|MONDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Microsoft-owned developer platform GitHub have both submitted amicus briefs in support of stream-ripping site Yout in its ongoing legal battle with the US record industry... [READ MORE]|
EFF and GitHub back Yout in stream-ripping dispute with the record companies
Yout sued the Recording Industry Association Of America back in 2020 after the record industry trade group sought to have the stream-ripping service de-listed from Google search on copyright grounds. Stream-ripping - ie services that allow users to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams, often YouTube streams - has been a top piracy gripe of the music industry for sometime, of course.
In its lawsuit, Yout argued that it didn't infringe any copyrights. Most stream-ripping services have made similar arguments, usually on the basis they don't actually host any copyright infringing content, and there are legitimate as well as illegitimate uses of a stream-ripping site, for example a creator might want to rip some audio from their own video.
However, with the Yout v RIAA case, a specific aspect of US copyright law ended up in the spotlight. The US Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits the circumvention of technical protection measures put in place by content owners and/or digital platforms that exist to stop copyright infringement.
The RIAA argued that, by allowing people to grab permanent downloads of YouTube streams, Yout was circumventing YouTube's technical protection measures.
For its part, Yout argued that YouTube doesn't have any technical protection measures, because it's actually possible to download content that is streaming on the Google video site via a web browser if you know what you're doing.
But the RIAA successfully countered that the complexities involved in executing a manual download via a browser were in themselves technical protection measures, and Yout was circumventing them by simplifying the download process.
With the judge siding with the RIAA on that latter point, Yout's lawsuit was dismissed and a precedent basically set that the stream-ripper's service violates the DMCA. Yout is now appealing that decision via the US Second Circuit appeals court. It's as part of that appeal process that both the EFF and GitHub have submitted filings with the court.
EFF - which often campaigns in favour of the users and operators of digital platforms in copyright disputes - argues that the lower court got it wrong when it interpreted the bit of the DMCA which talks about technical protection measures, Section 1201.
In his decision, the lower court judge, the EFF reckons, "adopted an extremely broad construction of a 'technological measure that effectively controls access to a work' that is not supported by statutory text or precedent".
The EFF amicus brief hones in on the legitimate uses of services like Yout, which, it writes, "fulfil the same function that video cassette recorders once did: they enable ordinary people to make and retain copies of videos that have already been released to the world at large by their creators".
"Like every reproduction technology - from the printing press to the smartphone - these programs, colloquially called 'stream-rippers', have important lawful uses as well as infringing ones. Video creators, educators, journalists and human rights organisations all depend on the ability to make copies of user-uploaded videos".
"Copyright law ordinarily protects and promotes the lawful activities of these groups, through the fair use doctrine and other exceptions to copyright", it goes on, "but overbroad application of Section 1201 effectively strips that protection away, making these lawful activities legally fraught and practically difficult in the digital age".
"The RIAA and its member companies", it then adds, "are engaged in a campaign to make stream-ripping tools a contraband technology, unavailable even to lawful users. The RIAA asserts that stream-rippers necessarily circumvent access controls on video-sharing sites like YouTube in violation of Section 1201, a position adopted by the district court in this case. That position is wrong".
"The district court's holding effectively applies the strictures of Section 1201 to any copy of a work in digital form, not just the subset that rightsholders have chosen to protect with technological means", it argues. "Because the exceptions to Section 1201 are narrower and more conditional than the exceptions to copyright itself, the district court's holding would increase legal and practical impediments to many lawful and important uses".
That, the EFF concludes, would "be contrary to the copyright's constitutional purpose", and therefore the Second Circuit should take a different approach to the lower court.
"Text, legislative history, and precedent suggest clear limits on the definition of 'technological measures'. YouTube's user-uploaded video service and its web-based player fall outside those limits".
In its amicus brief, GitHub says that it isn't officially supporting either side in this dispute and that it "takes no position on the ultimate resolution of this appeal on the facts pled by Yout".
However, it then basically supports Yout, stating that "the district court's expansive interpretation of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision compels GitHub to point out how the court's rationale needlessly threatens countless other software tools in widespread use".
"Developers routinely design software that allows users to experience content in new and value-enhancing ways without express permission from a copyright owner", it goes on.
