|TUESDAY 3 AUGUST 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: More than 20 members of US Congress have signed a letter to Twitter boss Jack Dorsey calling on him to implement robust content protection technology across his company's platform, so that it is easier for the music industry to monitor and control the use of its songs and recordings on the social media service. And while he's at it, he should really look into getting some music licensing deals in place too... [READ MORE]|
Congress members hit out at Twitter over rights management systems and lack of music licences
It's current music industry policy, of course, to hate Twitch on odd dates and Twitter on even dates, which is presumably why Congress members Kelly Armstrong and Hakeem Jeffries arranged for their letter to Dorsey to be sent yesterday. Since the music industry's war with YouTube started to subside, it has generally been Twitch and Twitter that have come in for the most criticism from record companies and music publishers over the amount of unlicensed music swimming around their platforms.
Like YouTube before them, they both claim safe harbour protection from legal liability for all that unlicensed music. Though, unlike YouTube, which used the safe harbour to negotiate more preferential deals with music companies, Twitch and Twitter have mainly used the safe harbour to date to avoid doing any deals at all. They'd argue that music is less central to their platforms, though the music industry would point out how both companies have sought to schmooze musicians in recent years, while not licensing their music.
Amazon-owned Twitch does actually have a smattering of deals in place with some music distributors and collecting societies, but has been criticised for not securing wider and bigger music licences. It's also been criticised - by both the music industry and its own users - for not having better systems in place to deal with the copyright takedown notices that both labels and publishers have been sending with increased frequency.
Interestingly, although Armstrong and Jeffries' letter to Dorsey does call for Twitter to enter into licensing deals with the music industry, it actually focuses much more on the social media firm's content management systems, making some very specific criticism and requests that suggest they've been briefed in detail by the music industry's rights management experts.
In the letter - co-signed by 20 other members of the US House Of Representatives from both sides of the political spectrum - Armstrong and Jeffries begin by stating that "creative content drives engagement on Twitter, yet unlike numerous other platforms, Twitter has not acquired licences necessary to ensure that all creators are properly compensated for use of their works".
"Twitter claims it is not a primary destination for sharing music; however, musicians comprise many of the most followed accounts on the platform", they go on. "The problem of infringement is well-documented. For example, in the first half of last year alone, Twitter itself reported receiving notices identifying 1.6 million infringements".
And then the technical criticism begins. "Additional infringing content almost certainly goes undiscovered", they add, because, "Twitter has taken the unprecedented step of charging creators for a fully functional search API that can identify instances of infringement at scale. To be clear, the standard API Twitter offers free of charge is of such limited functionality that it cannot provide meaningful results at the scale of infringement occurring on the platform".
"While Twitter offers a more sophisticated API to academic researchers for free", they continue, "it denies these tools to creators whose infringed works help generate revenue for the company. Between refusing to pay creators for their works and obstructing their discovery of infringing works, it appears that unauthorised use of copyrighted works is an unacknowledged part of Twitter's business model".
They then note the recent addition of donation tools to Twitter via the company's new Tip Jar feature. That feature, they say, "demonstrates a lack of understanding and respect for the rights holders involved in the content posted on Twitter. A more targeted measure that would indeed help its users benefit from their creativity, would be for the company to pay to license the content on its platform".
"Not only would this improve user experience by granting lawful access to copyrighted works", they go on, "but it would also ensure that rights holders are properly compensated for their contribution to the content. Entering into licensing agreements would thus avoid the status quo in which creators rely on crowdfunded donations while Twitter continues to profit from infringement of their works".
Finally they ask Dorsey three questions, which brings the letter back to the technical. Those questions are as follows...
Dorsey now has until 27 Aug to respond.
Major labels say Cox's appeal of billion dollar copyright case is "divorced from both the record and reality"
But "the story Cox tells in its [appeal] - 'a beleaguered internet service provider, doing its best to police infringement on its system, targeted by copyright holders waging war on the internet' - is divorced from both the record and reality", say the majors in their response.
It was originally BMG that successfully sued Cox, accusing the ISP of having a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with infringement and repeat infringers on its network. That, the music firm argued, meant that Cox could not rely on the copyright safe harbour to avoid liability for its users' infringement.
The majors sued in the wake of BMG case and successfully made the same arguments before a jury, resulting in the net firm being ordered to pay the music companies a billion dollars in damages.
In its filing with the Fourth Circuit appeals court in May, Cox ran through the history of the music industry's battle with online piracy, saying that - when successful litigation against file-sharing apps and platforms failed to actually stop file-sharing - "the music industry launched an aggressive new strategy: attack the internet itself, suing the internet service providers – the cable and phone companies, like defendant Cox Communications, that deliver the internet".
