CMU Digest

CMU Digest 16.03.20: COVID-19, business rates, Led Zeppelin, safe harbour, NMPA

By | Published on Monday 16 March 2020

Live music

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

The biggest live music companies in the world recommended that all large-scale events this month be cancelled in response to the COVID-19 crisis. It came as an increasing number of shows, festivals and conferences were called off around the world, sometimes because of government-instigated measures, other times because of artist, promoter and ticket-buyer concers over the spread of the coronavirus. Live Nation, AEG, CAA, WME, Paradigm and UTA all recommended that large-scale events cease until at least the end of the month after forming a global task force to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on the live music industry. [READ MORE]

The music community welcomed measures in the UK government’s new budget to counter the negative impact of COVID-19, though said they didn’t go far enough. Grass roots venues and independent record shops in England who are based in premises with a rateable value of £51,000 or under will not have to pay any business rates in the year ahead as they deal with the inevitable down-turn in business caused by people staying home. But trade bodies for both venues and retailers said similar support was needed by bigger businesses too who will face the same challenges as both government and the public responds to the coronavirus crisis. [READ MORE]

The Ninth Circuit appeals court in the US upheld the original ruling in the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ song-theft lawsuit. The same court previously overturned the jury decision that said Led Zeppelin did not infringe earlier song ‘Taurus’ by Randy California when they wrote ‘Stairway’. But reconsidering the matter with a bigger panel of judges, the Ninth Circuit said the judge in the original case was right to say recordings of the two songs could not be played in court – because only the original sheet music versions are protected by copyright. He was also right to not ask the jury to consider the so called inverse-ratio principle – which lowers the burden for proving similarity between two songs if there is strong evidence that the alleged infringer was exposed to the earlier work. With that in mind, the original ruling in Led Zepp’s favour stands. [READ MORE]

Experts discussed the European Copyright Directive during a debate on American copyright law in the US Senate. The Senate’s intellectual property committee is considering whether it is time to review America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including the infamous copyright safe harbour. Some experts said that the safe harbour reform contained in article seventeen of last year’s EU directive was worth considering. Others said the EU reforms were overly complex and not an attractive option for US law-makers – and that US Congress should at least wait for those safe harbour reforms to actually be implemented in Europe. [READ MORE]

The US National Music Publishers Association again set out its case against the digital music firms regarding what song royalties streaming services should pay. The NMPA spoke as the streaming firms’ appeal of last year’s Copyright Royalty Board ruling on the matter reached court. In an op-ed for Billboard, NMPA boss David Israelite hit out in particular at Spotify. He said that the songwriting community should be cynical of Spotify’s initiatives to credit and celebrate songwriters while it is concurrently appealing the royalty rate increase that was set by the CRB. [READ MORE]

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