CMU Digest

CMU Digest 05.04.21: Katy Perry, PACT, Bob Dylan, Universal Music, TuneIn

By | Published on Sunday 4 April 2021

Katy Perry

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

Katy Perry urged the Ninth Circuit appeals court in the US to uphold a lower court ruling which concluded that her hit ‘Dark Horse’ does not rip off earlier song ‘Joyful Noise’. The jury in that lower court actually sided with ‘Joyful Noise’ writer Marcus Gray and concluded that ‘Dark Horse’ did infringe the copyright in his song. However the judge reversed that ruling, saying that the Gray team’s case failed as a matter of law. Gray is now appealing that decision. Perry’s lawyers say that the Ninth Circuit’s own ruling in the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ song-theft case backs up their argument that the elements shared by ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Joyful Noise’ are basic musical building blocks and therefore not protected by copyright. [READ MORE]

A group of US songwriters under the name PACT said that they would no longer agree to give pop stars songwriting credits on songs they didn’t actually co-write. Doing so allows pop stars to take a cut of the copyright in songs they make famous but don’t actually help create. But the songwriters argue that those artists already profit from the separate recording copyright, not to mention touring, merchandise and other revenue streams, and should allow the writers to keep control of their one asset, ie the song copyright. Although some pop stars and their teams have demanded a cut song rights in this way for decades, the writers now making a stand say such demands have become more common in recent years. [READ MORE]

Bob Dylan sought to have a legal claim by the estate of a former collaborator dismissed. The Jacques Levy estate argues that it should get a cut of the $300 million Dylan received when he sold his songs catalogue to Universal last year. Levy co-wrote songs on Dylan’s 1976 album ‘Desire’ and earns royalties from them. But Dylan argues that Levy signed a work-for-hire agreement ahead of their collaboration, meaning he owns the copyright in those songs out-right. So the estate is not due a cut of any money stemming from the sale of said rights. Although, whereas Dylan has given up all rights and royalties in relation to his songs via the Universal deal, the estate will continue to earn royalties when the ‘Desire’ songs are used. [READ MORE]

Shareholders in Universal Music owner Vivendi approved plans put forward by the company’s board that will allow its music division to be listed on the Dutch stock exchange. That will see the Universal Music Group spun-off and become a standalone business, with Vivendi shareholders cashing in from the big stock market listing. Having previously promised a Universal IPO at some point, the Vivendi board confirmed its specific plans earlier this year, but they needed shareholder approval. That came via a Extraordinary General Shareholders’ Meeting last week. Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine said: “The unanimous vote in favour of the two resolutions demonstrates the total support of our shareholders for our strategy”. [READ MORE]

The UK Court Of Appeal upheld a ruling against radio aggregation app TuneIn in its dispute with Warner Music and Sony Music. The High Court in London previously said that when TuneIn makes non-UK radio stations available to a UK audience, it needs to secure its own music licences, because the licences obtained by the stations themselves do not apply in the UK. TuneIn argues that it is just a sophisticated audio-centric search engine, so is not directly involved in delivering any music, and therefore not liable if that music is not properly licensed. But the High Court disagreed, and now the Court Of Appeal has confirmed that judgement. [READ MORE]

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