|TUESDAY 25 APRIL 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Peermusic and the UK company that controls music created by the late Malcolm McLaren has sued Sony Music Publishing in a dispute over an interpolation in Lizzo track 'About Damn Time'... [READ MORE]|
Peermusic and the Malcolm McLaren estate sue Sony Music Publishing over Lizzo interpolation
In its chorus, Lizzo's 2022 hit interpolates an element of 'Hey! DJ', a 1984 release by The World's Famous Supreme Team, which was co-written by McLaren. The copyright in that song was split between McLaren, producer Stephen Hague, and the two members of The World's Famous Supreme Team, Larry Price and Ronald Larkins.
According to a new lawsuit filed with the New York courts, reps for Lizzo approached Peermusic - which administrates McLaren's catalogue - to clear his share of the copyright in relation to the interpolation. It was ultimately decided that a third of the copyright in 'About Damn Time' would be allocated to the writers of 'Hey! DJ', with McLaren getting 25% of that. So that's 8.335%.
So far so good. Except, Lizzo's reps then subsequently told Peermusic that Sony Music Publishing was in fact claiming all of the monies due to the 'Hey! DJ' interpolation based on the argument that what was actually being interpolated was an extended instrumental version of the earlier work.
And, it turns out, when the extended instrumental version was registered with the US Copyright Office, McLaren was not included as a co-writer. Which was sneaky.
However, the Peermusic lawsuit states: "Even if the registration was validly obtained (which is questionable, as the underlying work on which it was based should have been disclaimed in the registration process), the instrumental registration would be extremely limited because, as a matter of copyright law, it excludes all music and lyrics present in the original vocal version of 'Hey! DJ'".
"That is", it adds, "it would encompass only newly added authorship by Hague, Price and Larkins, if any. The instrumental registration would not (and does not) include the musical excerpt sampled by Lizzo, because the excerpt sampled by Lizzo appears in the earlier created vocal version of the work".
But, it seems that Sony so far has been unwilling to budge on any of this, insisting that it can license the interpolation without the involvement of Peermusic or McLaren's estate and grab any monies due from Lizzo's hit.
In fact, when Peermusic's lawyer contacted Sony's lawyer, "Sony doubled down on its specious assertion that the sample was taken from the instrumental version, ignoring the fact that the same instrumental music - including the melodic phrase sampled by Lizzo - is contained in the vocal version co-authored by McLaren from which the instrumental version was derived".
And not only that, "in yet another manoeuvre to divert Peer/[McLaren estate] licensing fees to itself, on information and belief, Sony in the last few months registered the b-side instrumental version of 'Hey! DJ' with the UK performing rights society PRS For Music, some four decades after it was released".
To that end, Peermusic is asking the New York courts to confirm that McLaren is co-owner of the copyright in all versions of 'Hey! DJ' and that therefore his estate needs to be cut into the deal around the 'About Damn Time' interpolation. Oh, and they'd like some lovely damages too. We will see how Sony responds.
Ed Sheeran song-theft case gets underway in New York
Originally scheduled to commence in November 2020, but delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheeran is accused of infringing the copyright of late songwriter Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the Gaye classic. The songwriter's family say that the similarities between 'Let's Get It On' and 'Thinking Out Loud' are too distinct to be a coincidence, while the Sheeran side argues that the only thing they have in common are often used chord progressions.
Seven jurors were selected from a wider panel of New York residents yesterday. Among those rejected were self-confessed Sheeran fans, a person who has personal links to artists signed to Sheeran's publisher Sony Music Publishing, and someone studying for a PhD in Musicology.
The three men and four women who made the final cut largely do not have any connection to music, although two have backgrounds in singing and musical theatre, according to Law360.
Opening statements in the case are due to take place today. While the focus is likely to largely be on copyright law technicalities and the composition of the two songs, it's also expected that the Townsend side will put forward an argument of cultural appropriation.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is on the Townsend legal team, has previously said that Sheeran's alleged song-theft is part of "the music industry's history of stealing intellectual property from black artists and the loss of generational wealth for their families". Sheeran's legal team have objected to this, saying that such allegations do not belong in a copyright infringement case.
It's also likely that the court will be shown a video of Sheeran playing 'Thinking Out Loud' at a concert in 2014 and inserting a bit of Gaye's song into the middle of the performance. Legal reps on the Townsend side reckon the clip illustrates both the similarities between the two songs and Sheeran's awareness of them.
