting of other payment options are anti-competitive.
As well as suing over those policies, Epic also went out of its way to break the rules by adding an alternative payment option to its 'Fortnite' iOS app, knowing that doing so would result in said app being kicked out of Apple's store.
Once that had happened, Epic went back to court seeking an injunction preventing Apple from banning the 'Fortnite' app and instigating any other sanctions while the competition law dispute goes through the motions.
Apple quickly responding, arguing that any harm Epic might experience as a result of the 'Fortnite' app ban and other sanctions were entirely self-inflicted. After all, the gaming firm could have begun legal proceedings over the App Store rules without first breaking them.
In a court hearing on Monday, judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers basically concurred with Apple, although she said that its sanctions should only really affect the app that had broken the rules, not the wider Epic business, and certainly not the Unreal Engine.
The wider business, and that Unreal Engine, would all be affected if, in addition to any App Store bans, Apple went through with a threat to cut off the gaming company's access to its developer tools.
And if the Unreal Engine was affected, that would impact the countless third party developers that utilise that platform for their own products. Meaning, all in all, those other sanctions looked like an "overreach" on Apple's part, Rogers said.
Confirming all that in a speedily drafted written ruling, the judge has now confirmed that she will not issue any order preventing Apple from excluding 'Fortnite' from its App Store.
However, effectively immediately, "Apple and all persons in active concert or participation with Apple, are temporarily restrained from taking adverse action against Epic Games with respect to restricting, suspending or terminating any affiliate of Epic Games, such as Epic International, from Apple's Developer Programme, including as to Unreal Engine, on the basis that Epic Games enabled in-app payment processing in 'Fortnite' through means other than [Apple's payment system] or on the basis of the steps Epic took to do so".
Kanye West accused of screwing over e-commerce start-up and then ripping off its tech
MyChannel says it went into business with West in 2018 after he expressed an interest in using its integrated video and e-commerce platform to power the online operations of his Yeezy fashion brand. At West's urging, the company alleges, its founders and team of developers invested pretty much all of their time and resources into the Yeezy project for six months, having been promised a $10 million investment and a lucrative partnership powering Yeezy's online sales.
However, after the company had overhauled its operations and even moved its headquarters to accommodate West, he then cut off all communication with the tech firm and its top team. They then subsequently watched the launch of the Sunday Service online set-up which, they allege, included integrated video and merch sales that directly utilised know-how and expertise picked up via the MyChannel alliance.
The MyChannel company was launched by a team of black entrepreneurs, something specifically noted by one of the lawyers representing the tech outfit. Attorney Michael S Popok tells Law360: "Publicly, Kanye claims that he supports black entrepreneurs and empowerment, but in private, the opposite is true".
"He had a perfect opportunity to put his rhetoric into action by investing in and lifting up a successful young black tech company", the attorney adds. "Instead he had the MyChannel founders and a dozen others work around the clock for six months, unpaid, and after they delivered the technology to power his Yeezy brand's e-commerce business, he stole it".
West is yet to respond.
eMusic launches livestreaming platform
Seeking to capitalise on the increased interest in live music streaming created by the COVID-19 shutdown, eMusic says that its service will be better than the livestreaming set-ups offered by YouTube, Instagram and Twitch because it is designed with the concert experience in mind, and also offers artists more ways to monetise said experience.
"eMusicLive makes livestreamed events commercially viable for artists, enabling them to monetise livestreaming in the same way as traditional gigs by bundling ticketing, music sales, merchandise and collectables to maximise revenue opportunities", the company says in a statement.
eMusic is working with its now sister company 7digital on the livestreaming venture. Artists can set up a bespoke 7digital store to sit alongside their livestream, while there will be tools to enable sponsors to get exposure via the streamed shows too.
And while eMusicLive is competing with YouTube, Instagram and Twitch, livestreams from any of those platforms can actually be embedded into its platform, if doing so provides social marketing benefits to the artist. Or eMusicLive can host the livestream itself.
Says eMusic boss Tamir Koch: "At eMusic, we believe in technology that creates sustainability, removing inefficiencies or providing new income streams for artists".
"Even before COVID-19, artists performing online have been limited to platforms where they play for free and rely on multiple suppliers", he continues. "This creates a fragmented approach to planning and promoting events as well as selling tickets, merch and music. We've built eMusicLive to bring all these commercial options together in one end-to-end solution".
Meanwhile, 7digital CEO Paul Langworthy adds: "Social distancing measures in place around the world are creating an opportunity for new forms of live artist-to-fan engagement. While there are plenty of platforms, none have captured the true essence of a proper show, which should include both the performance value for the fan and commercialisation value for artists".
"We are delighted to now be delivering this with eMusicLive", he goes on. "This is a new, emerging style of platform that we also see having tremendous value for venues as well as retailers and brands for whom music can play a key role in their engagement strategy or business model".
Of course, plenty of music companies and tech platforms have been busy experimenting with the livestreaming experience since the COVID-19 shutdown began. And more recently much of that experimentation has focused on how to commercialise streamed gigs, after the majority of livestreams early on in lockdown were made available for free.
That said, it does feel like the now buoyant livestreamed gigs market - assuming it remains buoyant post-lockdown - is still all to play for. There remain plenty of questions on the best way to deliver and commercialise such gigs, of course, alongside some tricky extra questions about copyright and licensing. But for those companies that can find the answers to these questions, there could be big opportunity to capitalise on.
Bauer prepares Pride pop-up station and begins airing Christmas songs
Hits Radio presenters Fleur East, Jordan Lee, James Barr, Stephanie Hirst and Charlie Powell will be joined by guest hosts Mel C, Anne-Marie, MNEK, Sigala, Regard, Jess Glynne, Ella Henderson, Gok Wan and Years & Years' Olly Alexander on Hits Radio Pride, which is set to air for six months. Alexander and Lee will launch the station at 8am this Friday.
