WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: American satellite broadcaster Sirius XM has won one last legal skirmish over the good old pre-1972 technicality of American copyright law, depriving a class of artists led by Flo & Eddie an extra $5 million pay out... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Sirius wins in the final chapter of Flo & Eddie's big battle for pre-1972 radio royalties
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LEGAL Better Noise Music sues former Bad Wolves frontman
Megan Thee Stallion gets court order to allow release of BTS collaboration
Jury hears how R Kelly cut victims off from their families in ongoing sex abuse trial
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DEALS Warner Chappell signs The Snuts
Sony Music Publishing signs Mimi Webb
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ARTIST NEWS Tributes flood in for Charlie Watts
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AND FINALLY... Kanye West wants to officially change his name to Ye
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Sirius wins in the final chapter of Flo & Eddie's big battle for pre-1972 radio royalties
American satellite broadcaster Sirius XM has won one last legal skirmish over the good old pre-1972 technicality of American copyright law, depriving a class of artists led by Flo & Eddie an extra $5 million pay out.

This all related to the long-running debate over whether or not online and satellite radio services in the US were obliged to pay royalties to artists and labels when they play recordings released prior to 1972. That debate, in turn, centred on two quirks of American copyright law.

The first quirk is that, under US-wide federal copyright law, there is no general performing right for sound recordings, meaning AM/FM radio stations do not have to get licences from or pay any royalties to the record industry for the recordings they play.

However, online and satellite radio stations - like Sirius - do need to get such a licence, although they can rely on the compulsory licence administered by SoundExchange.

Quirk number two is that federal copyright law in the US only applies to recordings released after 1972. Recordings that pre-date that year get protection from state-level laws. Which meant that the federal rule that forced online and satellite radio services to get licences from the record industry arguably didn't apply to pre-1972 music.

However, some labels and artists argued, maybe there was - in fact - an obligation for online and satellite services to license pre-1972 recordings under state-level laws.

Except, state-level laws didn't specifically talk about online and satellite radio. Which means for labels and artists to be due royalties, there'd need to be the kind of general performing right for sound recordings at a state level that doesn't exist at a federal level.

It was Flo & Eddie - both former members of the 1960s outfit The Turtles - who first went legal on this point, arguing in three states that there was, in fact, a performing right for recordings in state law. Even though the record industry had never previously sought to enforce any such right on pre-1972 tracks, with AM/FM radio stations always assuming that the federal principle that they weren't obliged to pay any royalties to the American record industry applied at the state level too.

Flo & Eddie sued in Florida, New York and California. The Florida courts said there was no performing right for recordings under that state's copyright laws. The New York courts first said there might be, and then said there wasn't. But in California, at first instance, the courts ruled there was, in fact, a state-level performing right. Meaning the likes of Sirius did need to pay royalties when they played pre-1972 tracks, in that state at least.

In the midst of all that litigation, this whole debate shifted from the courts of Florida, New York and California to Washington DC, where it was proposed that the federal level obligation for online and satellite radio stations to license recordings be amended so that it explicitly covered all recordings still in copyright, not just those released since 1972. And that proposal then became law as part of the 2018 Music Modernization Act.

That change to federal law basically brought to an end most of the ongoing litigation on this issue - there were also lawsuits involving Pandora and the majors.

Except that Sirius had reached a settlement with the class led by Flo & Eddie in 2016. Under that settlement, the satellite broadcaster committed to pay $25 million in damages upfront, and an additional $5 million per lawsuit if Flo & Eddie prevailed on appeal in Florida, New York or California. The deal also included provisions for future royalties - the MMA still being two years away at this point - up to a total of settlement sum of $99 million.

Which meant that the Ninth Circuit appeals court's opinion on the lower court ruling in California in Flo & Eddie's favour still had relevance. Because - while the musicians ultimately lost on appeal in Florida and New York - a win on appeal in California would get them another $5 million in damages from Sirius.

However, on Monday the Ninth Circuit ruled that Californian law did not, in fact, provide a general performing right for recordings.

The appeal judges concluded that, although the wording of the relevant Californian law could technically be interpreted to provide a copyright owner in the state with a general performing right, that almost certainly was not the intent when said law was first written all the way back in 1872.

The state level rights, therefore, only referred to the rights to copy and distribute a work, not to control any performance of said work.

Obviously, none of that changes Sirius's on-going royalty obligations, as a result of the Music Modernization Act. But it does save the broadcaster that $5 million in extra damages.

And it also means that AM/FM radio stations in California are off the hook - given that if there was a general performing right for sound recordings in Californian law, then arguably all broadcasters in the state would need licences from the record industry when playing pre-1972 music.

