|MONDAY 19 JULY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: BMG has formally welcomed last week's report on the economics of streaming from the UK Parliament's culture select committee, saying that MPs pretty much share its viewpoint that "the music industry desperately needs to modernise". However, it added that it hoped that regulatory action wouldn't be necessary... [READ MORE]|
BMG welcomes Parliament's streaming report: "The music industry desperately needs to modernise"
The Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee's report concluded that artists and songwriters in the main have not benefited from the streaming boom, in no small part because of how record deals are structured and interpreted, the way streaming monies are split between the song rights and the recording rights, and the dominance of the majors.
In addition to calling for a Competition & Markets Authority investigation into the role of the majors in the music rights business, MPs also proposed a number of changes to UK copyright law to empower artists. That includes the principle of performer equitable remuneration being applied to the making available element of the sound recording copyright, meaning artists would be due a cut of streaming monies at industry standard rates oblivious of any record contracts they have signed.
In a statement on Friday, BMG said: "We congratulate the DCMS committee on the most significant inquiry into the British music industry since their predecessor committee investigated CD pricing nearly 30 years ago. The MPs' searing analysis reflects our own view that the music industry desperately needs to modernise and recognise that the purpose of the music business is to serve artists and songwriters rather than simply to extract value from them".
"The anger felt by artists and songwriters is not just a UK phenomenon", it went on. "It is being felt worldwide. And it is time for the industry to respond. The world has changed and, as in so many areas, exploitative behaviour is no longer acceptable".
Noting the proposed changes to UK copyright law, BMG said that it hoped its rivals, especially the majors, might make voluntary changes to their practices, that would remove the need for legislative solutions. It said: "The committee has called for regulatory action. We hope that will not be necessary, but executives and shareholders alike need to accept that they cannot continue as before. It is a privilege to work in music. That privilege should not be abused".
Referencing the fact that the current BMG business only launched in 2008, the statement concluded: "BMG is fortunate in having been able to start from scratch in 2008. We were able to design out many historic practices from the outset. We have tackled several more since then. We are certainly not perfect but we are committed to make things better. We stand ready to work with like minds to ensure the music industry works for the people who actually make the music".
EU Advocate General rejects calls from Poland to annul safe harbour reform in Europe
For the wider music industry, article seventeen was the most important reform in the directive. It increases the obligations of user-upload platforms whose users upload unlicensed content.
The music community has long argued that many such platforms have abused the copyright safe harbour - which restricts the liabilities of internet companies whose users infringe copyright - in order to avoid getting music licences at all, or to secure licences that pay record companies, music publishers and collecting societies below market rates. Article seventeen aims to stop that.
However, the proposed reforms proved controversial while the directive was being negotiated. Of particular controversy was the new obligation on safe harbour dwelling user-upload platforms to filter content being uploaded in a bid to block infringing material.
Although many such platforms already do that anyway, often for commercial as well as legal reasons, some argued that forced filtering would negatively impact on the freedom of expression of internet users. Including, specifically, the free speech rights guaranteed by the Charter Of Fundamental Rights Of The European Union.
Although the reforms were ultimately voted through by the EU Council and European Parliament, opponents of article seventeen have continued to lobby hard to try to get the impact of the new rules watered down. Or, in the case of the government of Poland, entirely deleted.
The EU court explained last week: "The Republic Of Poland brought an action before the Court Of Justice for annulment of article seventeen of Directive 2019/790. According to the applicant, that article infringes the freedom of expression and information guaranteed in article eleven of the Charter Of Fundamental Rights Of The European Union".
"In assessing the lawfulness of article seventeen of the directive, the court will therefore have to determine whether, and if so under what conditions, imposing monitoring and filtering obligations on online intermediary service providers is compatible with that freedom".
To help the court with all that determining, Advocate General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe has been thinking very hard about article seventeen of the copyright directive and article eleven of the charter, and whether or not they conflict. And he now reckons that the court should rule that they can both co-exist.
The court confirmed that Øe "proposes that the court should find that article seventeen of directive 2019/790 is compatible with freedom of expression and information and therefore dismiss the action brought by Poland".
"In this respect, the Advocate General considers that the contested provisions do entail an interference with the freedom of expression of the users of online sharing services. Nevertheless, in his view, that interference satisfies the conditions laid down in article 52(1) of the charter and is therefore compatible with the charter".
Basically the AG is saying that article seventeen is about balancing free speech rights and intellectual property rights, and while that is tricky, EU lawmakers got the balance right.
The AG does acknowledge concerns that the obligatory filtering of content by user-upload platforms could result in over-blocking, where material that does not, in fact, infringe copyright - possibly because of a copyright expiation - gets blocked. However, he reckons that measures in the directive to deal with that problem are sufficient.
