|TUESDAY 18 JANUARY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: On the tenth anniversary of the Wikipedia blackout as part of a protest against proposed web-blocking laws in the US, it's emerged that another VPN provider has voluntarily agreed to instigate some web-blocks within America against a number of piracy sites, including the good old Pirate Bay... [READ MORE]|
Another VPN agrees to instigate anti-piracy web-blocks in the US
That voluntary agreement is part of a legal settlement between VPN Unlimited and the consortium of independent film producers that have been busy suing internet companies of various kinds for copyright infringement over the last year.
In many ways those film companies - many of which are affiliates of Millennium Media - have been following the lead of the music industry in claiming that various US internet service providers have not done enough to deal with known repeat infringers on their networks. As a result, it is argued, those ISPs should not benefit from the copyright safe harbour, meaning they can be held liable for their customers' infringement.
However, there are some differences between the lawsuits filed by the film producers and those instigated by the record companies. Firstly, many of the former's lawsuits not only seek damages, but also ask the courts to force the targeted net firms to block their customers from accessing certain piracy websites. And second, the film producers have been targeting VPNs and hosting companies as well as ISPs.
Web-blocking has become a routine anti-piracy tactic in many countries, including the UK, with both music and movie companies frequently securing injunctions in court that order ISPs to block their customers from accessing piracy sites. Although the ISPs usually grumble - and sometimes shout loudly - when web-blocking first begins in any one country, in the main they then fall in line and just get on with complying with the web-block orders.
Web-blocking on copyright grounds has always been particularly controversial in the US, though. That dates back to 2011 when specific new web-blocking laws were proposed in Congress via two pieces of legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
There was a significant backlash to those proposals from the tech sector, with Wikipedia basically blocking access to its English language service for 24 hours starting on 18 Jan 2012 in protest. The proposals were promptly dropped as a result.
But, as noted, in various other countries web-blocking has become routine as the music and movie industries continue to battle online piracy.
One problem with web-blocking, though, is that people can circumvent the blockades put in place by ISPs in a number of ways. That includes by using a virtual private network - or VPN - to browse the internet. Which means it was inevitable that VPNs as well as ISPs would ultimately be targeted by copyright owners regarding copyright infringement and web-blocks.
This consortium of film producers has sued various VPNs over the last year, including VPN Unlimited. In that lawsuit VPN Unlimited's operator was accused of facilitating copyright infringement by allowing it users to access piracy sites - and even of encouraging the use of its VPN to access such sites within its help section.
That lawsuit has now been settled and - although the terms of the settlement are confidential - we do know that it includes a commitment by VPN Unlimited to do some web-blocking.
A filing with the US courts last week states: "Pursuant to the confidential settlement agreement, plaintiffs have requested and defendant [VPN Unlimited] has agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to block BitTorrent traffic and access to the following websites located outside of the United States - YTS, Pirate Bay, RarBg, 1337x and Popcorn Time - on its servers in the United States".
It's not the first company targeted by the film producers to agree to restrict its services as part of a settlement. Last October VPN.ht also committed to block BitTorrent traffic on its US servers, although it then said it simply planned to stop using US servers to comply with that commitment.
Hosting company Sharktech also agreed to instigate some web-blocks that would likely affect various VPNs that use its servers, though it wasn't 100% clear how that would work.
Meanwhile, Torrentfreak reports that another notable VPN - Surfshark - has also reached a settlement with the movie producers, although it insists that there were no web-block commitments in its deal.
Either way, it's interesting to see the the music and movie industries plough on with their battle against online piracy, targeting an ever widening variety of internet companies, and involving some web-blocking even in the US.
Of course, critics of web-blocking would probably argue that the fact that new web-blocks are now required to stop people circumventing the original web-blocks just goes to show that web-blocking is not an effective anti-piracy tactic. Which may or may not be true.
However, many of the same critics argued ten years ago that web-blocking on copyright grounds would negatively impact legit websites like Wikipedia and - in doing so - greatly hinder the internet experience. And, given how much web-blocking has since occurred in a variety of countries, without negatively impacting on any legit websites really, I think it's fair to say that definitely wasn't true.
