CMU Digest

CMU Digest 12.10.20: Stairway To Heaven, G-A-Y, BMG, Kickass, Stream Manipulation

By | Published on Monday 12 October 2020

Led Zeppelin

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

The US Supreme Court declined to hear the Stairway To Heaven copyright dispute. It means that the Ninth Circuit appeals court ruling in the case stands – it saying that the Led Zeppelin track was not similar enough to earlier song ‘Taurus’ by Randy California to constitute copyright infringement. That ruling arguably makes it harder to pursue a song-theft lawsuit through the US courts, potentially reducing the number of such cases being launched, the alternative ruling in the earlier ‘Blurred Lines’ case having made such litigation more attractive. [READ MORE]

The owner of the G-A-Y bars and venues began legal action against the UK government over the 10pm curfew on hospitality businesses. Jeremy Joseph said he supported the other COVID rules currently in place – even though they have had a negative impact on his business. However, he argued, the government has never provided any scientific justification for the 10pm curfew, which actually results in crowded streets and public transport as all hospitality businesses shut at the same time. Meanwhile the curfew has made it impossible for many already struggling hospitality businesses to trade. The government is yet to respond. [READ MORE]

BMG announced it was removing ‘controlled composition clauses’ from all its record deals, including legacy deals it inherited via catalogue acquisitions. The clause is common in US record contracts and relates to the mechanical royalties labels must pay songwriters and publishers when they release physical recordings of other people’s songs. If the artist is also the songwriter, the ‘controlled composition clause’ provides the label with a discount on the mechanical royalty otherwise due under US law. If there are co-writers, the artist may have to subsidise the full-rate mechanical royalties the label pays those people. Although it only applies to physical releases, which are now a small part of the US recorded music business, the songwriter and publisher communities welcomed BMG’s announcement. [READ MORE]

It transpired that the founder of former file-sharing website Kickass Torrents has left Poland where he was fighting extradition to face charges of copyright crimes in the US. Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland in July 2016 shortly before Kickass was taken offline. He has been appealing an extradition order ever since, living in Warsaw after securing bail in 2017. By leaving Poland, Vaulin has broken the terms of his bail. Prosecutors in the US also confirmed that – with Vaulin’s location currently unknown – they have now ended their extradition proceedings. [READ MORE]

A number of stream manipulation services in Brazil closed down after legal threats from the record industry there. Pro-Música Brasil confirmed that that included a key service called TurboSocial, which was the target of legal action by the industry trade group, Brazilian anti-piracy agency APDIF and local police. Six other sites stopped offering to artificially boost streams for paying clients after receiving cease and desist letters, and one more voluntarily shut down its stream manipulation service. Companies that artificially boost the number of digital plays for tracks – skewing charts and unfairly pulling monies out of the streaming pot each month – have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. [READ MORE]

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