"By interpreting the DMCA in a way that conflates measures controlling access to a work with measures controlling use of a work that is already publicly accessible, the district court's ruling threatens to imperil the software developers who create those tools, ensnaring legitimate software within the DMCA's reach and chilling technological innovation".
With that in mind, GitHub's briefing states, "the court should reject the district court's flawed interpretation".
So there you go. We await to see how the record companies respond.
R Kelly lawyer argues that jail terms from his two sexual abuse convictions should run concurrently
Prosecutors in the Chicago case are pushing for a jail sentence of between ten and 90 years. Though Kelly, of course, is already in jail having been found guilty in a New York court of running a criminal enterprise in order to access and abuse women and teenagers.
He was sentenced to 30 years in the New York case. In a legal filing last week, lawyer Jennifer Bonjean argued that the judge in the Chicago case shouldn't sentence her client to any more than fourteen years in prison, adding that that sentence should also be served concurrently with the New York jail time, rather than being added on top.
On that latter point, the lawyer noted in her court filing that Kelly is currently 56. "A consecutive sentence will serve no specific deterrent", she wrote, "as Kelly is likely to die in prison either way. Even if he beat the statistical odds, he would not be released from prison until well into his 80s, long after he is a threat of any kind to the general public".
Bonjean also argued that her client has already been treated particularly harshly regarding the prosecutions he has faced and the sentencing in the New York case.
That claim is mainly justified based on how other famous musicians - especially white musicians - about whom allegations of sexual misconduct were made have been treated in the past by both prosecutors and society at large.
"The government (and society at large) have reserved a unique, unprecedented contempt for Kelly that is wanting as to his similarly situated white counterparts", she wrote. "In fact, iconic white musicians like Elvis Presley, who married his fourteen year old girlfriend, are currently being celebrated in Academy-nominated movies".
"In contrast", she went on, "the government argues that one life sentence isn't enough for Kelly. No one will be deterred by a consecutive sentence in this case because no one believes that they will ever face the punishment Kelly has faced for the same exact conduct".
While seeking a more lenient sentence, Bonjean is also handling appeal claims for Kelly in relation to both of his convictions.
Universal cuts ties with German metal band Weimar following neo-Nazi allegations
The decision comes after German newspaper Der Speigel published an article on the band's members and their apparent beliefs.
"Based on the information we recently learned from a journalist's inquiry, we terminated our relationship with Weimar, which consisted of distribution of one album", said the major label in a statement. "That has been stopped with immediate effect".
"The information that has come to light made clear that any relationship with the band was absolutely unacceptable to us and inconsistent with our values", it went on. "We feel deceived by the band. If we knew then what we know today, we would never have released the album in the first place".
The band perform in masks and have seemingly used other means to hide their identities. Though, while their lyrics do feature lines that have been deemed to have similarities to other anti-Semitic language, the Weimar project itself is not overtly neo-Nazi.
However, in its article, Der Speigel says that three of the band's four members - Richard Wegnar, Kurt Ronny Fiedler and Till Schneider - all met in the neo-Nazi scene in Thuringian in central Germany.
All appear to have used aliases while working with Universal in order to mask their past associations. Fiedler (who the newspaper identifies as Steffen P) and Schneider (aka Konstantin P) have both previously played in overtly racist and anti-Semitic bands, it is claimed.
Meanwhile, the newspaper says that there is evidence that vocalist Wegnar is actually Christian P - who has had links to the banned Blood And Honour far right network, which is known for coordinating neo-Nazi bands.
He has also been accused of possessing illegal weapons and "forming armed groups", and in 2002 released an album under the name Murder Squad, which featured a Swastika on the cover and had anti-Semitic lyrics.
This all comes just a week after The New York Times published an article revealing that BMG signed French rapper Freeze Corleone to an albeit ultimately abandoned one album deal in 2021, despite seemingly being aware that he had previously recorded songs with anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying lyrics.
Universal had previously dropped the rapper after releasing one album with him in 2020, due to controversy surrounding his earlier work.
The Times report alleged that BMG's French office had expressed reservations about working with Corleone but had nevertheless been attracted by the potential financial benefits of partnering with a fast rising rapper.
To mitigate the potential issues, a clause was inserted in his contract stating that the label could veto problematic lyrics and that BMG's involvement with him would not be publicised.
However, the deal was eventually terminated the day before the first single from the BMG album was due to be released, after the French office asked the company's Berlin HQ to review his past lyrics.
