Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 24.04.22: Astroworld, Deezer, Justin Bieber, Kesha, termination rights

By | Published on Sunday 24 April 2022


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

A Task Force On Concert Safety set up by Texas governor Greg Abbott in the wake of last year’s Astroworld tragedy published a nine page report. It made a number of proposals which, it said, would help ensure that there would never be a repeat of the tragedy that occurred at the Houston-based festival last November, where ten people died and hundreds more were injured by a crowd-surge during the headline set of festival founder Travis Scott. Key recommendations included the creation of a universal template and checklist to be used by officials across the state of Texas when licensing large-scale events; clearly outlined triggers that should cause a show to be automatically stopped; and measures to ensure a clear chain on command on site if a dangerous incident occurs. That follows criticism that Scott’s Astroworld set was allowed to continue for half an hour after police had declared a mass casualty event. The state-level task force was one of a number of investigations launched in the wake of Astroworld, meaning plenty more recommendations are likely to be made in the future. [READ MORE]

French special purpose acquisition company I2PO confirmed it had agreed a deal to merge with Deezer. It means the music streaming firm will become listed on the French stock exchange. I2PO listed on said stock exchange last year with the intent of using the monies it generated from the listing to acquire a privately owned business in the entertainment sector. The deal gives Deezer a valuation just over €1 billion. Confirming the deal, I2PO said that funds would also be available to help expand the music company, with the monies the SPAC is already sitting on, plus additional finance raised via a ‘private investment in public equity’ round involving various investors, including many of Deezer’s existing investors. [READ MORE]

Country pop duo Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber were on the receiving end of the last song-theft lawsuit. A company called Melomega Music claimed that their 2019 collaboration ‘10,000 Hours’ rips off the 1980s soul song ‘The First Time Baby Is A Holiday’, co-written by Melomega founder Frank Fioravanti. Presumably aware some key song-theft claims in the US courts have failed in recent years, the Melomega lawsuit insisted that the similarities between ‘The First Time Baby’ and ‘10,000 Hours’ are extensive enough to conclude that the latter must have borrowed from the former, while the elements borrowed are signifiant enough to be protected by copyright. That said, in terms of proving Dan, Shay and Bieber had access to the earlier song, Melomega relies on the fact ‘The First Time Baby’ appeared on three albums released in the 2010s via The Orchard, which seems pretty weak. [READ MORE]

Various campaign groups submitted an amicus brief in support of Kesha as part of her ongoing legal battle with producer Dr Luke. The campaigners insisted that relatively new free speech rules in New York state should be applied in that litigation. Luke accuses Kesha of defamation over her allegations he raped her back in 2005. The new New York rules – so called anti-SLAPP laws – would increase the burden of proof for Luke in court, and also open up the producer to a damages claim if Kesha were to win. But the New York appeals court ruled last month that those new rules should not apply to lawsuits filed before they came into force, such as the Dr Luke v Kesha case. In their amicus brief, Legal Momentum, Equal Rights Advocates and the National Women’s Law Center said that was the wrong decision because, if the appeals court ruling stays in force, that suggests New York law-makers “did not intend to help the very people whose plight [they] cited as the reason for amending the law”. [READ MORE]

The artists suing Universal Music over the American termination right submitted new papers with the court seeking class certification. Under US copyright law creators who assign their rights to third parties have an opportunity to terminate the assignment and reclaim their rights after 35 years. However, many labels argue that record deals are work for hire agreements which make them – not the artists – the default owners of any copyrights created under those deals. As a result, there is no assignment of rights between artist and label, so there is no assignment to terminate. Both Universal Music and Sony Music have been sued by mid-level heritage artists who want the courts to rule that record deals are not, in fact, work for hire agreements. Seeking formal certification for a class action, the lawyers working on the case against Universal want to represent two classes – Universal-signed heritage artists who have already filed termination notices prior to the certification, and Universal-signed heritage artists who subsequently file their notices through to 2031. [READ MORE]

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