MONDAY 7 MARCH 2022 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Ed Sheeran is a musical "genius" but also a musical "magpie" who borrows from other people's work when he's writing his pop songs. Sometimes he borrows from the work of superstars, who get their credits. Other times he borrows from lesser known artists, who do not. Or at least, that's what lawyers working for musicians Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue claimed in the UK high court on Friday... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Musical "magpie" Ed Sheeran in court over Shape Of You song theft claims
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LEGAL Dua Lipa sued a second time over Levitating
Post Malone has another go at dismissing Circles song theft claim

Cardi B returns to court to get defamatory videos taken offline

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DEALS Hipgnosis acquires Leonard Cohen songs catalogue
Reservoir extends deal with Ali Tamposi

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LIVE BUSINESS One Finiix Live hires Sean Goulding
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AND FINALLY... Music-based Wordle clone Heardle asks you to name that tune
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Musical "magpie" Ed Sheeran in court over Shape Of You song theft claims
Ed Sheeran is a musical "genius" but also a musical "magpie" who borrows from other people's work when he's writing his pop songs. Sometimes he borrows from the work of superstars, who get their credits. Other times he borrows from lesser known artists, who do not. Or at least, that's what lawyers working for musicians Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue claimed in the UK high court on Friday.

This particular song theft battle is the one over Sheeran's song 'Shape Of You' which - Chokri and O'Donoghue argue - rips off an earlier song their wrote called 'Oh Why'.

In this particular dispute, Sheeran actually went legal first after Chokri and O'Donoghue's claims of song theft led to royalties due through the collective licensing system being put on hold. Chokri and O'Donoghue then filed their own counterclaim for copyright infringement.

As this case has been working its way through the motions there has been plenty of discussion as to whether the Chokri and O'Donoghue side can bring up in court the various other times that Sheeran has been accused of borrowing elements from other songs.

That includes other alleged song thieving that has resulted in legal action - the ongoing US case over 'Thinking Out Loud' being the highest profile - but also times where Sheeran's people have quietly settled with those who believe their work has been infringed.

In terms of the latter, one such settlement relates to 'Shape Of You', with the writers of TLC's 1999 hit 'No Scrubs' previously getting themselves songwriting credits on Sheeran's 2017 track.

As the UK court case got underway on Friday, according to Law360, Chokri and O'Donoghue's legal rep Andrew Sutcliffe said this dispute centres on Sheeran's creative process and whether the star "makes things up as he goes along" or if - in fact - "the process in truth is more nuanced and less spontaneous than this".

"Ed Sheeran is undeniably very talented", Sutcliffe added. "He is a genius. But he is also a magpie. He borrows ideas and throws them into his songs. Sometimes he acknowledges this, and sometimes he won't".

The lawyer then noted the deal done with the 'No Scrubs' writers in relation to 'Shape Of You', before arguing that, with his clients, Sheeran and his 'Shape Of You' co-writers weren't as willing to acknowledge what they had borrowed from 'Oh Why' because Chokri and O'Donoghue aren't famous enough.

"If they had been Shaggy, Coldplay, Rihanna or Jay-Z they would have been treated differently", he argued, before citing a letter from Sheeran's lawyers that specifically noted the difference in status between their client and Chokri and O'Donoghue.

As for how Sheeran and his 'Shape Of You' collaborators would have heard 'Oh Why' after its release in 2015, Chokri and O'Donoghue say that they sent copies to the star's team and close friends. As a result, Sutcliffe said, Sheeran "is extremely likely to have heard it at some stage - even if he does not recall".

The song theft case is expected to run for about three weeks.

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Dua Lipa sued a second time over Levitating
Dua Lipa is facing a second song theft lawsuit over her 2020 hit 'Levitating' which, it's alleged, rips off not one but two songs. Well, three if you also count the allegations made in the first of the lawsuits filed over 'Levitating' last week.

The legal cliche, of course, is that "where there's a hit there's a writ". Though some lawyers sometimes also say "once one lawsuit beckons, be sure there'll be a second". Yeah that doesn't really work does it? That's probably why no lawyer has actually ever said that. Though, it's not unknown for hits to be accused of ripping off more than one song. Or sometimes the allegation is that a new song is ripping off an old song that ripped off an even older song.