Major labels sue hosting company over web-page of the youtube-dl stream-ripping tool
Stream-ripping, of course, has been the music industry's top piracy gripe for a while now. That has resulted in much debate over whether or not websites that allow people to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams are liable for any sort of copyright infringement. Some test cases in Europe - including as part of web-blocking injunctions - have suggested that they probably are.
There is also a second legal question to be asked which, in the US in particular, has started to dominate the debate around the legalities of stream-ripping.
And that's whether stream-ripping sites also violate rules - for example in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act - that prohibit the circumvention of technical protection measures put in place by digital platforms to assist in copyright management.
This has become the core argument in the big legal battle in the US between the record companies and stream-ripping service Yout, which kicked off after the labels tried to get the stream-ripper de-listed from the Google search engine.
Yout argues that YouTube doesn't actually have any technical protection measures to stop stream-ripping, noting that - if you know what you are doing - you can actually grab a download of a YouTube stream via a web browser.
The labels counter that manually downloading a file from YouTube in that way is complicated because of various hurdles put in place by the Google video site. And those hurdles constitute a technical protection measure.
This debate is also ongoing in relation to youtube-dl, which also facilitates stream-ripping, and which the majors have also been targeting for a while now. In particular, in 2020 the music industry tried to get youtube-dl code removed from Github. Those attempts were initially successful but, after a mini-controversy, Github restored the code to its platform.
Concurrent to all that, the music industry also targeted German hosting company Uberspace with a cease-and-desist, because it hosts the official web page of youtube-dl, even though the actual code isn't stored there.
The fact that Uberspace is based in Germany is particularly interesting, because when the record industry was seeking to get youtube-dl removed from Github, it actually cited a previous case in the German courts, because there was no real legal precedent in the US.
In that German case it was concluded that measures put in place by YouTube to try to stop stream-ripping did constitute a 'technological protection measure' under European law.
Anyway, according to Torrentfreak, Uberspace is now being sued through the German courts for hosting the youtube-dl web-page. If the case proceeds, it could test whether tools like youtube-dl and Yout are indeed circumventing bona fide technological protection measures when they facilitate the downloading of content off the YouTube platform.
Although it could also just end up focusing on whether any possible liabilities for any such possible circumvention should extend to a hosting company that simply hosts a web page about some code.
Either way, Uberspace's Jonas Pasche last week told Torrentfreak that he doesn't believe the lawsuit is justified, and mainly on the basis that the main YouTube platform doesn't have any technological protection measures designed to stop the downloading of files. Unlike, he added, the YouTube Music subscription service and the video site's movie rental service.
"YouTube has measures to prevent users from downloading specific content, which they make use of for YouTube Movies and Music: DRM", he said. "They don't use that technology [on the main site], enabling a download rather trivially. One may view youtube-dl as just a specialised browser, and you wouldn't ban Firefox just because you can use it to access music videos on YouTube".
We await to see how this new German case proceeds.
BMG Production Music partners with Ah2 Music
Under the deal, BMG will provide administration support for the Ah2 Music repertoire outside the US and global representation of the firm's production music catalogue, which is known as Ah2 Filtered Music. Lippencott, Williams and the wider Ah2 team will also join the BMG Bespoke in-house composer offering.
Confirming the new partnership, BMGPM's VP Creative Licensing US Amberly Crouse says: "Jeff and Mark have crafted a brilliant collection of music with Ah2 and Filtered. Partnering with them sees their expertise strengthen the BMGPM offering to clients, including exploring new creative and commercial opportunities with BMG artists and our extensive media partner network. Joining together our collective enthusiasm and high-calibre product, we aim to continue to build on their existing success".
Lippencott adds: "We describe our music as 'compositions within compositions'. Through decades working with film and TV creatives, we've learned that, on top of providing quality music choices, these teams need to quickly and efficiently work various shapes and layers of musical sounds into their productions. We're proud to provide our label Ah2 Filtered Music via BMGPM with carefully considered options to ensure that working with us has both artistic integrity and ease of practical application".
And Williams says: "We found immediate synergy with BMGPM and look forward to navigating the vision for our business with the BMGPM team as an extension to what Jeff and I have built over the last two decades. Their expertise and global reach in the production music space is highly impressive and this partnership provides a great home as we look to increase the exposure of our work".
