TODAY'S TOP STORY: A number of songwriters in the US have formally backed a new campaign that has been gaining momentum online over the last week and which seeks to stop famous artists from grabbing a cut of the copyright in songs that they help make famous but don't actually co-write. The songwriters speaking out about this practice say that such copyright grabs have become "normalised" in the music industry, but that's because "there has been no real unity within the songwriting community to fight back"... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Songwriter group pushes back on superstar artists demanding a copyright cut on songs they didn't co-write
LEGAL Judge declines to dismiss new Ed Sheeran song-theft litigation that relies on newly registered Marvin Gaye copyright
LIVE BUSINESS BST cancels, Glastonbury announces livestream, and Reading & Leeds hint at vaccine passports
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify buys live-audio app Locker Room
YouTube refuses to remove 2014 YG track, despite staff protests

MEDIA BBC to air new Amy Winehouse documentary marking tenth anniversary of her death
ARTIST NEWS Britney Spears "cried for two weeks" over documentary
AND FINALLY... FKA Twigs thanks Lil Nas X for acknowledging video inspiration
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Songwriter group pushes back on superstar artists demanding a copyright cut on songs they didn't co-write
A number of songwriters in the US have formally backed a new campaign that has been gaining momentum online over the last week and which seeks to stop famous artists from grabbing a cut of the copyright in songs that they help make famous but don't actually co-write. The songwriters speaking out about this practice say that such copyright grabs have become "normalised" in the music industry, but that's because "there has been no real unity within the songwriting community to fight back".

"Add a word, get a third" is the legal cliche sometimes used to describe this practice, whereby a famous artist makes a minor alteration to a new song when recording it in the studio, and then claims co-writer status and a cut of the copyright in the song. Of course, it's often not even that subtle.

Songwriters are often told that having a big name act record one of their songs is conditional on them giving that artist a co-write credit and a slice of the song copyright. And sometimes a pretty significant slice too. The argument goes that having a smaller cut of a song that the big name artist makes a hit is better than having a larger cut of a song no one has ever heard of.

Even if you buy that argument, in the context of the current big debate in the music community - whereby songwriters argue that, unlike the record industry, they are not yet seeing the benefit of the streaming boom - it seems even more unethical for a recording artist to demand a cut of the writer's primary revenue stream.

Although, it's never seemed that fair. Even when the recorded music business was struggling in the 2000s, and the drop in recordings income partly contributed to more stakeholders seeking a cut of publishing. Because even then, songwriters often pointed out, artists still had multiple revenues streams - eg rights, merch, touring, brand deals, direct-to-fan - whereas songwriters were entirely dependent on copyright income, which remains true today.

In an open letter, this new group of songwriters going by the name The Pact, write: "Over the last few years, there has been a growing number of artists that are demanding publishing on songs they did not write. These artists will go on to collect revenue from touring, merchandise, brand partnerships, and many other revenue streams, while the songwriters have only their publishing revenue as a means of income".

"This demand for publishing is often able to happen because the artist and/or their representation abuse leverage, use bully tactics and threats, and prey upon writers who may choose to give up some of their assets rather than lose the opportunity completely", they add. "Over time, this practice of artists taking publishing has become normalised; and until now, there has been no real unity within the songwriting community to fight back. That is why we have decided to join together, in support of each other, and make a change".

The signatories to the letter then state: "This body of songwriters will not give publishing or songwriting credit to anyone who did not create or change the lyric or melody or otherwise contribute to the composition without a reasonably equivalent / meaningful exchange for all the writers on the song".

They then insist that they recognise the importance and value of the artist, producer and label in making, releasing and marketing recordings of their songs. However, they add, those people reap the rewards generated by the recording copyright, and should allow the writers to enjoy the benefits of the song copyright.

"We are simply asking that we not be put in positions where we are forced to give up all we have in exchange for nothing", they add "we are simply asking that we give credit where credit is due and only take credit where credit is earned".

Signatories to the letter include Amy Allen, Deza, Ross Golan, Scott Harris, Shae Jacobs, Ian Kirkpatrick, Savan Kotecha, Lennon Stella, Joel Little, Billy Mann, Jordan McGraw, Victoria Monét, Tayla Parx, Justin Tranter and Emily Warren. Meanwhile, other songwriters are encouraged to put their name to the statement on The Pact's website.

This is one of a number of campaigns currently being pursued by the songwriter community in a bid to protect and enhance the value of their music rights.