Anyway, in the new lawsuit Dua Lipa is accused of ripping off two songs written by songwriters L Russell Brown and Sandy Linze: 1979's 'Wiggle And Giggle All Night' and 1980's 'Don Diablo'.

As a result, the new lawsuit says, according to Billboard: "Defendants have levitated away plaintiffs' intellectual property - plaintiffs bring suit so that defendants cannot wiggle out of their wilful infringement". See what they did there? Yeah, that alone is grounds for dismissing this new lawsuit, surely?

Brown and Linze were beaten to the litigation starting line by Florida-based band Artikal Sound System who last week claimed that 'Levitating' rips off their 2017 track 'Live Your Life'. They were just trying to live their life when Lipa levitated away with their melody, their lawsuit didn't say. So that litigation can't be dismissed on the solid grounds that cheekily referencing track titles when making legal arguments in song-theft lawsuits shouldn't be allowed.

In the new litigation, Brown and Linze also claim that Lipa's song thievery is all the more annoying because the bit of her song that rips off their songs - the "signature melody" - is key to the snippet of the record that went viral on TikTok. "Because video creators frequently truncate the already brief snippets of sound on TikTok", it states, "the signature melody often comprises 50% or more of these viral videos".

Dua Lipa is yet to respond to any of this.

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Post Malone has another go at dismissing Circles song theft claim
Post Malone is having another go at dismissing a legal claim made by a former collaborator who reckons he co-wrote the 2019 hit 'Circles'. This time the rapper is arguing that the contribution made by Tyler Armes during a recording session in 2018 was not sufficiently original to be protected by copyright.

Armes - a songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and member of Canadian rap-rock outfit Down With Webster - claims that he co-wrote 'Circles' during an all-night jamming session with Malone and producer Frank Dukes back in August 2018.

When the track was released he contacted Malone's manager who allegedly conceded that Armes co-wrote the track, offering him 5% of the copyright. But when Armes pushed for a better deal, his request was rejected, and the songwriter was subsequently denied both a credit on and share in the song.

In his original lawsuit, Armes sought a share of both the song and recording copyright in 'Circles', though the judge considering the case previously threw out the latter claim. But Malone's previous attempt to get the litigation dismissed entirely was unsuccessful.

Malone accepts that he and Dukes did jam with Armes back in 2018. But he seeks to play down the significance of Armes' contribution during that session, saying his fellow musician simply provided a guitar chord progression that is pretty commonplace and possibly a "fragment of a guitar melody" that he sang to the rapper.

The former wasn't original enough to be protected by copyright, he now argues, while the latter was never 'fixed' - so recorded or written down - another requirement for a musical composition to be protected by copyright.

According to Rolling Stone, a new legal filing cites a deposition given by Armes, and says that Malone's former collaborator "admitted that his contributions did not ... rise to the level of originality, which is also required in addition to the fixation requirement".

"He either conceded that his ideas were commonplace musical devices or failed to meet his burden to demonstrate any originality otherwise", it goes on. "Armes thus cannot even establish the threshold requirement that he made a copyrightable contribution".

Malone adds that neither he nor Dukes ever intended for Armes to be a co-author of the song they were working on, and always had the discretion to accept or reject his suggestions.

Needless to say, Armes' legal reps are not impressed with the latest motion for dismissal. "We believe that the motion for summary judgment is a desperate attempt by Post Malone and Frank Dukes to try to avoid a trial in this action", they told Rolling Stone. "We are confident that we will prevail in defeating the motion and look forward to going before a jury".

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Cardi B returns to court to get defamatory videos taken offline
Cardi B has returned to court in a bid to get an injunction forcing YouTuber Latasha Kebe to take down a number of the videos that featured in the rapper's recent defamation lawsuit against the video maker.

At the end of a January court case, Kebe was ordered to pay Cardi B - real name Belcalis Almanzar - $4 million in damages in relation to various defamatory claims she previously made on her YouTube channel. That included that Almanzar "was a prostitute … was a user of cocaine … had and still has herpes … had and still has HPV … engaged in a debasing act with a beer bottle and … committed infidelity".

During the court hearing Kebe basically admitted that she didn't fact-check any of the allegations made about Almanzar on her YouTube channel, even when the rapper was actively denying those allegations, and even when they were being made by a guest that she suspected was lying. She also insisted that most of the allegations that featured in her videos were simply "opinions", even though that's not how they were usually framed in the videos themselves.