Under the directive platforms, the court says, "must only detect and block content that is 'identical' or 'equivalent' to the protected subject matter identified by the rightholders, that is to say content the unlawfulness of which may be regarded as manifest in the light of the information provided by the rightholders".
"By contrast, in all ambiguous situations - short extracts from works included in longer content, 'transformative' works, etc - in which, in particular, the application of exceptions and limitations to copyright is reasonably foreseeable, the content concerned should not be the subject of a preventive blocking measure".
"The risk of 'over-blocking' is thus minimised", it goes on. "Rightholders will have to request the removal or blocking of the content in question by means of substantiated notifications, or even refer the matter to a court for a ruling on the lawfulness of the content and, in the event that it is unlawful, order its removal and blocking".
So, good news for supporters of the EU safe harbour reforms. Judges in the court must now make their own ruling on Poland's bid to axe article seventeen, though AG opinions are usually very influential in that process.
Welcoming the AG's conclusion - although not all elements of his full opinion - Helen Smith, Executive Chair of IMPALA, the pan-European trade group for the independent music community, told CMU: "We welcome the opinion that the European court should rule that article seventeen is compatible with freedom of expression and should not be annulled. As for the detail, we don't agree with some of the conclusions but as it's the court's view that counts, we will wait for the ruling to come out to comment on detail".
John Lydon is a "total dick", former bandmate confirms in court
Jones and his former bandmates Cook and Lydon are currently in the High Court in a dispute over another sync deal. Lydon is blocking the use of his former band's music in a new Danny Boyle directed series called 'Pistol', which is based Jones's memoir 'Lonely Boy: Tales Of A Sex Pistol'.
However, Jones and Cook argue that according to their 1988 band agreement a sync licence can be issued if a majority of the band are on board. And Lydon is the only hold-out on licensing music to 'Pistol'. For his part, Lydon has likened the 1988 agreement to "slave labour" and insists he has a veto.
Jones gave testimony to the court on Friday from his home in California. It had previously been revealed that Lydon also scuppered a 2018 sync deal that would have seen 'God Save The Queen' appear in an episode of 'The Crown'.
According to Evening Standard, Jones said: "I was a big fan of the show and excited that our music was going to feature in it, so I was very upset when I found out that John's manager had blocked it".
Lydon, it seems, objected to "historical inaccuracies" in the episode of 'The Crown' where the band's song would have featured, which was set amidst the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977 when the then controversial Sex Pistols track was released.
Jones said that while he, Cook and their manager considered forcing through the sync deal with the producers of 'The Crown' by relying on the 1988 agreement, by the time those discussions were underway the opportunity to do that deal had passed.
Elsewhere during Friday's testimony, Lydon's legal rep Mark Cunningham discussed the tensions that exist between Lydon and his former bandmates, including Jones. Citing extracts from 'Lonely Boy', the barrister noted how Jones had called his client an "annoying little brat with the great bone structure who's always asking for more" and a "total dick".
Asked if he disliked "the annoying little brat", Jones said "I guess so, yes". Asked if he considered Lydon to be "a total dick", Jones added, simply, "yes". However, Jones observed, "I think there's a lot of bands who resent each other".
Confirming he'd not spoken to Lydon since 2008, Jones told the court: "I just want him to get on board with ['Pistol'] and have some faith. This is not about slagging anyone off in this TV series at all. If there was a TV show that Danny Boyle wanted [Lydon] to do, none of us would have a problem".
The case continues.
One Media IP acquires Don Williams catalogue
Talking up the potential of the country genre across the world, One Media iP Group CEO Michael Infante says: "There has been a steady rise in the popularity of country music in the UK and Europe, with events such as the Country 2 Country festival, which have drawn in huge crowds in recent years".
As for the artist whose catalogue his company has just acquired, he adds: "Don Williams - like Johnny Cash - is revered by younger artists, which has in turn fed through to a new generation of fans. In life he was known as the Gentle Giant… and in his musical legacy we believe we have a Sleeping Giant, as fans of all generations are drawn to his timeless music".
A key reason for Williams' estate doing the deal seems to be concerns that the musician's songs are being made available without authorisation on digital music services. One Media IP says its AI-powered Technical Copyright Analysis Tool has the ability to track unauthorised streams back six years in order to claim unpaid royalties.
"One Media will work in partnership with the Don Williams estate to ensure his legacy is protected and promoted for many years to come, with our state-of-the-art TCAT software", says Infante.
The deal covers Williams 70s and 80s output, including hits such as 'Till The Rivers All Run Dry', 'I Recall A Gypsy Woman' and 'Tulsa Time' .
BMG signs Lady Blackbird
"For all artists, it's such a wonderful feeling to be recognised and find people that are truly excited by what we do", says Lady Blackbird. "I've found a home, feel appreciated, cared for, and I am more than excited and grateful to have signed with BMG! I so look forward to working with the incomparable Felix Howard and the entire BMG worldwide team. Can't wait for the world to hear my debut album 'Black Acid Soul'".
