CMU Digest

CMU Digest 15.02.21: Sony Music Publishing, economics of streaming, Brexit, Dwight Yoakam, TikTok

By | Published on Sunday 14 February 2021

Sony Music Publishing

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

Sony relaunched its songs business as Sony Music Publishing, removing the ATV element of the brand. Sony/ATV was created when Sony merged its publishing division with the Michael Jackson-owned ATV Music in 1995. ATV began life as the music division of a long defunct British TV station, becoming a significant player in music publishing by acquiring the Beatles songs catalogue in 1969. Jackson then bought ATV in 1985. Sony/ATV remained a joint venture with the Jackson estate after the musician’s death in 2009, until Sony bought the estate out in 2016. The relaunch as Sony Music Publishing, complete with a new corporate identity, comes as the Sony group seeks to more closely align its global music operations. [READ MORE]

MPs finally questioned some digital platforms as part of their ongoing inquiry into the economics of streaming. However, while much of the inquiry to date has focused on Spotify-type streaming services, the platforms taking part in the latest oral hearing were YouTube and Soundcloud, meaning the focus was the copyright safe harbour and its use by user-upload platforms. Another safe harbour dwelling platform, Amazon’s Twitch, was also meant to be taking part, but – despite being welcomed at the start of the session – didn’t answer any questions. Earlier in the day reps for the Musicians’ Union and Ivors Academy restated the case for artists and songwriters getting a bigger slice of the digital pie. [READ MORE]

The UK government again blamed the European Union for the post-Brexit UK/EU trade deal having no provisions for visa-free touring. MPs discussed the challenges British artists will face when touring Europe once COVID restrictions lift, with travel permits and equipment carnets now required in at least some EU countries. The discussion was in response to a petition on the Parliament website calling for the government to return to the negotiating table with the EU to remove those requirements. Culture minister Caroline Dineage said that, during trade deal talks last year, the EU had rejected the UK’s narrow proposals to allow performers to tour Europe visa free. Meanwhile the UK had knocked back wider proposals from the EU for all business travellers that could have covered performers, because of the government’s policy to “take back control of its borders”. [READ MORE]

Warner Music was the latest major to be sued over the termination right under US copyright law. Country artist Dwight Yoakam says that Warner’s Rhino label has refused to accept termination notices he has submitted in a bid to reclaim the copyright in records he released with the major in the 1980s. The termination right allows creators who assign their copyrights to other entities to terminate that assignment after 35 years. Warner, like the other majors, argues that the termination right doesn’t apply to record contracts, because those contracts are work-for-hire agreements. As such, the label not the artist is the default owner of any recording copyrights created, so no assignment took place and therefore there’s no assignment to terminate. Yoakam’s lawsuit sets out various arguments for why his record contracts are not work-for-hire agreements. [READ MORE]

TikTok owner Bytedance reportedly put its proposed deal with Oracle and Walmart on hold. The China-owned company had planned to sell a slice of the global TikTok business to the two American firms in a bid to placate Donald Trump’s government. It banned Americans from using TikTok and ordered Bytedance to sell its US assets, because of concerns the Chinese government has access to the video sharing app’s global user base and user data. Those executive orders from Trump were previously paused by the US courts and are now being reviewed by the new Joe Biden government. Hoping Biden will cancel the orders, Bytedance now thinks it might not have to cut Oracle and Walmart into the TikTok business after all. [READ MORE]

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