Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 04.06.23: Remuneration working group, metadata agreement, Genius v Google, Fix The Tix, Cardi B

By | Published on Sunday 4 June 2023

Music streaming services

The key stories from the last week in the music business…

The UK government confirmed it is convening a remuneration working group as part of its ongoing economics of streaming work. The government instigated various projects in 2021 following Parliament’s big inquiry into streaming, seeking to address various issues that that inquiry had raised. However, when it comes to how artists and songwriters share in streaming income, to date that work has been research-based, whereas with data and transparency issues there have been working groups to consider possible solutions. For music-makers, remuneration is the biggest issue, though within the wider industry it is also the most contentious. The government confirmed in a letter to the select committee that it would now convene a group to discuss remuneration. Music-maker organisations welcomed the announcement, though record label trade group BPI was critical of the move, insisting that “numerous studies have demonstrated that streaming has benefited consumers and artists alike”. Music-makers are likely to argue that, while new record deals are more artist friendly, heritage artists and session musicians are yet to see the benefit of the streaming boom. [READ MORE]

The UK government also announced the signing of a music industry agreement around metadata. This is the outcome of one of the working groups instigated by the government’s Intellectual Property Office in response to Parliament’s streaming inquiry. Although some key metadata is already provided when recordings are delivered to streaming services, complete information about all the music-makers, producers and sound engineers involved in each track, and the code that uniquely identifies what song is contained in any one recording, is usually missing. This means the moral right of music-makers to attribution is often infringed, plus it makes the payment of songwriter royalties much more complex. That results in the payment of song royalties being slow, inefficient and often inaccurate. Under the new code, each stakeholder group in the music industry commits to raise its game to seek to ensure that more of that metadata is provided as a matter of course with each new recording. [READ MORE]

The US Solicitor General, Elizabeth Prelogar, urged the country’s Supreme Court to decline to intervene in the Genius v Google legal battle. Lyrics platform Genius accuses Google of scraping content off its website and using it for the lyrics that appear in the search engine’s info boxes when people search for a specific song. However, Genius doesn’t own the copyright in those lyrics so had to sue for breach of contract, arguing that Google breached its terms of service by connecting to its website and lifting its content. But Google argued that this was really a copyright dispute, though one without a copyright owner, and that “the Copyright Act preempts Genius’s breach-of-contract claim”. The courts agreed, including on appeal. Genius has taken the dispute to the Supreme Court, which sought Prelogar’s input before deciding whether to hear the case. The Solicitor General doesn’t actually agree that copyright law “categorically” bars contract claims, but said the top US court should still decline the case on the basis that it’s not clear Genius can prove it had a valid contract with Google. [READ MORE]

The Fix The Tix campaign in the US hit out at the latest iteration of the BOSS ACT. Fix The Tix is one of a number of campaigns in the US at the moment calling for better regulation of the ticketing business. Congress member and frequent Ticketmaster critic Bill Pascrell Jr has been seeking to introduce such regulation for years via his BOSS ACT, the latest version of which was introduced into the House Of Representatives last month. Fix The Tix is yet to publish its full manifesto, but it’s likely that some of what Pascrell proposes will be in there. However, the BOSS ACT also proposes some protections to ticket touts or scalpers, which the people behind Fix The Tix do not like. In a statement they said that – while Pascrell’s proposals “provide some transparency for consumers”, which is a good thing – it does so “in exchange for anti-fan and anti-artist handouts for scalpers and secondary ticketing platforms that do not contribute to the live entertainment ecosystem”. To that end they oppose the BOSS ACT, adding that they will be lobbying law-makers to support alternative proposals. [READ MORE]

The YouTuber who defamed Cardi B filed for bankruptcy protection, which might make it harder for the rapper – real name Belcalis Almanzar – to claim the damages she is due. A US court award Almanzar nearly $4 million in damages after concluding that Latasha Kebe had made numerous defamatory statements about the rapper on her YouTube channel. Kebe has vowed to take the legal battle to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Almanzar’s lawyers have been seeking to get their client those mega-damages. But in bankruptcy papers the YouTuber says that she has just $58,595 in total assets to her name – and most of that relates to a 2021 Chevrolet Silverado that’s tied as collateral to an unpaid auto loan. She and her husband do currently make more than $30,000 a month, so there is new income coming in, but finding the millions that are owed to Almanzar may prove challenging. [READ MORE]

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