It then ran through some common arguments as to why an ISP shouldn't be held liable for the copyright infringement of it users. Skirting around the internal emails seen back in the BMG case that suggested Cox was only paying lip service to its obligation under law to deal with repeat infringers - ignoring its own policies to avoid disconnecting customers - the ISP's appeal then focused on questioning the credibility of the takedown notices submitted by the music companies, something it had already done extensively in both the BMG case and the first round of this case, without success.
Though this time that was partly to bolster an argument that - even if the allegedly shoddy systems at Cox for dealing with repeat infringers meant the ISP could not rely on the copyright safe harbour - the labels had not, in fact, fully proven that its users had even infringed the copyrights of the music companies. And if you can't prove the direct infringement of the users, you can'd prove the contributory infringement of the internet services those users use.
"Losing safe harbour protection does not … establish that an ISP is liable for its subscribers' infringement", Cox said in its appeal. The jury in the lower court were wrong to disregard the issues it raised about the copyright notices the labels and their anti-piracy agency submitted, the Cox appeal said. And as a result of that error, the ISP now faces a damages bill that is "entirely untethered from both the harm it caused and Cox's culpability".
But Cox should just shut up and pay up, reckon the majors in their response to the appeal, filed with the court late last month. In their legal filing they argue that this case is actually pretty clear cut and the the ISP's liability for infringement is therefore uncontroversial. And as for the newer arguments presented in the appeal, they misrepresent the law, and should have been raised before if Cox thinks they are sufficiently important, the majors add.
Noting that the BMG case also went to the Fourth Circuit appeals court, the majors begin: "This court has already held that Cox acted so unreasonably in addressing its subscribers' known repeated copyright infringement that it was ineligible for the accommodating 'safe harbour' provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for internet service providers accused of secondary liability for infringement".
Meanwhile, "the district court found it beyond reasonable dispute that Cox knew specific subscribers were using its system to repeatedly infringe plaintiffs' works. The jury heard ample evidence that Cox created a safe haven for repeat infringers, forgiving infringement after infringement after infringement, and celebrating its contempt for copyright in emails like 'F the dmca!!!'".
"The jury heard ample evidence that Cox profited directly from infringement on its system", the new legal filing goes on. "Rather than suspend or terminate serial infringers' accounts, as it had the right and ability to do, Cox instead retained them as subscribers, and collected hundreds of millions of dollars in subscription fees from them. The jury's verdict was supported by a towering pile of evidence - much of it from Cox itself".
Elsewhere, the majors deal with Cox's newer arguments and ongoing griping about the music industry's copyright notices. They write: "Unable to escape this court's prior ruling on the knowledge standard, Cox now argues that evidence of 'past acts' of infringement falls short of 'establishing that Cox knew that each of the 58,000 accused subscribers was 'substantially certain' to infringe again'".
However, that's not true, the majors argue, reckoning the past judgements on the BMG case back them up on this, despite Cox saying the opposite in its appeal.
"Cox's proposed foreknowledge standard", they then add, "would effectively insulate ISPs outside the DMCA safe harbour from liability for the infringement of even 'habitual abusers', even when the ISPs well know that a 'customer will likely fail again' to comply with copyright law". That would be bad law and, the majors insist, "[the] BMG [judgement] does not support that position".
Delving deeper into the gripes over copyright notices, the majors continue: "Cox claims the accuracy of the infringement notices was 'hotly disputed' such that it was unreasonable for the district court to conclude that the notices adequately informed Cox of its subscribers' infringement. That is wrong. Any factually disputed elements of the notices did not contribute to the district court's ... ruling".
"For example", they add, "Cox questioned where a subscriber caught illegally sharing a file had initially obtained that file. But that evidence was irrelevant to the knowledge element of contributory infringement; a subscriber illegally distributing copyrighted content is engaged in infringement regardless of the source of the content".
With all this in mind, the majors conclude, "the district court's judgment should be affirmed". And so the case continues.
More back and forth in the Maria Schneider v YouTube Content ID case
Schneider claims that while Content ID may be a pretty decent rights management platform - allowing YouTube to comply with its obligations under US law to deal with copyright infringing content uploaded by its users - only the biggest rights-owners and distributors are granted access to the technology.
Independent creators like herself, Schneider then argues, are obliged to manually issue takedown requests if their content appears on the YouTube platform, and YouTube's manual takedowns process is, she claims, pretty damn shoddy.
This whole case went on a quite a detour, of course, because of Schneider's original co-plaintiff, a little know anti-piracy company called Pirate Monitor.
