Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 17.07.22: Web-blocks, Bang, venue licensing, BMI, Hipgnosis

By | Published on Sunday 17 July 2022

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

The BPI announced that web-blocking in the UK was extending to mobile networks, starting with the BT-owned EE network. Web-blocking – where internet service providers are ordered by the courts to block their users from accessing copyright infringing websites – is an anti-piracy tactic of choice for music and movie companies in those countries where it is available. In the UK, record label trade group BPI has now secured web-blocking orders targeting more than 70 sites and thousands of connected domain names. But so far those web-blocks have only applied to landline internet connections. With so many people now accessing digital content via mobile devices, EE agreeing to extend web-blocks to its mobile internet network – which also powers BT Mobile and Plusnet Mobile – is an important development. BPI now hopes other UK mobile networks will follow suit. [READ MORE]

A US judge ruled that energy drink Bang is liable for copyright infringement for including Universal Music released tracks in its promotional TikTok videos without licence. Legal reps for Bang said that the drinks brand was under the impression its videos were covered by TikTok’s music licences – but those only cover user-generated content not brand content. And while that ignorance regarding the limitation of TikTok’s licences may impact on any damages Bang is ordered to pay, it doesn’t stop the company being liable for infringement. However, the same judge said Universal had not demonstrated that Bang was liable for contributory infringement in relation to influencer videos it had commissioned which also contained unlicensed music. [READ MORE]

The UK’s House Of Lords Liaison Committee called for further reforms to the way bars, clubs and venues are licensed in England and Wales. It said that the government was yet to implement some of the reforms proposed in a 2017 Lords report, which raised a number of issues with the 2003 Licensing Act. There needs to better communication between different licensing and planning systems, the Lords committee said in its new document, and better training for councillors who participate in licensing committee proceedings. It also said that, while the agent of change principle was added to the National Planning Policy Framework for England in 2018 – so that property developers must consider existing neighbouring venues when developing new residential properties – the principle remains vague and therefore isn’t applied consistently across the country. [READ MORE]

American collecting society BMI presented legal arguments as to why there shouldn’t be a combined rate court hearing involving both it and ASCAP. The US radio industry is seeking such a hearing to consider what royalties radio stations should pay to the two song right societies. Previously any disputes over royalty rates involving BMI or ASCAP would be considered in court separately with different judges, and the music community fears a combined hearing like that now being proposed could push down the total royalties paid by US radio stations. The radio sector is exploiting provisions in the 2018 Music Modernization Act to try and get a combined hearing, but in a new legal filing BMI insisted that that act did not alter the consent decree that regulates its operations, which clearly states that BMI rate court hearings must be separate from ASCAP hearings. [READ MORE]

The Hipgnosis Songs Fund announced partnerships with SACEM and Peermusic to help it manage the various song catalogues it has acquired. French collecting society SACEM will handle digital licensing and digital royalty admin across Europe, while Peermusic will act as a sub-publisher outside of the US, providing both admin and sync services. Hipgnosis already has its own on-the-ground operation within the US having acquired music publishing firm Big Deal Music in 2020. The Songs Fund also published various stats in relation to its last financial year, stating that its music catalogue is now worth $2.7 billion, while the company has achieved a “9.9% increase in the operative net asset value to $1.8491 per share”. [READ MORE]

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