Freeze Corleone then released the album independently. He currently has over 2.7 million monthly listeners on Spotify and has since collaborated with other artists, including British rapper Central Cee.
Weimar released their debut album 'Auf Biegen Und Brechen' ('Bending And Breaking' in English) in May last year, reaching number five in the German charts.
The LP was actually released by the band's own label, with distribution handled by Universal. As well as ending its relationship with the band, the major has deleted their catalogue and pulled all videos from the label's official platforms.
Der Speigel suggests that Weimar's deal with Universal may have been brokered by the manager of Italian band Frei.Wild. They have also been accused of having far-right associations, although have publicly distanced themselves from such political views.
A planned Weimar tour has also been cancelled, with promoter In Move saying that it had not previously been aware of the band members' "questionable pasts" and that these "run counter to all our convictions".
In a statement posted to social media yesterday, the band deny any current connections to far right groups. They add that the band's members "expressly distance themselves from violence, extremism of any form, xenophobia, racism, homophobia and the fatal misbelief of history, that seems to be repeated to this day, that some people are better than others".
They do concede that Schneider and Wegnar were previously involved in right wing organisations, stating that "we do not want to downplay that they wore provocative clothes and moved in a politically extreme scene".
However, they state, "the past cannot be changed. If they wanted to continue down these paths, they would have. However, they both decided against it many years ago".
On the media report that led to Universal cancelling their deal, they then say: "It is a mystery to us how the media can confront us with the accusation of advancing the right wing".
"On the one hand, the band Weimar, their attitude and music, has absolutely nothing to do with this scene, on the other, this press coverage probably has a much more significant advertising effect for this scene".
You can read the full statement here.
Ultra International Music Publishing launches Lagos-based 'creative hub'
"We have been involved in the signing and development of African songwriters and producers for some time", says CEO Patrick Moxey. "This new announcement of a creative hub in Lagos where we can help nurture the incredible talent coming out of West Africa will be a key focus for our creative team moving forward".
A&R Manager Harold Serero has been appointed to oversee the company's African operations. He says: "It is incredibly inspiring to get the chance to work with such uniquely talented, ambitious songwriters and artists that will shape the sound of Africa, and hopefully the world in 2023 and beyond. This is the future".
To kick off Ultra's work in Nigeria, the company hosted a writing camp in Lagos, with 20 producers, writers, artists and audio-visual designers - including Chopstiix, Leriq and Bloody Civilian - collaborating over three days. The results will be featured on an upcoming mixtape, titled 'Sonic Rares'.
Spotify has a new activist investor seemingly focused on cost efficiencies
According to the Financial Times, Mason Morfit from San Francisco-based investment outfit ValueAct confirmed on Friday that his company now has an interest in Spotify at an event at Columbia University.
He then observed: "Spotify's superpower was combining engineering breakthroughs with organisational abilities - it organised creators and copyright owners to build an entirely new economic model that benefited everyone involved".
"During the boom", he added, "it applied these powers to new markets like podcasts, audiobooks and live chat rooms. Its operating expenses and funding for content exploded. It is now sorting out what was built to last and what was built for the bubble".
That latter point refers to Spotify's recent announcement that it is in the process of cutting its running costs, including by reducing its workforce by around 6%.
When confirming those cutbacks, Spotify boss Daniel Ek said: "In hindsight, I was too ambitious in investing ahead of our revenue growth. And for this reason, today, we are reducing our employee base by about 6% across the company".
"It's my belief that because of these tough decisions, we will be better positioned for the future", he added. "We have ambitious goals and nothing has changed in our commitment to achieving them".
It's no secret that Spotify's bid to be as dominant in podcasting as it is in music was an expensive strategy, with the company spending a stack of cash acquiring various podcasting companies and securing the exclusive rights to various podcasts.
The push into podcasting - and more recently audiobooks - was ultimately about improving Spotify's profit margins. In music, 65-70% of revenue is shared with the music industry. By moving into podcasts and audiobooks, Spotify aimed to keep a bigger cut of its revenues.
Though that strategy relies on the company generating significant income from podcasts and audiobooks, which it is yet to really do. Which means that Spotify's bid to be more profitable in the long-term has prevented it from being profitable in the short-term.
Which, given the wider economic turmoil at the moment, has motivated the cost cutting measures that, it seems, ValueAct will be very much backing.