It was subsequently discovered that that was basically a front for film director Gábor Csupó, who had tried to secure access to Content ID by uploading his own content to YouTube channels and then reporting those uploads as copyright infringing.
The aim, seemingly, was to prove that Csupó's content was being infringed at sufficient levels on YouTube that his company deserved access to the rights management tools.
Either way, those tactics damaged the credibility of Pirate Monitor as a plaintiff and so it bailed on the case. Schneider then ploughed on alone, although - as Torrentfreak notes - last month she asked to bring two new plaintiffs into the litigation, as well as extending the list of her works that have allegedly been distributed on YouTube without licence.
Those proposed changes, YouTube then countered, are just dragging out a case that has already dragged on too long, not least because of the Pirate Monitor detour.
"A year into this case, and nearly three months after the parties' agreed-upon deadline for amending the pleadings, the remaining plaintiff, Maria Schneider, seeks leave to revamp the copyright infringement complaint that she and her former co-plaintiff, Pirate Monitor Ltd, filed against YouTube on behalf of a putative class of copyright holders", YouTube stated in a legal filing last month.
"The proposed amendments, most notably to add two new parties as putative class representatives, come only after discovery confirmed glaring deficiencies in Schneider's claims, and after Pirate Monitor dismissed its claims with prejudice under a cloud of fraudulent behaviour. The request for leave [to amend] continues Schneider's shifting sands approach to the litigation".
In a subsequent response to the response, Schneider's lawyers argued that "delay alone" is not a reason to refuse their client's request to amend her litigation. They then also blamed YouTube for a bunch of the delays.
The most recent back and forth between Schneider and YouTube also revisited some of the previous debates in this case, in particular YouTube's demand for Schneider to identify the specific videos that used her music without permission. Schneider has countered that demand by arguing that identifying specific infringements is tricky without access to Content ID, and - of course - the fact she's not allowed access to Content ID is the entire point of this litigation.
YouTube has also repeatedly claimed that Schneider does, in fact, have access to Content ID via her music industry business partners, who have actually licensed her music to the user-upload site.
On that point, the musician's most recent filing stated: "Defendants appear to refer to a licensing agreement with Schneider's publisher ... but Schneider's agreement with her publisher did not grant the publisher control over her works and did not provide her publisher the right to license those works without her written consent, which was never given, which means YouTube's licensing agreement does not extend to Schneider’s works".
And anyway, not all her music is covered by her agreement with that publisher. "Even if some of her works were inappropriately part of Content ID for some period of time, not all works were", they added.
And so it all continues. It remains to be seen if the court will allow the new plaintiffs and additional songs to be added to the case.
Professor Green signs to Cooking Vinyl
"To join a label so renowned, offering me the freedom to release music at the momentum I've been itching to, tickles me in all the right places", says the rapper. "No more major label bureaucracy and red tape, just enthusiasm and aligning values".
Also bigging up his publisher Concord, agent CAA and management Bitter & Twisted, he goes on: "With the most pro-active publishers I've experienced, amazing live and branding agents, and my career long management, Cooking Vinyl are what was the missing piece of the puzzle, now it's over to me to deliver the music. And the fun begins, not that it ever stopped".
Cooking Vinyl MD Rob Collins adds: "Pro Green is a bona fide legend so when I heard the quality of the songs and chatted with him on Zoom and got to know him a bit, I knew that Cooking Vinyl would be able to provide the perfect environment for him to flourish as an artist again. There's a lot of great songs just bursting to be heard and I can't wait to turn a few heads".
The first of those new songs is set to emerge in the coming months, and Professor Green has rescheduled live shows set for 2022.
Johnny Marr signs to BMG
"I'm very pleased to be working with the people at BMG on this new chapter", says he. "It's a good feeling".
BMG's UK President Of Repertoire & Marketing UK, Alistair Norbury, adds: "BMG have proudly represented Johnny Marr as a songwriter for many years, including publishing his three consecutive top ten solo albums. The fact that he has decided to expand and deepen his relationship with BMG shows how well our holistic, artist-centric approach works. We are delighted to be the releasing partner for this outstanding new body of work".
Currently working on his new studio album, Marr will play a run of UK shows in September, including a headline date at London's Electric Ballroom on 23 Sep and a support slot with The Courteeners at Manchester's Old Trafford Cricket Ground on 25 Sep. He's also been announced as the main support act on The Killers' 2022 US tour.
DaBaby apologises for homophobic comments as he's dropped by more festivals
"Social media moves so fast that people want to demolish you before you even have the opportunity to grow, educate, and learn from your mistakes", he wrote in a statement posted to Instagram. "As a man who has had to make his own way from very difficult circumstances, having people I know publicly working against me - knowing that what I needed was education on these topics and guidance - has been challenging. I appreciate the many people who came to me with kindness, who reached out to me privately to offer wisdom, education, and resources. That's what I needed and it was received".