Almanzar and her legal team, meanwhile, discussed the impact that the various allegations had on the rapper's mental health - a defamation claim needing to show damage as well as untruths. The rapper herself discussed how the widespread public speculation sparked by the rumours that were spread by Kebe made her depressed and suicidal.

The jury considering the case quickly sided with Almanzar, finding Kebe liable for defamation and awarding the rapper the $4 million in damages. However, there remains the matter of the videos that contained the defamatory remarks. Some have been removed from Kebe's YouTube channel, but some remain online, streaming away and earning the YouTuber traffic and money.

Both before and during the court hearing, Kebe was adamant that she would only remove all the videos that include defamatory statements if specifically ordered to do so in an injunction. Which is why the Almanzar side is now requesting that injunction.

In a legal filing last week, the rapper's legal team quoted questions that Kebe was asked by Almanzar's attorney during the court hearing. That included the following: "Unless someone actually forces you to, you are never going to stop repeating these statements about my client?"; "The only way at this point these videos are ever going to come down is if this court forces you to; is that right?"; and "are you essentially saying that to stop you from calling my client Cold Sore B my client needs to get a gag order?" In all three cases Kebe basically said "that is correct".

Anticipating free speech arguments against - and lots of First Amendment waffling in relation to - the requested injunction, Almanzar's filing also stated: "Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction that is not worded more broadly than is necessary to address the defamatory statements that were the subject of this action and that were found defamatory by the jury in this case".

"Specifically", it went on, "plaintiff is only seeking to require defendants to remove any videos and posts that contain the defamatory statements from their social media accounts and to enjoin defendants from republishing those same statements. In other words, the proposed injunction will only affect speech that has been found defamatory and thus is not subject to First Amendment protection, which is consistent with the federal and state constitutions and the weight of authority on this issue".

Kebe, of course, is appealing the wider defamation judgement against her, and has also submitted a response to last week's injunction request, arguing that the rapper must show that she will continue to be damaged if the targeted videos stay online.

"Plaintiff has the burden of establishing that there is a vital necessity for a permanent injunction and that, without one, plaintiff will continue to be damaged and remain without an adequate remedy at law", Kebe's response stated. "Even though this court has great discretion when deciding whether to issue an injunction, the defendants doubt that plaintiff can satisfy her burden of proof".

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Hipgnosis acquires Leonard Cohen songs catalogue
Hipgnosis Song Management has announced a big old deal via its Blackstone-backed venture Hipgnosis Songs Capital ICAV to acquire a stack of rights in the songs catalogue of Leonard Cohen for an undisclosed sum.

In total, the deal covers 278 songs and derivatives, including the all-important 'Hallelujah' - which has been covered more than 300 times. For songs written from the start of Cohen's career through to 2000, Hipgnosis has acquired the writer's share of royalties. For later works, up to Cohen's death in 2016, the company takes full control of the works, ie writer and publisher shares.

"To now be the custodians and managers of Leonard Cohen's incomparable songs is a wonderful yet very serious responsibility that we approach with excitement and fully understand the importance of", says Hipgnosis CEO Merck Mercuriadis. "Leonard wrote words and songs that have changed our lives, none more so obvious than 'Hallelujah', but there are so many more that we look forward to reminding the world of on a daily basis".

"He is revered all over the globe because of the magnitude of his work and we are delighted that the Cohen family and [Cohen's longtime manager] Robert Kory have chosen Hipgnosis in this most important decision of who to entrust with Leonard's legacy", he adds. "We welcome them to the Hipgnosis' family and look forward to working together to honour the songs of the great Leonard Cohen".

Noting that both Cohen and Mercuriadis were born in the Canadian province of Quebec, the previously mentioned Kory comments: "Merck Mercuriadis is unique in the music publishing world with his background as an artist manager. We know he cares about artists, and as a Québécois he has a particularly deep appreciation of Leonard's unique status in popular music. The catalogue is in good hands. The Hipgnosis team has been a pleasure to work with throughout the transaction".

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Reservoir extends deal with Ali Tamposi
Music rights firm Reservoir has renewed its deal with songwriter Ali Tamposi, extending an agreement that began in 2017.