Her manager, Ross Allen of Foundation Music, adds: "We are delighted to be signing Lady Blackbird to BMG. We have had a year - and what a year - of growing an artist of the calibre of Lady Blackbird at Foundation, but we realised that for her to attain the heights that she so obviously will reach we need the assistance of the best in the business. The team at BMG have the passion, dedication, and skills to make that a reality. We're more than excited".
Meanwhile, BMG's Director A&R New Recordings UK, the aforementioned Felix Howard, says: "Ross Allen invited me down to see Lady Blackbird in a club in pre-pandemic LA and she melted everyone in the room. We're so glad to be working with her, Ross and the team".
'Black Acid Soul' is out on 3 Sep. Here's her new single, 'It's Not That Easy'.
Gig-goers encouraged to #takeatest before returning to live music
The UK government has gone ahead with plans to remove most COVID-19 rules today, despite concerns about rapidly growing cases of the delta variant of the virus. With the majority of older members of the British population now fully vaccinated, it is mainly younger people who are falling ill.
Last week, the Night Time Industries Association published the results of a survey which found that fewer than 20% of night time businesses planned to require proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID test in order for customers to gain entry.
Venues are not obliged to seek such proof under the latest rules, although Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson suggested that they should. However, many night time businesses said there wasn't time to implement such measures having been given just a week's notice, plus - with checks of that kind not being a legal requirement - business owners anticipated arguments between customers and door staff if any proof of COVID vaccinations or tests were requested.
But, of course, none of this stops gig-goers from checking they are COVID free before attending a show. And that's the focus of MVT's #takeatest campaign, encouraging music fans to take personal responsibility in helping stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"We have spoken at length to our community about reopening venues safely as restrictions are lifted, and whilst there are differing opinions on some aspects of how we will achieve this there is a consensus about asking music fans to accept personal responsibility to keep themselves and others safe", says MVT CEO Mark Davyd.
"We have an opportunity through this strong, unified #takeatest messaging across the live music sector to persuade audiences to accept that responsibility and to take a lateral flow test before attending", he adds. "This is a voluntary initiative that speaks to the sense of community across the grassroots live music sector. We are confident that live music fans will respond positively to this direct appeal from venues, promoters, artists and their fellow gig-goers".
Free lateral flow tests are available from pharmacies, or can be ordered online here.
Twitch user develops Spotify hack to overcome music licensing problems on livestreaming platform
Both record labels and music publishers have become more prolific in filing takedown notices against Twitch in the last year, of course, with the Amazon company yet to properly sort out licences for much of the music that swims around its platform. That has resulted in plenty of Twitch users running into music licensing issues for the first time, Amazon being obliged to respond to any takedowns in order to avoid liability for copyright infringement under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Twitch user Pequeno0 tells Torrentfreak: "I've watched a lot of 'GTA V Roleplay' on Twitch, and they used to play a lot of music, which fit the RP. When the DMCA strikes hit, they were hit hard. So it was actually with them in mind that I started the project. So I talked to a friend of mine, and we came up with this idea of synchronising music in a way that would still pay the artists".
Getting technical about how he connects the Spotify accounts of Twitch users, he goes on: "Getting to understand the Twitch API together with the Spotify API was problematic to start with. For example, it's not possible to embed an iFrame in the Twitch extension".
"But usually logging in with Spotify happens in an iframe with OAuth. I had to make a popup, and figure out how to send back the results of this popup to the extension to get the token to use for Spotify. This might be changed in the future to a better system to support more platforms".
There are a couple of other hacks Pequeno0 had to employ, particularly if a streamer changes a track mid-song. And he has plans for possible future development too. "If the extension gets very popular", he adds, "it could be extended to use even more services, and maybe even lookup songs on different music services, so the viewer/streamer could use different services but listen to the same songs".
Of course, both Spotify and Apple have been developing their own official group listening services, but creating something similar to overcome licensing issues around livestreaming is an interesting idea.
Maybe if Amazon was to create an official version of this tool linked to - and therefore upselling - its own streaming service, that could be the basis of a truce in the aforementioned music industry v Twitch battle. Or it could just write a few cheques and make the whole problem go away more quickly.
Kanye West rumoured to be releasing new album this week
"Kanye played his new album for me and [Kevin Durant] last night in Vegas", he wrote. "Man, listen! The production is light years ahead of its time, and the bars sound like he's broke and hungry trying to get signed again. Any artist who plan[s] on dropping soon should just push it back".
"Kanye West album is really done", he then insisted. "When it drops this week, we probably not going to listen to anything else for a while".
He also tweeted a photo of the listening session as proof, although you can't clearly see who's in the picture, so it's not much help.
Anyway, new Kanye album out this week. Tell everyone.