Legal reps for Sirius told Reuters that they were "gratified that this important issue has been finally and correctly resolved". Meanwhile attorneys working for Flo & Eddie said that, while disappointed about the ruling, they were "glad class members received the benefits of the $25 million cash settlement and several years' worth of royalty payments" while the appeal was pending.

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Better Noise Music sues former Bad Wolves frontman
Better Noise Music has hit back at the former frontman of American metal outfit Bad Wolves, who sued the label and its founder last month. In a new lawsuit filed with the courts in New York, Tommy Vext is accused of copyright infringement, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

In his legal action last month, Vext claimed that Better Noise boss Allen Kovac - who also manages Bad Wolves - had forced him out of the band earlier this year because of political disagreements. In a statement to TMZ as the lawsuit was filed, Vext added: "Allen has forced me out of my own band and is now attempting to slander and cancel me - after several failed attempts to settle amicably, I'm now forced to place this in the hands of the courts".

Both Kovac himself - and Vext's former bandmates - quickly denied all the allegations in Vext's lawsuit and media statements last month, including additional claims that Kovac regularly used racist language and had utilised his position in the music industry to hinder Vext's career.

The new legal filing sets out Kovac's side of the story in more detail. It claims that, having enjoyed lots of success with the band he co-founded in 2017 - in no small part thanks to his alliance with Better Noise - Vext became politically radicalised during the COVID lockdowns. An ardent QAnon supporter, the musician started posting ever more contentious opinions onto social media.

At the same time, the lawsuit alleges, "Vext became unhinged. His ex-girlfriend filed for a domestic violence restraining order, claiming that Vext physically assaulted her numerous times and that she was afraid for her life. These claims were, and are, very serious, and they significantly tarnished Vext's image and reputation".

"This combination of negative press, public outrage and serious domestic violence allegations was bad for Vext, but it also damaged the band and its other members", the lawsuit adds. "The perception was that the other members of Bad Wolves shared Vext's views and they were viewed as guilty by association".

Kovac sought to help Vext during this time, the lawsuit says, offering advice on how the musician could repair his image and get his career back on track. However, Vext ignored the advice and "grew more and more paranoid and believed that ominous, unnamed forces were trying to 'cancel' him and he needed to fight back. This only made things worse".

All that said, the lawsuit claims, it was Vext himself who decided to leave the band. And he confirmed his departure in a social media post that thanked Better Noise for its support and wished his former band members success for the future. However, after that conciliatory post, Vext subsequently started to publicly lash out at his former label and band.

"Motivated by greed and his oversized ego, Vext claimed that he owns Bad Wolves and has a right to block the remaining members from recording and releasing music under the name Bad Wolves", the lawsuit continues. "Vext also claimed that plaintiffs had no right to use the name Bad Wolves to market and promote Bad Wolves' prior albums, and upcoming third album, or to otherwise market and promote the band, such as through tour promotions and merchandise sales".

All these statements were incorrect, the lawsuit says, because of contracts Vext had signed with Better Noise and its affiliated companies. And the musician had been "represented by sophisticated counsel" when those deals were being negotiated a few years back, it adds, meaning he understood what rights had been granted to the label.

"Vext's retaliatory conduct is getting worse by the day", the lawsuit then claims. "Now, he is promoting his own 'tour' using the confusingly similar name 'B@D W8LV3S' in a blatant attempt to confuse concertgoers into thinking this is an approved tour".

Vext has also breached his record contract with Better Noise by posting new music content to both social media and his OnlyFans account, the lawsuit claims, the exclusivity clauses of that contract still being in force. He has also been using existing recordings owned by the label in some of those posts without permission.

And, on top of all that, the Better Noise lawsuit adds, Vext continues to defame Kovac and his companies. For example, "on the Pardon My American podcast", the lawsuit states, "Vext falsely and maliciously stated that Kovac 'is basically the Harvey Weinstein of rock and roll, but instead of raping girls he rapes artists'".

With all that in mind, Better Noise Music and its associated companies "seek declaratory relief to resolve the parties' disputes regarding their rights and obligations under the agreements, as well as equitable relief to stop Vext's infringements and his other illegal conduct".

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Megan Thee Stallion gets court order to allow release of BTS collaboration
A remix of BTS track 'Butter' complete with a guest stint from Megan Thee Stallion will appear on streaming services on Friday, it appears, after a court quickly ruled that the rapper's label cannot block the release.

Yesterday, Megan Thee Stallion - real name Megan Pete - filed legal papers with the Harris County Court in Houston asking the judge there to confirm that a previous restraining order she secured against 1501 Certified Entertainment means it cannot stop the release of her BTS collaboration.

