Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 07.05.23: Ed Sheeran, Brixton Academy, Spinrilla, Adidas, Katy Perry

By | Published on Sunday 7 May 2023

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

Ed Sheeran won his latest song-theft legal battle. He was accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ when he wrote his 2014 song ‘Thinking Out Loud’. It was the estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the Gaye classic, that sued over the alleged song-theft. However, Sheeran’s lawyers argued that the two songs sound similar simply because they were built out of the same musical building blocks, ie short musical segments which are not protected by copyright in isolation. And the jury agreed, taking just two and half hours to reach a decision in Sheeran’s favour. While clearly pleased with the result, the musician said outside the courthouse in New York: “I am absolutely frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all. If the jury had decided this matter the other way we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters”. [READ MORE]

Lambeth Council published a document setting out the concerns of London Metropolitan Police regarding the reopening of the Brixton Academy. The police force has been investigating what caused the crowd crush at an Asake show at the London venue last year in which two people died. Last month it emerged that the Met had asked Lambeth Council – which regulates the Academy – to review the venue’s licence, recommending that it be revoked. The Academy Music Group, as the current licensee, says it has submitted proposals for how to safely reopen the building. But in the newly published document, police say that AMG’s analysis of what happened at the Asake show is “far too narrow”, focusing only on the crowd management issues outside the building. Therefore, the police reckon, its proposals for preventing any future similar incident do not go far enough. As a result the police force says it “has lost confidence in the premises licence holder”. [READ MORE]

Mixtape sharing platform Spinrilla agreed to pay the major record companies $50 million in damages. The record industry sued Spinrilla in 2017 for making mixtapes available that contained unlicensed recordings. It countered that it had a system via which copyright owners could get mixes removed and therefore had safe harbour protection under US law from any liability for copyright infringement. But in 2020 a judge ruled that Spinrilla had not met all the necessary obligations to qualify for protection under the copyright safe harbour and therefore was in fact liable for infringement for making available all that unlicensed music. A jury was set to decide on what damages it should pay, but the labels told the court this week that a deal had now been done, with Spinrilla agreeing to make that damages payment of $50 million. Spinrilla founder Jeffrey Copeland will also hand over the domain as part of that settlement. [READ MORE]

A number of Adidas shareholders went legal in relation to the sudden cancelling last year of the sportswear firm’s partnership with Kanye West’s Yeezy business. That partnership was cancelled amid the controversy caused by West’s racist and antisemitic comments, cutting off a key revenue stream for Adidas and leaving it facing the prospect of losing €1.2 billion on unsold Yeezy products. The litigious shareholders argue that Adidas bosses were aware of the risks of partnering with someone like West and should have put measures in place to mitigate the negative impact of any controversy-caused ending of the partnership. In particular, they argue, controversial statements West made about slavery in 2018 should have prompted the Adidas board to put in place a better risk management plan. Instead, they “ignored the risks of oversupply of Yeezy branded shoes in the event that the partnership were to suddenly end”. Adidas denies the shareholders’ claims. [READ MORE]

Katy Perry lost a trademark battle in Australia with a fashion designer who sells products under the name Katie Perry. The designer was born Katie Perry, although did use a different surname for a chunk of her life. Pop star Perry’s real name, meanwhile, is Katy Hudson. The two initially sparred over who had the right to sell clothing under the Katy/Katie Perry brand in Australia in the late 2000s. Then in 2019 Katie Perry sued for trademark infringement. In a recent ruling, an Australian judge concluded that the designer “is entitled to an injunction against [Katy Perry’s company] to restrain it from continuing engaging in infringing conduct”, and that the pop star should also pay some damages. Designer Perry said: “This is a win for small business. We matter, Australian laws matter and most importantly in the face of a bully it is important to stand up for yourself”. [READ MORE]

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