Last month, the judge overseeing the case declined a motion from Sheeran's lawyers to have the video banned from being shown, although he did also say that the Sheeran side can restate their case for excluding the clip during the trial itself.
He also granted another motion put forward by the Sheeran side asking to block a proposed live performance of 'Thinking Out Loud' in court. Sheeran's lawyers said that such a performance could be designed to "intentionally misrepresent" the song and could, therefore, be grounds for a mistrial.
US appeals court confirms original ruling in Epic's Apple App Store dispute
Epic, like Spotify, objects to Apple's rule that forces app makers to use the tech giant's commission charging transactions system when taking in-app payments on iOS devices, and another rule that restricts the sign-posting of alternative payment options elsewhere on the internet.
Whereas Spotify has mainly put pressure on lawmakers and regulators to intervene in this domain, Epic launched lawsuits against Apple in various jurisdictions claiming that the App Store rules are anti-competitive and therefore a violation of competition laws, or antitrust laws if you prefer.
The highest profile of those lawsuits was the one in the Californian courts. The judge hearing that case mainly sided with Apple, concluding that Epic had failed to prove that the tech firm violated federal antitrust laws in the US. However, she did also decide that the rules against sign-posting other payments options - often called the anti-steering provisions - violated Californian law.
Both sides appealed, but mainly without success. Although the appeal judges didn't agree with everything in the original judgement in this case, any quibbles didn't affect the outcome. Epic hasn't successfully proven any violations of federal antitrust law on Apple's part. But the anti-steering rules do violate Californian law.
"Today's decision reaffirms Apple's resounding victory in this case, with nine of ten claims having been decided in Apple's favour", said the tech giant in response to the appeal court's ruling.
"For the second time in two years, a federal court has ruled that Apple abides by antitrust laws at the state and federal levels. The App Store continues to promote competition, drive innovation, and expand opportunity, and we're proud of its profound contributions to both users and developers around the world".
As for the ruling on the anti-steering provisions, it added, "we respectfully disagree with the court's ruling on the one remaining claim under state law and are considering further review".
Epic boss Tim Sweeney acknowledged the loss on Twitter, though added "fortunately, the court's positive decision rejecting Apple's anti-steering provisions frees iOS developers to send consumers to the web to do business with them directly there. We're working on next steps".
Beyond the courts, Spotify and Epic also hope that lawmakers in US Congress might intervene on all this via the Open App Markets Act, which Spotify boss Daniel Ek was busy bigging up in Washington last week.
Italian regulator tells Meta to resume licensing talks with SIAE
Last month, it emerged that Meta had begun excluding songs represented by SIAE from its Facebook and Instagram platforms after failing to agree a new licensing deal with the society.
For its part, SIAE criticised the social media firm, saying it had been left "bewildered" by Meta's move to exclude its catalogue, adding: "This decision is striking considering the ongoing negotiation and the full availability of SIAE to sign a licence for the proper use of protected content under transparent conditions".
It was then confirmed that the Italian competition regulator was considering whether Meta had "unduly interrupted the negotiations" for a new licence through its decision to exclude SIAE's music while those negotiations were ongoing, exploiting its market dominance to put unfair pressure on the rights organisation.
According to Italian news agency ANSA, last week the regulator told Meta that it must resume its SIAE licensing talks and seek to restore music represented by the society to Facebook and Instagram, albeit only with SIAE's consent. It should also provide the information that the collecting society says it needs to assist in those licensing talks, SIAE having previously criticised Meta for not being sufficiently transparent during its recent negotiations.
A Meta spokesperson told Reuters that while the company didn't agree with the competition regulator's initial conclusion regarding its spat with SIAE, it nonetheless welcomed the opportunity to resume licensing talks, adding: "We believe it is important to collaborate with the music industry".
SIAE President Salvatore Nastasi commented: "We are open to an agreement to put Italian content back on Meta's platforms and to negotiate constructively, but in compliance with the indications of the antitrust authority".
PRS collections in 2022 up 18.9% on pre-pandemic income
"In 2021, PRS For Music set out its vision to pay out over £1 billion in royalties within the next five years", says PRS boss Andrea Czapary Martin, "last year we accelerated progress towards, and beyond, this milestone".
"Through our ambitious licensing strategy and utilising our joint ventures we have maximised the value of members works at every opportunity", she adds. "While our investment in new technologies and services means we can pay out royalties more quickly and accurately, delivering the best possible service to members at a market leading low cost-to-income ratio".