This is part of a long-running legal battle between Pete and 1501, an independent label owned by former baseball player Carl Crawford, which signed the rapper to a wide-ranging deal covering recordings, publishing, merchandise and live activity back in 2018.

Describing Pete's relationship with her label, this week's legal filing stated: "From the day Crawford and 1501 fraudulently induced Pete to sign an exclusive contract with them, Crawford and 1501 have done nothing to help Pete grow her career in the music industry and have only put up roadblocks in an attempt to stifle her artistic expression as a music artist and irreparably harm her career".

Pete and 1501 have been involved in legal wrangling for more than a year, with the rapper seeking to either end her relationship with the label, or significantly renegotiate her deal. Along the way Pete secured a temporary restraining order in March 2020 when 1501 sought to block the release of her 'Suga' EP. It's that restraining order which, Pete wanted the court to confirm yesterday, means the label can't stop the release this week of the new version of 'Butter'.

Her legal filing went on: "On March 2, 2020, the ancillary judge in Harris County granted Pete's [temporary restraining order] and enjoined defendants 1501 and Crawford from, among other things, preventing distributor 300 Entertainment from releasing, distributing, or selling Pete's new records or trying to prevent or limit others from working with Pete, in any manner. The [order] was subsequently extended and remains enforceable".

As for the BTS collaboration, the legal filing said that if Pete was not allowed to release the record, "her music career will suffer irreparable damage, including a devastating impact to her relationships with her fans and with other recording artists in the music industry. Such irreparable injury to her personal goodwill and the silencing of her artistic expression in music cannot be compensated in the way of monetary damages. As such, Pete seeks emergency relief from this court".

In a speedy response, the judge seemingly granted Pete's request, confirming that 1501 cannot block the release of 'Butter'. According to Billboard, a new hearing regarding the ongoing restraining order is now set for 10 Sep.

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Jury hears how R Kelly cut victims off from their families in ongoing sex abuse trial
The jury in the ongoing R Kelly trial heard yesterday how the musician controlled his alleged victim's relationships with their families - and also how he coached his then girlfriends in the wake of the 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary, so that they could defend him in the media. This insight came from the continuing testimony of one of the star's accusers, referred to in the legal proceedings as Jane Doe #5.

The second alleged victim to speak at the New York trial, Jane Doe #5 told the court on Monday how she first met Kelly at a concert in Orlando, aged seventeen. Knowing that she was keen to pursue a career in music, Kelly invited the witness to an audition, where he immediately made sexual advances. The witness ultimately moved into the musician's home, living a life under his strict rules for five years.

On both Monday, and during her continued testimony yesterday, the witness talked through many of the rules she and Kelly's other girlfriends were forced to follow. Breaking the rules would lead to punishment, including spankings and beatings, and being forced to make humiliating videos.

On one occasion, the witness said, after admitting she had discussed intimiate details of her relationship with Kelly with some of his other girlfriends, she was forced to have sex with another man as punishment.

The witness also discussed how living under Kelly's rule impacted on her relationship with her family. She told the court that, eventually, she was completely banned from talking to her parents about her well-being.

Kelly would often be present when she spoke to family members on the phone and would instruct her what she could write in text messages. He would also tell her and his other girlfriends that they were "worthless" to their parents.

This aspect of Jane Doe #5's testimony is important because of one of the key arguments being presented by the defence, which is that Kelly's girlfriends were always free to leave his properties and yet they chose to stay.

Defence lawyer Deveraux Cannick made that exact point when cross-examining Kelly's accuser yesterday. The witness confirmed that, in theory, she could have left her life with Kelly at anytime and returned to her family home. But instead she continued to live at Kelly's properties until he was in jail.

However, one expert speaking to CNN explained how abusers often seek to control every aspect of their victims' lives - and cut off meaningful contact with other family members and friends - so that, although in theory a victim can escape the abuse, in reality that is hard to do.

Sarah Vinson, a forensic psychiatrist, told the news channel how it becomes challenging for victims of abuse to escape their abuser, or even acknowledge the abuse.

"It's harder for her to see that when this man is making decisions on details of her life - details like what she can wear and when she can go to the bathroom", the psychiatrist explained. "When you're financially dependent on somebody - and when that person has systematically weakened all of your other relationships in your life and isolated you - it can be hard to recognise it and change your circumstance".

Jane Doe #5 was still living with the musician at the time the 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary aired in January 2019. It was that programme, of course, that resulted in a number of formal investigations finally taking place into the rumours and allegations that had surrounded Kelly for decades.