Making podcasts a cash cow requires Spotify to significantly ramp up its advertising and sponsorship business, and also possibly enhance its monetisation tools for podcast makers, generating new income for both the podcasters and Spotify itself.
Though, one way to increase the company's overall income more quickly would be to simply put up the prices of what is currently Spotify's core product, premium subscriptions for accessing music. The music industry also wants the subscription fees to go up, of course, as its cut of that income would increase too.
ValueAct would probably back that proposal as well. Many commentators have noted how, after buying a stake in the New York Times, the investment outfit pressured management there to seek to shift more subscribers to higher-cost premium packages.
For its part, Spotify said of ValueAct becoming a shareholder: "We welcome ValueAct as an investor in Spotify". If Morfit can help fast track an increase of Spotify's main subscription price, the music industry will be welcoming the investment firm's shareholder status too.
De La Soul's Trugoy The Dove dies
No cause of death has yet been disclosed, although the producer and rapper had previously spoken about his struggles with congestive heart failure, and how health problems had prevented him from performing and touring with his bandmates.
Born in Brooklyn in 1968, Jolicoeur met fellow De La Soul members Vincent Mason (aka Maseo) and Kelvin Mercer (aka Posdnuos) at high school, with the three friends forming the legendary hip hop group in 1988.
After being discovered by local producer Prince Paul, the group released their first seminal album '3 Feet High And Rising' the following year. Their distinctive sound and eclectic jazz and funk samples made them immediately stand out within the hip hop genre, even if some of those samples subsequently led to legal problems.
The group went on to release nine studio albums, most recently 2016's 'And The Anonymous Nobody...' However, as streaming became the default place where people accessed music, the group's first six LPs were not available due to sample licensing issues and a dispute with the label Tommy Boy.
However, after Tommy Boy was acquired by music firm Reservoir, it was indicated that those issues were in the process of being addressed. And then - last month - it was announced that the six albums would become available to officially stream from next month.
The group said of that news: "We can't believe this day is finally here. We are excited to be able to share our music with fans, old and new. The Reservoir team have been great partners in this entire process. We're grateful that our relationship with them all has enabled this to happen".
Reservoir also confirmed that Prince Paul and the original team who worked on the six albums had been involved in the process of "preparing the catalogue for streaming".
The producer was among those paying tribute to Jolicoeur last night. He wrote on Twitter: "You have no idea how much pain in this last year. Dave, love you bro. A blessing we got a chance to unite again. Divine power. Literally no words anymore. De La Soul forever".
Booking agency ATC Live has announced that agent Ed Thompson has joined the company from the Free Trade Agency. "I am THRILLED to be joining the team at ATC Live", he says. "I have always admired how they do business and their incredible track record of spotting and developing new acts. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and working with their teams to carve out exciting new opportunities for both new and existing clients. It's a great move for me and my artists and I can't wait to get started".
BTS's Jimin announced on Friday that he will release a solo album in the near future. "Something could even come out tomorrow", he told fans in a Weverse livestream. It didn't. But it could have.
Central Cee has released new single 'Me And You'.
Linkin Park have released new track 'Lost', featuring vocals form late frontman Chester Bennington. "Finding this track was like finding a favourite photo you had forgotten you'd taken, like it was waiting for the right moment to reveal itself", says the band's Mike Shinoda. The track will be included on the upcoming 20th anniversary edition of their 'Meteora' album, which is out on 7 Apr.
Tove Lo has released new single 'Borderline'. But you knew that.
Jax Jones is back with new single 'Whistle', featuring Calum Scott. "2023 will be a busy year for me", says Jones. "'Whistle' is just the start. I'm pleased I get to kick things off with a collab from Calum. His vocals are outstanding and bring so much class and emotion to 'Whistle'".
Beck has released new single 'Thinking Of You'.
Kicking off a European tour together this week, Lamb Of God and Kreator have teamed up for new track 'State Of Unrest'. Proceeds will be donated to the Dallas Hope Charities in member of Power Trip frontman Riley Gale, who died in 2020.
Gogo Penguin have released 'Saturnine', the second single from their upcoming new album 'Everything Is Going To Be OK', which is out on 14 Apr.