New songwriter identifier to launch in bid to tackle the black box problem
The initiative is called MgNTa and is mainly aimed at songwriters who are not currently members of a collecting society, so don't have access to the music industry's key data identifiers and databases which are managed as part of the collective licensing system.
Via MgNTa, writers will get a unique identifier, and will be able to log information about their music rights, with some of that data stored on the blockchain.
The plan is to then connect with the societies and digital services to identify uses of those writers' works, so that they can claim royalties they are due and which are probably currently ending up in the aforementioned black box, which is often then ultimately distributed across the music industry by market share, meaning the money doesn't reach any grassroots writers.
Quite how that will all work is still being evolved. As described in the MMF Song Royalties Guide, the processing of song royalties is complex - and often inaccurate and inefficient - even with streaming royalties where there is extensive and accurate data about what music has been used.
Some of those issues can be addressed by better data management on an individual songwriter or publisher basis - which is where schemes like MgNTa can help - although some of it requires industry wide solutions, which is where firms like Family In Music need to interact and work with more traditional players in the music rights industry. And that can be a challenge.
Still, it's another interesting venture to address a very real problem for songwriters and the wider music community. And Family In Music has plenty of industry knowledge and contacts within its core team, it being led by led by AWAL co-founder Kevin Bacon, former U2 manager Tim Delaney and music entrepreneur Juka Hynynen.
"With Family in Music I'm able to consolidate all my experience in one place and MgNTa is something we are both proud of and are certain is desperately needed", says Bacon, who is Chief Innovation Officer at the company. "Whilst technology saved the music industry it has never been kind to songwriters and our mission is to address that gap".
Delaney, who is Managing Director, adds: "There has been much debate about streaming generally and the low levels of remuneration for songwriters. But what about those getting nothing at all? Family In Music doesn't take for granted that if someone is writing great songs they know how to get rewarded for that song. It's an age-old problem and we have the thoroughly modern solution using technology to aid the writer rather than harm them".
BBC Radio 2 to air Janice Long tribute this Sunday
Long had a presenting career that spanned more than 40 years, largely across a variety of the BBC's national and local radio stations. Presented by Zoe Ball, the tribute will be simulcast by BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Wales - Long having started her radio career at the former in 1979, and then presented an evening show on the latter in more recent years.
Fans, friends and colleagues set to appear on the show include Paul McCartney, who will speak about his "old Liverpool mate" who was always "a pleasure to meet".
Other contributors include Holly Johnson, Elvis Costello, Noddy Holder, Jo Whiley, Sandi Shaw, OMD's Andy McCluskey, fellow presenter Steve Wright, actor David Morrissey, and writer Pete Paphides.
The show - titled 'Janice Long: A Life In Music' - will air this Sunday, 23 Jan, from 7-9pm.
Guerilla Toss announce new album, Famously Alive
On the writing of the album, vocalist Kassie Carlson says: "You have to be with yourself all the time during the pandemic. I had to figure out a way to manage my anxiety. The pandemic was hard, but it helped me get comfortable inside my own body. My peace of mind came out of being thrust into the deepest shit".
"It felt like I didn't need to force myself into this dark place to create anymore", she goes on. "For the first time in my life, I feel like I'm finally comfortable inside my body. This album is all about being happy, being alive, strength. It's meant to inspire people".
As for the musical direction of the album, multi-instrumentalist Peter Negroponte adds: "I like to combine as many musical influences as possible. We thought the sleekness of current radio pop would make our dense wall-of-sound aesthetic both more bizarre and more accessible and fun at the same time".
'Famously Alive' is out on 25 Mar. Watch the video for 'Cannibal Capital' here.
AWAL in the US has announced the promotion of Jennifer Kirrell to the role of SVP Catalogue & Retail Marketing. In that global role she will, and I quote, "oversee and support artist and label partners with strategies to maximise lasting cultural impact, discovery/rediscovery, and music consumption". And why the hell not?
Deezer has a new CFO and Deputy CEO in the form of Stephane Rougeot, who previously worked at technology companies like Signify and Technicolor. "I'm THRILLED to have someone as strong and experienced as Stephane in our management team", says the streaming firm's CEO Jeronimo Folgueira.