Because for songwriters and publishers, live music and the broadcast and public performance of recorded music are key revenue streams, the pandemic had a much bigger impact on the songs side of the music rights business than it did on the record industry.
Live music, of course, was shut down entirely for a time by the COVID lockdowns, while broadcasters saw their ad revenues dip, and the pubs, clubs, bars and cafes that usually play recorded music were not open.
As a result, says PRS in its latest financial round up, "the big story of 2022 was the strength of the rebound in live music". Shows in the UK "generated £62.7 million of royalties, an increase of 683% compared to 2021 and 16.1% on 2019. Over 128,000 live events were reported to PRS For Music across the year in the UK, including major tours from the likes of Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Little Mix, N-Dubz, The Cure and The Rolling Stones, among others".
Public performance at large - including live music and the public performance of recorded music - was up 66.4% year-on-year to £228.9 million, or 3% higher than pre-pandemic levels back in 2019. Meanwhile commercial radio royalties were up 2.6% to £52.2 million.
That's the money PRS collects in the UK on behalf of its own members and the members of other collecting societies around the world with which it has reciprocal deals. Further live, broadcast and public performance revenue is also collected in other markets for British songwriters and publishers via those foreign societies, which gets reported by PRS as international income.
"International revenues showed strong signs of recovery following the global pandemic", PRS declares, "totalling £272.4 million in 2022, a year-on-year increase of 8.8%". However, "2022 sees overall overseas royalty income remain below pre-pandemic levels, 2.3% lower than 2019". That said, delays in monies moving around the network of global societies means that international income in 2022 was still being affected by the COVID restrictions of 2021 and maybe even 2020.
A chunk of streaming money also flows through the collective licensing system on the songs side, though in the digital domain things get complicated. For starters, PRS issues licences beyond the UK when it comes to streaming, though not in every market. Many music publishers also have direct deals in many markets, though basically in partnership with PRS. Plus some streaming money is allocated to the mechanical rights in songs and not captured in PRS figures.
But, with all those complexities acknowledged, PRS reports that "music streaming continues to be the most popular way for fans to access music, contributing £284.3 million to overall online royalties of £334 million, up by 25% on 2021".
Then there's the video streaming services that use music. "This year, PRS For Music concluded new agreements with Apple TV+ and Amazon for its Freevee service", the society adds. "The increase of revenues from video-on-demand platforms by 16.5% contributed £40.2m to online royalties compared to the previous year".
So, there you go. And if you're interested in membership stats, "PRS welcomed almost 7000 new writer, composer and publisher members in 2022", the PRS figures reveal. Welcome one and all!
UK government's COVID insurance scheme paid out on just one cancelled event
The scheme was set up in September 2021 and ran for a year. It was designed to overcome the problem that festival and concert promoters, at that time, couldn't get cancellation insurance for their events due to the ongoing uncertainties caused by the pandemic and new variants of COVID-19, which meant there was a real risk that new restrictions could come into force stopping those events from going ahead.
But without such insurance available on the commercial market, live music companies already struggling because of the COVID shutdowns of 2020 and 2021 couldn't afford to take the risk themselves, ie to pump money into future uninsured events that might end up not happening.
The special cancellation insurance scheme involved a number of insurers with the UK government stepping in as 'reinsurer of last resort'. The concept was welcomed by the music industry, although the specifics were criticised, with some arguing that its focus and the actual coverage available were too narrow to benefit the wider music community.
Stats relating to the scheme were made public following a freedom of information request by the Financial Times. The scheme covered 169 events, collecting £5.9 million in premiums. The single payout was to the promoter of an event called Trick Scotland which was cancelled after the Scottish government extended its vaccination campaign at Edinburgh's Royal Highland Centre where that event was due to take place.
No information was provided regarding how many unsuccessful claims were made against the insurance scheme.
Warner Music Singapore and Cross Ratio Entertainment have agreed a new worldwide distribution deal. "Cross Ratio Entertainment and our talented roster of artists are excited to be joining forces with Warner Music Singapore", says the firm's founder Dean Augustine. "It has always been our mission to grow and assist artists to break into the music industry in the region and across the world. We trust that through this collaboration, we can leverage on Warner Music's strength, [and] regional and global expertise, to help us put the music of our homegrown artists on the map".
