CMU Digest

CMU Digest 13.12.21: COVID-19, Taylor Swift, Apple, Astroworld, Audiomack

By | Published on Sunday 12 December 2021

COVID Passport

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

The UK government announced that Plan B measures would go into force in England to restrict the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19. Among other things, this means that – as in the rest of the UK already – clubs and certain venues in England will have to check COVID Passports on the door. Reps for the night-time sector said that the new rules would be “devastating” for those clubs and venues, while many in the live industry questioned the effectiveness of COVID Passports in restricting the spread of the virus and stressed the added logistical costs such measures will create for affected businesses. However, at the same time live industry bodies expressed relief that, under the new rules, a negative lateral flow test can be accepted to grant admission to a customer, as well as proof of vaccination. [READ MORE]

A US judge again declined to dismiss the song-theft lawsuit over Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’. Sean Hall and Nathan Butler claim that Swift’s 2014 hit rips off their 2001 song ‘Playas Gon Play’, which contains the lyric: “The playas gon play/them haters gonna hate”. Judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed the case in 2018 on the basis that the lyrics the two songs have in common are too generic to be protected by copyright. But the Ninth Circuit appeals court then reinstated the case, criticising Fitzgerald for making a speedy summary judgement on that matter. Swift’s team have been trying to get the lawsuit dismissed for a second time ever since, but Fitzgerald hasn’t seemed too keen on that idea, ruling again this week that – while Swift’s arguments may be strong – nothing has really changed since the Ninth Circuit last ruled on the dispute. And given how the appeals court ruled last time, Swift’s team should probably make those arguments before a jury. [READ MORE]

Apple successfully halted an injunction that would have forced it to allow alternative payment links to be included in all iOS apps. The injunction was issued as part of the tech giant’s legal battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games. However, many app makers – including Spotify – have long criticised the App Store rules that say all in-app payments on iOS devices must be made via Apple’s commission charging transactions platform, and that links to alternative payment options elsewhere on the internet cannot be provided within the app. Actually, with so called reader apps like Spotify, Apple is changing that latter rule, but that doesn’t help Fortnite et al, making the US court order a crucial win. But Apple and Epic are both appealing the judgement in their wider dispute, and the former successfully convinced the Ninth Circuit appeals court that the alternative payment links injunction should be stayed pending the outcome of that appeal. [READ MORE]

A Texas-based lawyer announced that he had filed litigation on behalf of more than 1500 Astroworld attendees. The new legal action more than doubled the number of people now suing over the deadly crowd surge that occurred last month during Travis Scott’s headline set at the Houston festival he founded. Attorney Brent Coon also told reporters that he “has made a written demand of $10 billion dollars for resolution of all cases”. Scott and the festival’s promoters Live Nation and Scoremore are key defendants on the hundreds of lawsuits now filed. Coon’s law firm added that, in addition to the lawsuits, it intends to campaign for new laws that would result in large-scale events being certified by crowd control planning experts, as well as introducing “mandated training programmes for event preparation and criminal liability for any wrongdoing”. [READ MORE]

Discovery-focused streaming service Audiomack announced the addition of direct-to-fan monetisation tools. Via the service’s new Supporters programme, users will be able to make donations towards specific tracks and albums on the platform. Their support will then be acknowledged within the Audiomack app and artists will be able to directly message each supporter. It’s an interesting development given that direct-to-fan is becoming an ever more important revenue stream for many artists – and increasingly D2F is about digital content and experiences, rather than selling discs and merchandise. To date most innovations in this space have happening outside the streaming services, but this could be starting to change. [READ MORE]

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