Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 10.04.22: Ed Sheeran, Spotify, BBC Sounds, Bob Dylan, Cardi B

By | Published on Sunday 10 April 2022

Ed Sheeran

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

Ed Sheeran won his song-theft legal battle against grime artist Sami Chokri in the London high court. Chokri claimed that Sheeran had lifted a key element of his 2015 track ‘Oh Why’ when writing the 2017 hit ‘Shape Of You’. The element shared by the two songs was so similar it seemed unlikely they had been independently created, Chokri’s lawyers argued in court, while also outlining their client’s various attempts to get a copy of his track to Sheeran when it was first released. However, Sheeran insisted he had never heard ‘Oh Why’ before writing ‘Shape Of You’, and that the element the two songs have in common employs musical techniques that are common place in pop music. The judge overseeing the case agreed that there was no tangible evidence Sheeran had heard ‘Oh Why’ before writing his hit, and that the independent creation of the similar segments of the two songs wasn’t that unlikely. The ruling potentially sets a precedent in UK law that will discourage song-theft lawsuits of this kind except where there is very strong evidence of an artist having a copy of and utilising an earlier work. [READ MORE]

Three more Congress members in the US criticised Spotify’s Discovery Mode. It’s not the first time concerns have been raised among American politicians about the Spotify promo service, which allows artists and labels to inform the Spotify algorithm about priority tracks in return for agreeing to a royalty discount on any subsequent streams. Congress members Yvette D Clarke, Judy Chu and Tony Cárdenas said Spotify should be fully transparent about which artists are utilising Discovery Mode. Partly so other artists can make an informed decision on whether to utilise the service themselves, based on the theory that as more artists use Discovery Mode it becomes less effective as a marketing tool. And partly so Spotify subscribers are aware when commercial factors are being considered when the streaming firm’s algorithm pushes music to them. [READ MORE]

The BBC announced twelve new thematic strands within its Sounds app to help users navigate music and other content available within the service. Branded Back To Back Sounds, the new strands curate programmes from across the BBC radio network, music mixes already available within the Sounds app, and some original content around various different themes, including specific music genres and/or eras of music, plus content that will sooth people into sleep or make people happy. The innovation is likely designed to appeal to younger listeners who often feel less affinity to traditional linear radio brands like Radio 1 and 6 Music, and who are used to navigating streaming services by genre and mood. Given part of the remit of BBC Sounds is to appeal to younger listeners that makes sense, although innovations like this are often criticised by the BBC’s commercial rivals, that reckon the licence-fee funded broadcaster is using its audio app to extend beyond its public service remit. [READ MORE]

A US appeals court upheld a ruling in favour of Bob Dylan in his dispute with the estate of a former collaborator. Dylan was sued by the family of Jacques Levy, who he collaborated with in the 1970s, after he sold his songs catalogue to Universal Music in a deal reportedly worth $300 million. The estate claimed that it should get a cut of that money in relation to the songs Levy co-wrote. But Dylan’s reps argued that he had had a work-for-hire agreement with Levy back in the 1970s, meaning Dylan owned the copyright in those songs out-right, with Levy simply getting a royalty right under that agreement. Universal will continue to pay those royalties to the Levy estate, but it isn’t due a share of the monies paid to acquire the catalogue, the Dylan side argued. The estate countered that the 1970s deal wasn’t in fact a conventional work-for-hire arrangement. But a lower court ruled that Dylan’s interpretation of his old deal with Levy was correct, and now an appeals courts has reached the same conclusion. [READ MORE]

The YouTuber who defamed Cardi B agreed to remove the videos that contain defamatory statements about the rapper. Latasha Kebe was found liable for defamation in January in relation to various claims that had been made about Cardi B in her videos. However, despite that ruling, some of those videos were still available on the YouTuber’s channel. The rapper returned to court last month seeking an injunction forcing that content to be taken offline. Ahead of a court hearing to consider that request, it was confirmed Kebe had agreed to voluntary remove the offending videos and wouldn’t oppose the injunction prohibiting her from re-posting them, or any new videos that contain the same defamatory claims. Although Kebe is appealing the original court decision in the defamation case and could seek to amend that injunction if she is successful on appeal. [READ MORE]

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