Reach Music Publishing has acquired the recording and song rights in Judas Priest's first two albums 'Rocka Rolla' and 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' from Gull Entertainments. "The acquisition of the masters and publishing for the albums 'Rocka Rolla' and 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' was a monumental opportunity for Reach Music, coming not long after Judas Priest's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame", says Reach Music boss Michael Closter.
Warner Music Latina has appointed Carlos 'Charly' Pérez as SVP Communications & Public Relations. "I'm very happy and grateful for this huge opportunity to become part of the Warner Music Latina team", he says. "I'll bring my experience to bear as we continue to evolve our company, enhancing our value proposition to artists, and positioning ourselves as a leader at the intersection of music and technology".
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING
The Featured Artists Coalition has announced a second year of the FAC Step Up Fund, supported by Amazon Music. Ten recipients will receive grants of £8000, as well as a year of FAC membership and other benefits. Artists or their managers can apply here from 9 May.
Youth Music has announced a new round of its NextGen Fun. Early-stage musicians and music creatives can apply for grants of up to £2,500. Apply here by 19 May.
MARKETING & PR
Tom Dark has announced his departure from Warner Records after nineteen years to launch new media company Darkside Media, which will specialise in TV promotion and podcast production. "After nearly two decades in the Warner Music family, creating first-class TV and podcast campaigns, I'm looking forward to bringing my expertise to a whole new roster of artists and podcasters", he says. "Our mission is to deliver must-see and must-hear moments that elevate artists and engage audiences".
Yunè Pinku has released new single 'Heartbeat'. New EP 'Babylon IX' is out on Friday.
The Used have released new single 'Numb', taken from new album 'Toxic Positivity', which is out on 19 May.
GIGS & TOURS
Raye has announced that she will perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 26 Sep, to record a live album. She will be backed by an orchestra and gospel choir for the occasion. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.
The Pigeon Detectives have announced UK tour dates in November. Tickets go on sale tomorrow. The band's new album 'TV Show' is out on 7 Jul.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Grimes adds a rule to her AI music offer: no Nazi anthems
Although she likes the idea of "open sourcing all art and killing copyright", the musician admitted yesterday that "we may do copyright takedowns ... for really really toxic lyrics with Grimes' voice".
The recent surge in interest in using generative AI tools to create new tracks in the style of existing artists - by getting the AI to crunch data linked to the work of those existing artists - has raised concerns in certain parts of the music community.
The music industry maintains that training an AI in that way requires a licence from whoever owns the copyright in the existing music. Failure to do so constitutes copyright infringement, and labels and publishers may sue you, or at least urge streaming services to stop distributing music created by unlicensed data mining.
But Grimes declared at the weekend that people are more than welcome to train an AI with her back catalogue in order to create new tracks using a machine version of her voice, provided that they are willing to share any royalties those tracks might generate.
"I'll split 50% royalties on any successful AI-generated song that uses my voice", she tweeted. "Same deal as I would with any artist I collab with. Feel free to use my voice without penalty. I have no label and no legal bindings".
Despite sticking by that commitment and announcing a plan to manage the royalty splits via smart contracts, Grimes did also return to Twitter with a few extra rules for what an AI Grimes can and cannot sing about.
"OK, hate this part, but we may do copyright takedowns ONLY for really really toxic lyrics with Grimes' voice", she said in a new tweet. "In my opinion you'd really have to push it for me to wanna take something down, but I guess please don't be the worst. As in, try not to exit the current Overton window of lyrical content with regards to sex/violence. Like, no baby murder songs please".
But "that's the only rule", she continued. "Really don't like to do a rule but don't wanna be responsible for a Nazi anthem unless it's somehow in jest a la 'Producers' I guess. Would prefer avoiding political stuff but if it's a small meme with your friends we probably won't penalise that. Probably just if something is viral and anti-abortion or something like that".
She later responded to a commentator who mused that, even if Grimes was to issue a copyright takedown against any Nazi anthem sung by an AI Grimes, once a track is on the internet, realistically it's on the internet for good.
"We expect a certain amount of chaos", she admitted. "Grimes is an art project, not a music project. The ultimate goal has always been to push boundaries rather than have a nice song. The point is to poke holes in the simulation and see what happens even if it's a bad outcome for us".
Of course, some would argue that copyright rules around music-making AI are much less clear than the music industry is claiming, and therefore there might not be a case under copyright to remove offensive content or even to demand half of any royalties.
However, given that Grimes is more than meeting the robots half way, you'd hope the makers of any AI Grimes music wouldn't use her voice to test the actual legalities in this domain.