"Ali has written some of the most popular songs in the world", says Reservoir EVP, Global Creative Director Donna Caseine. "Her creativity, friendship, and generosity are boundless. Professionally, Ali consistently creates music that defines the very pinnacle of success in music, and personally, she gives back to all those around her. We are so proud of all she has achieved. It is an honour and a joy to be a part of her team and we look forward to the journey ahead".

Tamposi herself adds: "I'm happy to announce my continued partnership with Reservoir. It's reassuring as a writer to know that you're supported by a team of executive and administrative professionals who have your back, and Reservoir regularly exceeds that high standard. If the past is any indication of the future, then this wonderful family of relationships Reservoir has cultivated will continue to help me expand both professionally and personally. Thanks to their overwhelming support and inspirational leadership, I look forward to our continued success".

If you were wondering who is THRILLED by all of this, it's Reservoir CEO Golnar Khosrowshahi, who says: "We have built a fantastic relationship with Ali since welcoming her into the Reservoir family five years ago. All she has accomplished demonstrates the value of investing in our songwriters. We are THRILLED to enter this new chapter in our partnership with Ali and continue to invest in her future success".

Among the songs written for other artists by Tamposi are 'Havana' by Camila Cabello, 'Youngblood by Five Seconds Of Summer, 'Wolves' by Selena Gomez and Marshmello, and 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber.

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One Finiix Live hires Sean Goulding
Booking agency One Fiinix Live last week announced that Sean Goulding has joined its team of agents. He joins from UTA, which he joined via its acquisition of The Agency Group in 2015.

"I cannot express how excited we are to have Sean joining us", says One Fiinix Live founder Jon Ollier. "Sean is a real thoroughbred veteran of our game; he is incredibly experienced and knowledgeable but at the same time as hungry and passionate as anyone I have met. We share a vision for the future of business in general and I think this collaboration makes a real statement of intent for both parties. Welcome Sean!"

Goulding adds: "I'm THRILLED to be a part of building a progressive and innovative new company with Jon and the team. Being surrounded by people courageous enough to venture out independently is precisely where I want to be. That's the type of energy that will enhance the services provided to our clients as we move forward".

Ed Sheeran's booking agent Ollier launched One Finiix Live in 2020, after leaving CAA.

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Setlist: Bandcamp bought by Fortnite maker Epic Games
CMU’s Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including Epic Games’ acquisition of Bandcamp and what a gaming company might want with a direct-to-fan music platform, plus the Entertainment Retailers Association's stats on streaming music in 2021 and what it thinks should happen in the economics of streaming debate.

Listen to this episode of Setlist here.

Music-based Wordle clone Heardle asks your to name that tune
By now, there are so many Wordle knockoffs, you could make playing them a full time job. Admittedly, I'm not quite sure how you would make that pay. Livestream the collapse of your mental state, perhaps. Anyway, we're on the subject again because there's another music-based version of the popular word quiz. Although this time with a twist. The twist being that it's basically 'Name That Tune', but presented in a way that makes it look like Wordle.

So, welcome Heardle, which once a day asks you to guess a song from its intro. To get it first time, you have to enter the correct answer after hearing just one second of the song. Each time you get it wrong, you get to hear a little bit more. If you fail to get it in six goes (or sixteen seconds), bad luck, that's game over until tomorrow.

According to the app's makers, "each Heardle is randomly plucked from a list of the most streamed songs in the past decade". The music itself is seemingly pulled in from previews on SoundCloud Go, with a full 30 seconds of the track available to play once you've entered a correct guess.

So, hey, here's the bit where I get to be a boring party-pooper in an otherwise frivolous story. Because while the makers of Heardle might think that pulling in 30 second SoundCloud previews is all fine and above board - copyright-wise, I mean - it probably isn't.

It's not clear what, if any, licences the game has, but the only reference to anything in that domain is a line reading, "Much love (and all the relevant copyright) to all the artists featured". That does come across a bit like when someone writes "no copyright intended" in the description of an illegally uploaded track on YouTube assuming that that covers them for all eventualities. Or even makes sense.

But, hey, it's just a bit of fun, maybe the music industry could turn a blind eye - the few hundred quid it's collected in donations probably isn't worth suing over. Wait until the New York Times buys it for millions of dollars, at least.

Anyway, you can play it here.

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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.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (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.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (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.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk 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.
caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
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