Former Team Sleep members Gil Sharone and Todd Wilkinson have formed new band Anti Quant. Their debut EP, which is out now, also features two more former Team Sleepers - Chuck Doom and Richard Verrett - and instrumental covers of two Team Sleep songs - 'Tennis' and 'No'. So good news for people who like Team Sleep.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
BRITs, tits, Tories and a too small stool - everything that happened at this year's Harry Styles Awards in London
The whole thing ran to its established formula. Celebrities came up and presented awards, musicians came up and accepted those awards. A whole load of big name artists got up and sang songs. And that was all interspersed with awkward interviews with celebs and musicians sitting watching the show just trying to get themselves Saturday night drunk.
Mostly the whole thing seemed to run smoothly, which is no fun, although the show wasn't without its controversies. Tom Grennan and Ellie Goulding got up on stage to present the award for Best New Artist - the first of the night to go to Wet Leg - and Grennan's opening gambit was to ask Goulding about her breasts. Then, instead of telling him to fuck off, she talked about her breasts for what seemed like probably too long.
Goulding subsequently defended Grennan, after his comments were widely criticised, saying on Twitter: "A word on BRIT/tit-gate: I was wearing a beautiful breastplate, thank you all for appreciating it. My friend Tom Grennan is 100% an ally and we were having a bit of fun. No offence taken, no harm intended - and no other interpretations necessary".
Grennan himself added: "What started as a joke between Ellie and I before we went on stage came out all wrong. The nerves got the better of us, but that does not excuse what was said, and I sincerely apologise to anyone who was offended, that's not me at all and I am sorry".
Accepting their Best New Artist award, Wet Leg then became the first act of the night to fall foul of ITV's censorship button when Joshua Omead Mobaraki - guitarist in the duo's live band - closed off the speech by saying "fuck the Tories". Given the state of things in the UK at the moment, this seems like a pretty reasonable thing to say, so maybe he just shouldn't have used the F-word.
The censorship button was employed again later when Daisy May Cooper made a joke about people "doing coke in the toilets". Whoever had their finger on the button failed to cut that out, however. Although I think she was actually saying that people weren't doing coke in the toilets. I don't know if that means they were just doing it at their tables.
What else happened? Oh, host Mo Gilligan got Lewis Capaldi's name wrong - calling him Sam Capaldi. How we laughed. He also quizzed Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock on who was looking after her kids. And in one of the least fun between-award-interviews, he asked Capital FM's Roman Kemp to do an impression. Kemp then mimicked David Attenborough for what seemed like about 20 excruciating minutes.
There were, of course, many awards handed out. And what do awards mean? That's right, speeches. Some terrible speeches. Most of them from Harry Styles, who basically won everything. Seeing Harry Styles win awards got very boring.
The previous weekend at the Grammys, he had commented that "people like me" don't win big awards, even though very popular white men are exactly the type of people the Grammys like to hand out prizes to. Seemingly aware of this, he used his BRITs Artist Of The Year acceptance speech to tell everyone that he was "aware" of his "privilege". So that's nice.
Best speech of the night came from Becky Hill, picking up Best Dance Act. Visibly nervous, she spoke about diversity in music, basically calling out the BRITs' very male-heavy nominations without directly biting the hand that was quite literally feeding her that evening. Which was good.
And finally, there is one more thing I think it's important we talk about. Something that has been bugging me almost continuously since Saturday night. Why did no one think of giving Stormzy a bigger stool?
Do you remember back in 2018 when Stormzy did that performance where he tore into then Prime Minister Theresa May for her response to the Grenfell disaster? That was a really high watermark for BRITs performances in modern times. And sort of makes censoring someone for saying "fuck the Tories" seem all the more silly. But this year Stormzy just came on and performed while sitting on a stool that was clearly too small for him.
I mean, he's a big guy, so maybe it's just too difficult to get an appropriate stool, but then maybe no stool at all would have been better. Or could someone have made him a special big stool? There are definitely options here. Together, I reckon, Stormzy and the BRITs could afford a special stool. Maybe note that down for future reference. Not all of you, obviously, but I think someone needs to take responsibility for this stool-related debacle.
Anyway, plenty of other things happened, but I think I've kept you long enough now. Also, I just can't stop thinking about that stool. So let's just take a look at who won all the prizes...
Artist Of The Year: Harry Styles
Hip Hop/Grime/Rap Act: Aitch
Producer: David Guetta
Song Of The Year: Harry Styles - As It Was