Kyla La Grange has released new single 'Nurture'. Her new album, 'While Your Heart's Still Beating', is out this Friday.
Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa and producer Boom Bip have teamed up as Belief. Their first single together, 'I Wanna Be', is out now.
Partner have released new single 'Time Is A Car'.
Composer Jim Perkins has released 'In The Menagerie', the first single from his new EP 'Immersed In Clouds', which is out on 28 Jan.
GIGS & TOURS
Palm Reader have announced UK tour dates in March, kicking off at Brighton's Hope & Ruin on 17 Mar. Support will come from Blanket.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Every Time I Die split after four of five members quit
In a joint statement last night, guitarists Jordan Buckley (brother of Keith) and Andy Williams, bassist Stephen Micciche and drummer Clayton Holyoak said that they had all now left the band.
They added that they had hoped to release a statement that came from all five members of Every Time I Die which "outlined the truth", but had decided to issue this statement without Keith Buckley because "we were informed ... of something planned to be released [but] not mutually agreed upon that consists of inaccuracies and controls a narrative to the benefit of one".
There was "no direct communication" with Keith Buckley prior to making this announcement, they confirmed, "because it's either impossible for direct communication with him solely or we've been cut off to any and all communication by him himself".
Insisting that "there is zero truth about the band continuing on with a new singer", the four band members added that they are "extremely disappointed in how this was played out online in front of" their fans.
Keith Buckley responded to this statement by posting a scan of a legal letter from his now former bandmates dated 20 Dec 2021, which states that his brother, Williams, Micciche and Holyoak are seeking to reach an agreement separating them from him, while also ordering him to cease and desist making negative statements about them.
The implosion of the band follows a tense few weeks for Every Time I Die fans. At the beginning of December, Keith Buckley announced that he was not taking part in the final three dates of the band's US tour, which was promoting their latest album 'Radical'. However, he said, he would return for the band's annual hometown Christmas show - which he did when it took place on 11 Dec.
"Caring for my own mental health has taken priority over EVERYTHING else in my life", he said at the time via Twitter. "The love it has brought to everything I do has been clear to everyone that has seen me and I value my progress way too much to allow a setback. I am taking a hiatus from ETID to prepare for [the Christmas show]".
The rest of the band then followed this up with their own statement, saying that they would complete the tour without Buckley, instead inviting the audience to take his place.
"Mental health is a real issue and when not treated has an impact on so many people", the band said. "Keith needs to take this time to rest and prepare for the holiday shows and we wish him a quick recovery ... We don't want to let you down so we'll be playing these last three shows without a vocalist. Like Keith always says 'this mic is your mic'. So come and help us finish up this tour".
So far, so seemingly amicable. But then Keith posted a new statement, saying that the real reason he was taking time away from the band was because he'd learned that his bandmates were planning to replace him. He suggested that they had decided that they no longer wanted him in the band because of a number of lifestyle changes he had made, particularly no longer drinking alcohol.
"Now that I have seen the 'official statement' indicating that ETID is finishing the tour without their singer, I think I'm ready to tell you all a little bit about exactly why my mental health has had to become a priority over ETID", he wrote on Twitter. "And trust I have receipts".
"While meditating in a side room yesterday I overheard my own brother tell an outsider that ETID had been in talks to replace me this entire time", he went on. "I thought they were my biggest supporters. But Jordan had lied. His concern was a cruel trick. Their statement is proof".
"Traveling separately, away from alcohol and the behaviours of those who choose to drink, has brought me peace of mind and has made me the best performer I have ever been", he continued. "I love the ETID community and finally felt like I was giving back in a meaningful way. And I will continue to".
"Being ostracised from a band I have built for 20 years because I made a decision to do whatever it took to be a good human being hurts me deeply", he then said, "but trust me when I say I am the most mentally fit I have ever been. This decision was made to protect myself from my own sibling".
Last week, the band announced that they were cancelling UK tour dates set to begin later this month, citing "ongoing [COVID-19] restrictions and financial liability for a tour of this size".
However, Keith Buckley is still set to appear for a series of on stage interviews with podcaster Matt Stocks around the UK next month. While those shows are seemingly in part aimed at promoting his other career as a novelist, the Every Time I Die split will almost certainly become the focus of the interviews and audience Q&A sessions.