Other campaigns seek a further re-slicing of the digital pie to the songwriter's benefit; call on publishers to remove contract terms that oblige writers to deliver songs that have had commercial releases by big record labels; urge writers to resist commissions from the TV, film and advertising sectors that require them to give up all rights and future royalties in the music they are commissioned to create; and call on labels to provide songwriters with expenses and royalty rights on recordings when they directly work with artists in the studio on new songs.


Judge declines to dismiss new Ed Sheeran song-theft litigation that relies on newly registered Marvin Gaye copyright
A US judge has declined to dismiss the third lawsuit that alleges Ed Sheeran ripped off Marvin Gaye when writing his 2014 song 'Thinking Out Loud'. This third round of litigation is very similar to the other two lawsuits linked to this dispute, although technically Sheeran is now accused of infringing Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' as published in 2020, rather than 1973.

A quick recap. Back in 2016 the estate of 'Let's Get It On' co-writer Ed Townsend sued Sheeran through the US courts over allegations that he had ripped off the "melody, harmony and rhythm compositions" of the Gaye classic on 'Thinking Out Loud'. A company called Structured Asset Sale then filed its own litigation over the same allegations on the basis that it also has a stake in the 'Let's Get It On' copyright.

While both those cases were going through the motions, we got the headline-grabbing ruling in the Ninth Circuit appeals court regarding the 'Stairway To Heaven' song-theft case. That dispute centred on a copyright law technicality that is also relevant to the 'Thinking Out Loud' litigation. And that's the rule that says that songs are only protected by copyright in the form that they were filed with the US Copyright Office.

For cases involving older songs - like those relating to 'Stairway To Heaven' and 'Thinking Out Loud' - this technicality has sometimes proven problematic. Prior to a change in US copyright law in the 1970s, only sheet music could be deposited with the Copyright Office. This means those older songs are only protected as presented in that sheet music. Any additions made to the song in the studio when it was first recorded are therefore not protected.

This is rather annoying if you own the copyright in an older song which a newer song has ripped off, but the ripped off elements don't actually appear in the sheet music, even though they were very much there in the original recording.

With the Ninth Circuit ruling in the 'Stairway To Heaven' case confirming that courts must respect this rule in song-theft disputes involving old songs, the judge in the first round of 'Thinking Out Loud' litigation said that he was now unlikely to allow the Townsend side to play any recordings of 'Let's Get It On' to the jury once the dispute gets to court. Because jurors must only consider the Gaye song as shown in the original sheet music.

That will negatively impact the Townsend estate side in that first lawsuit, and subsequently Structured Asset Sale in its separate but similar litigation. Which is why Structured Asset Sale decided to re-file 'Thinking Out Loud' with the Copyright Office last year, this time submitting the original recording as the fixation of the work. It then filed a new lawsuit claiming that Sheeran had infringed the newly registered version of 'Let's Get It On', hoping that its second lawsuit could avoid the negative impact of the 'only protected as filed' technicality.

Sheeran and his publisher Sony then tried to have the new lawsuit dismissed. First on the grounds that it was duplicative of the earlier lawsuit. And secondly based on the argument that Structured Asset Sale - which acquired its stake in 'Let's Get It On' from an heir of Townsend - wasn't authorised to obtain the new registration in relation to song, and that "the lack of authorisation defeats any claim of copyright ownership".

However, the judge overseeing the new case declined to dismiss the lawsuit at this stage based on either of those arguments. She wrote: "The court concludes that the 2020 registration sufficiently alleges plaintiff's beneficial ownership in that copyright for purposes of this motion, and that the registration's incorporation of new musical elements precludes a finding that plaintiff's two suits are duplicative".

That said, the judge did then say that there was enough similarity between this lawsuit and the previous lawsuits to justifying pausing the new litigation while the original cases, being overseen by judge Louis Stanton, work through to their conclusions. "In light of the significant overlap between the two actions, the court stays the instant suit pending resolution of the action before judge Stanton", she wrote.


BST cancels, Glastonbury announces livestream, and Reading & Leeds hint at vaccine passports
The 2021 festival season remains unpredictable, so here's today's news: London's BST Hyde Park is off, Glastonbury has announced its livestream replacement, and Reading & Leeds are expected to go ahead but will "almost certainly" need some sort of vaccine passport.

Announcing that it would not now go ahead in July, as had been originally planned, AEG's British Summer Time festival said in a statement: "Following our review of the most recent government advice, the latest timeline means that we are unable to deliver with certainty the quality BST Hyde Park is known for in the time available. By making this decision at this stage we allow artists, crew, fans and everyone that comes together to help create these shows to plan accordingly".