Moving on to the actual apology, he said: "I want to apologise to the LGBT+ community for the hurtful and triggering comments I made. Again, I apologise for my misinformed comments about HIV/AIDS and I knew education on this is important".
On stage at Rolling Miami last month, of course, DaBaby told his audience: "If you didn't show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that'll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up. Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up! Fellas, if you ain't sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up!"
As well as be widely criticised online, the comments saw him dropped from a brand partnership with fashion firm Boohoo. Then last weekend he was dropped at the last minute from the line-up of the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. Following that, yesterday he was also dropped from The Governers Ball in New York and Day N Vegas in Las Vegas.
In a statement, organisers of the Governers Ball said: "Founders Entertainment does not and will not tolerate hate or discrimination of any kind. We welcome and celebrate the diverse communities that make New York City the greatest city in the world. Thank you to the fans who continue to speak up for what is right. Along with you, we will continue to use our platform for good".
Day N Vegas made no statement in relation to the controversy around DaBaby's comments, but announced yesterday that he had been replaced on the line-up by Roddy Ricch.
Travis Scott's Cactus Jack Films company has signed a production deal with A24 Films, the company behind 'Uncut Gems', 'Lady Bird', 'Moonlight' and more. Scott announced the deal on Instagram, suggesting that his next album will be accompanied by a film.
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Chinese web giant NetEase confirmed this weekend that previously announced plans to spin off its music division Cloud Village are proceeding, with the proposed Initial Public Offering of Cloud Village Inc being approved by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The NetEase Cloud Music service could be the key winner from the recent decision by the Chinese competition regulator to force its main rival Tencent to give up most of its remaining exclusivity deals over music catalogues.
Lizzo has announced that she will release her fourth album, 'Rumors', on 13 Aug. Its first single is due next week.
Meet Me @ The Altar will release new EP 'Model Citizen' on 13 Aug. Here's new single 'Brighter Days (Are Before Us)'. "If our upcoming EP 'Model Citizen' was a movie, 'Brighter Days' would be the scene where everything in life is still good right before it all hits the fan", say the band.
King Prawn guitarist Hans Deville has released new solo single 'Dark Clouds', featuring Frank From Blue Velvet's Andrew J Davies. His debut album, 'Prophecies Of The Lost', is out this week.
Josie Proto has released new single 'I Just Wanna Walk Home'. "Recently, I began having conversations with my family and friends about the legitimate concerns that I have for my safety walking home", she says. "I was surprised to learn that most of the male presences in my life were not aware of the genuine fears that many women face on a daily basis. I wanted this song to address the very people that were turning their screens off to avoid accountability".
GIGS & TOURS
Ariana Grande has announced that she will play five virtual shows in the Fortnite video game this weekend. More info here.
Wargasm have announced their debut headline tour dates for November. "Wargasm formed in late 2019", say the duo. "We played two small tours and ever since then we have had to exist almost purely online. As the world reopens we are looking forward to the inevitable chaos of our own headline shows and bringing you War On The Road". Tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Skepta retiring from rapping to focus on producing other artists
In an interview with BBC Radio 1Xtra while promoting that EP, Skepta said: "It was just a thought in my head where I was like, 'I just wanna do more than just being a rapper', because that's a waste of a talent. I feel like right now I want to become more behind the production. I want to produce albums for people – I'd love to produce Rihanna's album, that would be a dream. I'd probably make Rihanna's hardest album".
"I feel like now I just want to branch out", he went on. "I can't be a rapper, it's a waste of a talent. I feel like rapping for artists is some sort of therapy - they go somewhere and they tell someone to record them and they say their pain and the fans say, 'Yeah, we relate to you ... you're not alone'. But after a while, it's like, I've said everything – from being a confused African child to being a chief in my dad's village. I've rapped myself to my nirvana, I've rapped myself into it somehow. So now, I wanna help other people see theirs and get to a certain point where rapping was never a waste of life".
In an Instagram story post he added: "'All In' is all the music I have to give. I have no unreleased music, feels good to clear the outbox. Sure you all know, I'm a producer at heart and I have so many ideas that I want to work on with other artists. Upcoming and established, young and OG. Skepta on production. It's that time. And I definitely want to make an all-female album. So many fire female artists, rappers and singers. I gotta make a hard thirteen track female-only album full of classics".
So, Skepta mentioned his nirvana there. Here's his J Balvin collaboration 'Nirvana' from 'All In'.