"At Bauer Media we are committed to delivering distinctive radio stations that delight our audience's needs", says Bauer Radio Group MD Dee Ford.
"Hits Radio Pride creates a sense of belonging for the LGBTQ+ community and beyond", she adds. "[and] we are THRILLED to be partnering with [station sponsor] The Co-operative Bank and have the likes of Olly Alexander, Mel C, MNEK and Gok Wan on board alongside our roster of talented presenters such as Jordan Lee and Fleur East to further enhance our portfolio of brands".
I think we can all agree, if a portfolio of brands is enhanced, then this has all been worth it.
Talking of expanding brand portfolios, I'm sure in recent weeks your thoughts have been ever more frequently turning to Christmas. Bauer certainly thinks so. In fact, the company reckons that - what with all this lockdown business over the last six months - everyone's been busy putting together their plans for Christmas in recent weeks. Therefore, it stands to reason, that we'd all want to listen to Christmas songs in August. Apparently. Hence Magic 100% Christmas going live now.
Magic presenter and creator of the worst ever Christmas single, Ronan Keating, says: "2020 has been a hard year for us all – what better way to lift our spirits than bringing Christmas forward a few months? One of the most fulfilling parts of working at Magic Radio is to be able to connect with our listeners and bring a smile to their faces, so I can't wait to turn up the Christmas cheer!"
Of course, another reason for getting in on Christmas now is that a second big spike of COVID as winter hits and any resulting new lockdown measures could put an end to those big family Christmas plans you might have. Though if you start listening to Christmas music today, by December you'll probably be glad if and when the festivities get cancelled. Seasons greetings everybody!
Aaliyah's music coming to streaming "in the near future"
Although her 1994 debut album 'Age Ain't Nothing But A Number' is widely available online, the majority of her catalogue has been unavailable digitally for many years. To date, the recordings have been controlled by Blackground, the label owned by Aaliyah's uncle Barry Hankerson. However, her estate is now speaking to new label partners, according to a statement.
"We are excited to announce that communication has commenced between the estate and various record labels about the status of Aaliyah's music catalogue, as well as its availability on streaming services in the near future", estate reps said on Twitter.
Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 while promoting her eponymous third album.
Sony/ATV has signed Sea Girls to a worldwide publishing deal, following the recent release of their debut album, 'Open Up You Head'. The band's manager Jon Chapman says they're "THRILLED".
Independent music rights and management firm CTM has hired Bo de Raaff to head up its recorded music division. He joins from Warner Music. "I'm sure Bo will be leading CTM Music fantastically", says CTM MD (and Bo's brother) Jitze de Raaff.
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Disclosure have announced that they will open their own meta-verse within the Minecraft video game on 28 Aug, coinciding with the release of new album 'Energy'. Ask a nine year old if you want more information. Or watch this trailer.
EVENTS & EDUCATION
DJ education platform FutureDJs has announced free weekly lessons for schools, featuring a range of music stars covering various topics through virtual classroom Virtuoso. In week one, Ghetts will offer tips on becoming an MC. "FutureDJs brings music education up to date with DJing, MCing and production lessons and it doesn't matter where you live or what school you go to", says the rapper. "Hopefully it'll give more kids the chance to get into music".
Celeste has released new single 'Little Runaway'. The song, she says, is "about losing your faith, even if just momentarily, and seeking answers from spirits and ghosts as nothing seems to make sense on this planet".
Tricky has released new single 'I'm In The Doorway', featuring Oh Land.
Sean Nicholas Savage has released new single 'A Moment'. His new album, 'Life Is Crazy', is out on 2 Oct.
Eivør has released new single 'Let It Come'. "It's one of those songs that took many shapes before it reached its final destination", she says. "I guess the opening line pretty much explains it all: 'Sometimes I overthink the most simple things'". Her new album, 'Segl', is out on 18 Sep.
Sad13 has released new single 'Hysterical'.
Oklou has released the video for new track 'God's Chariots'.
GIGS & TOURS
Trivium have announced a livestream from their Florida rehearsal room this Saturday, performing tracks they rarely perform live or, in some cases, which they have never performed live before. It will be available on frontman Matt Heafy's Twitch channel at 8pm UK time.
Yaeji will play a livestreamed performance on Boiler Room this Friday night at midnight.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Wu-Tang's $2 million album saga to become movie
'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin', of course, was the 2014 Wu-Tang album of which only a single copy was made, sold at auction for a reported $2 million. It later turned out that the buyer was entrepreneur Martin Shkreli, who had already made headlines by buying up the rights to HIV medication Daraprim and then majorly hiking up the price.
RZA and other members of the hip hop group said that the deal went through before Shkreli became such a controversial figure and expressed dismay that they had sold the record to him. RZA attempted to buy the album back, unsuccessfully, as the contract with Shkreli forbade it.
Shkreli, meanwhile, attempted to launch himself as something of a comic book villain - thwarted by the fact he lives in the real world. After subsequently being convicted of fraud, he was forced to hand over millions of dollars and various assets, including the 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin' CD.
Although the album's whereabouts now isn't entirely clear, RZA said two years ago that he was happy with how the project had ultimately panned out, telling Rolling Stone: "It's kind of crazy. The record has become an entity, very different from a lot of albums. It's like the Mona Lisa. It's got its own folklore, and that's what me and [co-producer] Cilvaringz wanted".
According to Collider, RZA is also a producer on the new film project. No casting or release date for the movie has yet been announced.