Under the UK government's current roadmap, COVID-19 restrictions in England are set to be lifted on 21 Jun, but everything is still subject to last minute changes. The 2021 edition of the BST event was set to begin on 9 Jul with the first of two shows to be headlined by Pearl Jam. Duran Duran were set to headline a third day on 11 Jul. All three shows have now been postponed to 2022.

Meanwhile, Glastonbury - one of the first COVID casualties of the 2021 festival season - will be replaced by a livestreamed concert, under the name Live At Worthy Farm, on 22 May. The five hour show will feature performances by Coldplay, Damon Albarn, Haim, Idles, Jorja Smith, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka and Wolf Alice. There is also the promise of "a number of unannounced surprise performances".

"After two Glastonbury cancellations, it brings us great pleasure to announce our first online livestream, which will present live music performances filmed across Worthy Farm at landmarks including the Pyramid and, for the first time ever, the Stone Circle", says Emily Eavis.

"It will feature a rolling cast of artists and performers who have all given us enormous support by agreeing to take part in this event, showing the farm as you have never seen it. There will also be some very special guest appearances and collaborations. We are hoping this will bring a bit of Glastonbury to your homes and that for one night only people all over the world will be able to join us on this journey through the farm together!"

The livestream will begin at four different times in order to be accessible in as many places as possible around the world. Tickets are on sale now for £20 here.

Still planning to go ahead with a full capacity festival with people in a field and everything are the Reading and Leeds festivals at the end of August. However, while organiser Melvin Benn says that he's "anticipating it going ahead", he has now said that he expects that ticketholders will likely have to prove that they are either vaccinated or COVID-free before gaining entry.

Speaking to the BBC, Benn said that - while in "an ideal world" everyone would be able to carry on as they did pre-pandemic - it will "almost certainly" be necessary for some sort of safety measures to be in place. That could mean that anyone who cannot provide proof of their COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test will not be able to gain entry to either festival.

Benn added that the events will have a dedicated COVID medical director and on site teams, and will have to operate under the same safety protocols as bars and restaurants.

"I'm taking the Prime Minister at his word that from June the legal restrictions will be off and as he and the culture secretary said: 'We are looking forward to a summer of fun'", said Benn. "If it is cancelled everyone gets a refund - that's pretty normal - but I'm certainly anticipating it going ahead".

Reading and Leeds are set to take place from 27-29 Aug, with headliners Stormzy, Liam Gallagher and Queens Of The Stone Age.


Spotify buys live-audio app Locker Room
Spotify has bought Betty Labs, the creator of the Locker Room app that facilitates online chatter about sporty nonsense. The aim is to relaunch said app so that it can facilitate online chatter about other nonsense too. You know, music nonsense. Cultural nonsense. Miscellaneous nonsense.

Anyone with any skills whatsoever in nonsense will be able to lead such chatter on the relaunched app. You can call that a straight rip-off of the recently buzzy live audio app Clubhouse if you want. But wasn't Discord basically there first? OK, maybe Clubhouse is an evolution of Discord. But then, maybe all new Locker Room will be an evolution of Clubhouse. Shall we just agree that someone or something is being ripped off here? Radio phone-ins perhaps.

"During Spotify's first-ever Stream On event last month, we explored the journey of creation, the promise of interactivity, and the investments we're making to further unlock audio's potential", said Spotify yesterday. "Today, we are announcing that Spotify has acquired Betty Labs, the creators of Locker Room, a live audio app that's changing the way insiders and fans talk about sports. This acquisition builds on our work to create the 'future formats of audio' and will accelerate Spotify's entry into the live audio space".

Lovely stuff. At least the livestreaming of chatter and nonsense doesn't come with any of the licensing headaches of livestreaming music. Though, if those licensing challenges could be met, maybe Spotify could mash together its livestreamed chatter platform with a livestreamed music service. You know, to replicate that wonderful gig-going experience where you end up next to people who talk all the way through the show. Because, this far into lockdown, I'm starting to miss that too.

"Creators and fans have been asking for live formats on Spotify, and we're excited that soon, we'll make them available to hundreds of millions of listeners and millions of creators on our platform", says Gustav Söderström, Chief Research & Development Officer at Spotify, about the company's latest start-up purchase. "The world already turns to us for music, podcasts, and other unique audio experiences, and this new live audio experience is a powerful complement that will enhance and extend the on-demand experience we provide today".


YouTube refuses to remove 2014 YG track, despite staff protests
YouTube has been criticised by members of its own staff after refusing to remove a video featuring YG's 2014 track 'Meet The Flockers'.