The witness told the court how, in the run up to its broadcast, Kelly told her and his other girlfriends that the documentary contained false information.

His girlfriends were then trained how to "properly" answer any media questions that might be asked as a result of the programme. Jane Doe #5 was one of two women who defended Kelly when he was interviewed by CBS's Gayle King as controversy built in the wake of 'Surviving R Kelly'.

The trial continues.

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Warner Chappell signs The Snuts
Warner Chappell has signed a publishing deal with Scottish band The Snuts, who released their debut album 'WL' via Warner-owned Parlophone Records earlier this year.

Confirming the publishing deal, the band say in a statement: "We have always prided ourselves on our songwriting, so it feels great to sign a publishing deal, and Warner Chappell feels like the perfect home for us and our songs. We're looking forward to working together as we begin to make new music".

Meanwhile the publisher's UK A&R Manager George Baker adds: "With their debut album, The Snuts' unwavering work ethic and undeniable talent paid off with a well-deserved number one. They're constantly evolving their songwriting and with live music beginning to make a comeback it's a very exciting time for the band. We're delighted that they've signed to Warner Chappell and we can't wait to get going with them".

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Sony Music Publishing signs Mimi Webb
The UK wing of Sony Music Publishing has signed singer-songwriter Mimi Webb in a deal that covers both existing and future work.

Says Tim Major, Co-MD of Sony Music Publishing UK: "Mimi is without doubt a very special artist and songwriter and the speed with which her music has connected with her ever growing audience has truly underlined that. She has a huge future ahead of her and we are very proud that she has chosen Sony Music Publishing to be part of her already incredible team".

Webb herself is "THRILLED to join the Sony Music Publishing family. I have been writing songs since such a young age, so having the opportunity to work with the best team in the business is a dream come true".

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Tributes flood in for Charlie Watts
Tributes flooded in from across the music community yesterday following the death of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, aged 80.

It was confirmed that Watts had died in a statement on the band's social media, which read: "It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family".

"Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather, and also - as a member of The Rolling Stones - one of the greatest drummers of his generation", the statement continued. "We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time".

Watts' bandmates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both posted simple picture tributes to their social media yesterday. Richards posted an image of a drum kit with a 'closed' sign on it, while Jagger shared a photo of a smiling Watts sitting behind his drums.

Among the many other musicians paying tribute was Paul McCartney, who said in a video message: "So sad to hear about Charlie Watts, the Stones drummer, dying. He was a lovely guy".

"I knew he was ill", he added, "but I didn't know he was this ill, so lots of love to his family - his wife and kids and his extended family - and condolences to the Stones, it'll be a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock, and a fantastic drummer, steady as a rock. Love you Charlie, I've always loved you, beautiful man, and great condolences and sympathies to his family".

In his tribute, Elton John wrote: "A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to [his family] and, of course, The Rolling Stones".

Watts began playing drums in various bands while working as a graphic designer in London at the start of the 1960s, which led to him becoming a member of the blues outfit Blues Incorporated. It was via that band that he met Jagger and Richards in 1962, shortly after they'd formed what became The Rolling Stones. He then joined the Stones as drummer the following year.

The band's rise to global fame then got under way, with Watt - alongside Jagger and Richards - one of the constants that ran throughout the group's long and prolific career.

Although happy to stay in the background both on and beyond the stage - with his bandmates much more in the spotlight - it is widely agreed that Watts, and especially his jazz influences, had an important impact on the band's sound.

Beyond the Stones, he pursued a number of other creative projects, touring and recording with various other collaborators over the years, including putting out several records with his jazz band the Charlie Watts Quintet.

Watts' death followed the recent announcement that the drummer would miss upcoming Rolling Stones tour dates in the US due to an unspecified medical procedure. He was previously treated for throat cancer in 2004.

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Kanye West wants to officially change his name to Ye
As of the moment I write these actual words, the iTunes Store has the anticipated release date of Kanye West's new album 'Donda' down as 29 Aug.

Yeah, maybe. That release date listing has been regularly updated in recent weeks of course, as West continues to work on the record which is due to get its third public airing at a listening party in Chicago tomorrow.

However, even if West does finally make his new record available to download and stream this weekend, Apple may still need to make some additional changes to its listing of the album. Because, it seems, the rapper is changing his name.

According to TMZ, West has filed legal papers in LA seeking to formally change his name on the official records. Basically making his Ye moniker his official name. But not Ye West. Just Ye. Because surnames are so old school these days.

It's not entirely clear if and when that application will get approval, and what impact it will have on the name West - or Ye, if you prefer - uses on his future releases. Assuming any of those future releases actually get, well, released.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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