Internal requests to block the video were made in the wake of a surge in violence against Asian-Americans in the US. 'Meet The Flockers' provides instructions for carrying out a successful burglary, beginning with the recommendation that would-be thieves should "find a Chinese neighbourhood, cos they don't believe in bank accounts".

The company's Trust & Safety department announced in an email to staff earlier this month that it was declining the internal request to remove a video containing the track, according to Bloomberg.

While agreeing that the track is "highly offensive", the department added: "One of the biggest challenges of working in Trust & Safety is that sometimes we have to leave up content we disagree with or find offensive".

It said that while the lyrics did violate the company's wider policies on hate speech and the promotion of violence, "sometimes videos that otherwise violate our policies are allowed to stay up if they have educational, documentary, scientific or artistic context".

Therefore, it went on: "Removing this video would have far-reaching implications for other musical content containing similarly violent or offensive lyrics, in genres ranging from rap to rock. While we debated this decision at length amongst our policy experts, we made the difficult decision to leave the video up to enforce our policy consistently and avoid setting a precedent that may lead to us having to remove a lot of other music on YouTube".

Following a negative response to the memo from employees, executives agreed to hold a townhall meeting, chaired by YouTube's Head Of Diversity And Inclusion Stephen Golden, which took place on Thursday last week. However, that only seems to have whipped up more anger. According to Bloomberg, there was particular criticism of one executive for bringing up that his wife is Asian-American.

This is not the first time controversy has arisen around the track. In 2016, the were wide calls for YouTube to remove the track from its platform, and for YG and his label Def Jam to denounce it.


BBC to air new Amy Winehouse documentary marking tenth anniversary of her death
The BBC has commissioned a new documentary to mark the tenth anniversary of Amy Winehouse's death. The broadcaster promises that it will be an "illuminating and sensitive ... celebration of the life and legacy" of the musician.

Set to air on BBC Two, Winehouse's story will be told by her mother Janis - something that brings more urgency to the film because, due to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, she now fears that she will lose her memory of her daughter.

"I don't feel the world knew the true Amy, the one that I brought up, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to offer an understanding of her roots and a deeper insight into the real Amy", says Janis Winehouse.

Commissioning Editors Max Gogarty and Rachel Davies add: "'Amy Winehouse: 10 Years On' promises to be a celebratory and intimate portrayal of one of the brightest musical talents the UK has ever seen. Whilst being a celebration of her musical genius and featuring rare and unheard performances, it will also offer a reinterpretation of the prevailing narrative around her rise and fall, told by those closest to her".

The best known version of Amy Winehouse's story, of course, is 2015 film 'Amy', directed by Asif Kapadia and co-produced by her label Universal Music. Janis and Amy's father Mitch initially supported that film, but after it was completed Mitch in particular disavowed it, calling it "a negative, spiteful and misleading portrayal of Amy".

Mitch Winehouse was also angry about how he was portrayed in that documentary and announced plans to make his own film, which to date has not been released. Although last year, appearing on Paul Danan's 'The Morning After' podcast, he said that he hoped that production would be completed in "a year or two". Initially planned to be a documentary, he added that it has now morphed into a biopic, and - as of May last year - was "at script stage".

As well as the new BBC Two documentary, the BBC has various other programming planned to mark the tenth anniversary of Winehouse's death. A series of interviews and performances from the BBC archive will be available on the iPlayer and Sounds apps, plus there will be new programming on Radio 1, Radio 2 and 6 Music.


CMU Insights: Music Copyright Explained panel discussions next week
Last week the UK's Intellectual Property Office and CMU Insights published 'Music Copyright Explained', a new free guide to music copyright aimed at anyone making music, using music or working in music. You can download your free copy here.

Next week, to celebrate the launch of the guide, CMU Insights is presented three online panel discussions with leading music copyright experts looking at the music rights industry, music licensing, and how industry and educators can better teach copyright matters. The three sessions are as follows...

A guide for music-makers and the music industry

What are the key challenges and opportunities for music-makers and music copyright owners in 2021? Music rights experts identify and explain the big talking points around music copyright, discussing how music-makers and music industry practitioners can inform the debate.
Tuesday 6 Apr 2021 at 5pm

A guide for content creators and entrepreneurs

If you are a content creator, a cultural company using music in your productions or an entrepreneur with a music-based start-up, what do you need to know about music copyright? And what is the easiest way to access and utilise great music? Music rights experts provide practical tips and also consider how the music industry could and is making the music licensing process simpler.
Wednesday 7 Apr 2021 at 5pm

A guide for music educators and the music industry

In an age where a laptop is a recording studio and a global audience is just a few clicks away, how can we make sure every music-maker is equipped with some basic knowledge they need about music copyright? Music rights experts discuss the role of the music industry and music education in explaining music copyright.
Thursday 8 Apr 2021 at 5pm

You can sign up for free places at all or any of the discussions here.


Britney Spears "cried for two weeks" over documentary
Britney Spears has spoken for the first time about the 'Framing Britney Spears' documentary that aired earlier this year. In a post on Instagram, she says that she has not seen the whole film but was "embarrassed" by the clips that she did watch and had "cried for two weeks" as a result.

"My life has always been very speculated, watched, and judged, really my whole life", she writes. "I have been exposed my whole life performing in front of people. It takes a lot of strength to trust the universe with your real vulnerability, cause I've always been so judged, insulted and embarrassed by the media. And I still am till this day! As the world keeps on turning and life goes on we still remain so fragile and sensitive as people".

"I didn't watch the documentary but from what I did see of it I was embarrassed by the light they put me in", she goes on. "I cried for two weeks and, well, I still cry sometimes. I do what I can in my own spirituality with myself to try and keep my own joy, love and happiness. Every day dancing brings me joy! I'm not here to be perfect - perfect is boring. I'm here to pass on kindness".

As well as looking at her treatment in the media leading up to a much-publicised breakdown in 2007, 'Framing Britney Spears' also delves into the conservatorship Spears has been placed under since 2008 – which leaves her unable to control her own personal and financial affairs.

Although she did not appear to be commenting on that particular issue in her Instagram post, it is known that she wishes to have her father Jamie Spears removed from his position as co-conservator. He recently lost a legal battle to regain full control of her financial affairs.

Earlier this month, BBC Two announced its own documentary looking at Spears' conservatorship, made by journalist Mobeen Azhar. That film is set to air at some point this spring.


FKA Twigs thanks Lil Nas X for acknowledging video inspiration
FKA Twigs has thanked Lil Nas X for admitting that he ripped her off. Though that's not strictly how she put it. She thanked him for "acknowledging the inspiration" that her 'Cellophane' video had on the video he has made to accompany his new single 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)'.

Lil Nas X himself has said that he had not been aware of the similarities between the two videos before they were pointed out to him by Twigs. But he concedes that other members of the team who worked on the 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)' video were inspired by 'Cellophane'.

"Thank you Lil Nas X for our gentle, honest conversations and for acknowledging the inspiration 'Cellophane' gave you and your creative team in creating your iconic video", she wrote in an Instagram post. "I think what you have done is amazing and I fully support your expression and bravery in pushing culture forward for the queer community. Legend status".

The similarities between parts of the two videos were noted by 'Cellophane' director Andrew Thomas Huang last week. Posting on TikTok, Huang directly compared the two videos, showing both artists pole dancing into hell. Adding a message to the rapper directly, he then wrote: "Take me off your mood board or hire me".

Expanding on his theme, in an Instagram story post the director explained that Lil Nas X's record label Columbia had actually contacted him about working on a video but had "pivoted away", before hiring the same pole dancing choreographer who worked on 'Cellophane', Kelly Yvonne. The final video was co-directed by Lil Nas X himself with Tanu Muino.

"Consider the power you wield and the artists you harm when you capitalise on our blood, sweat, tears and emotional labour", Huang added.

In his own Instagram post this morning, Lil Nas X wrote: "I want to show love to FKA Twigs and Andrew Thomas Huang! The 'Cellophane' visual is a masterpiece. I was not aware that the visual would serve as inspiration for those who worked on the effects of my video. I want to say thank you to Twigs for calling me and informing me about the similarities between the two videos, as I was not aware they were so close. Was only excited for the video to come out. I understand how hard you worked to bring this visual to life. You deserve so much more love and praise".

Twigs also mentioned Huang and Yvonne in her Instagram post, saying: "I want to thank Andrew Thomas Huang and Kelly Yvonne for helping me create 'Cellophane', but also and most importantly I would like to thank sex workers and strippers for providing the physical language to make both videos possible. I have been working with [sex worker support organisation] Swarm Hive to help support this community and I know all donations to the swarm hardship fund will be welcome during this difficult time".

Meanwhile, having more or less settled one piece of controversy that has blown up in the last week in relation to his new track, Lil Nas X continues to fan the flames of another.

Nike is currently attempting, through the courts, to halt the fulfilment of orders for his Satan Shoes - 666 pairs of modified Nike trainers not approved by the company - and to then have them all destroyed. The rapper continues to post jokes about the legal action on Twitter, and is apparently still gearing up to give away the last unsold pair tomorrow.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column. (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited. (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY. or call 020 7099 9060
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
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