Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 30.04.23: Triller, Brixton Academy, Ed Sheeran, IMPALA, Peermusic

By | Published on Sunday 30 April 2023

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

Sony Music told a US court that Triller has conceded it owes the major $4,574,250 after defaulting on a previous licensing deal. The music company filed a lawsuit against Triller last year claiming that the video-sharing app had failed to make payments due under a licensing deal and had also continued to make Sony-controlled music available once that deal had been cancelled. To that end, Triller was sued for both breach of contract and copyright infringement. The latter claim continues to go through the motions, but Sony told the court that Triller had now “conceded liability under the contract” and had “agreed that as of 4 Apr 2023, Triller is liable to Sony Music on Sony Music’s breach of contract claim for $4,574,250.00”. The major wants the court to now grant a partial judgement in its favour on the breach of contract claim, because “Triller’s liability on the contract claim is final with nothing left to resolve”, and the social media firm “has not yet agreed to pay, so Sony Music needs the a final judgment to enforce”. [READ MORE]

London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that they have called for the Brixton Academy’s licence to be revoked following last year’s fatal crowd crush. Two people died during the crowd crush that occurred at a sold out Asake show at the South London venue last December. Police have been investigating the circumstances that led to the incident ever since, with allegations that the venue was understaffed on the night of the Asake show and that some security personnel were involved in a ticketing scam that let people into the building with fake tickets. The venue has been closed since the tragedy after the local authority that regulates it, Lambeth Council, suspended its licence. The Met confirmed this week that they have now “lost confidence in the premises licence holder”, which is the Live Nation allied Academy Music Group. To that end, the Met has “submitted an application for a review of premises licence to Lambeth Council and will be seeking a revocation of the licence”. AMG says it has already presented proposals for how it can safely reopen the venue. [READ MORE]

The long awaited ‘Thinking Out Loud’ song-theft trial got under way in a New York court. Ed Sheeran is accused of ripping off the Marvin Gaye classic ‘Let’s Get It On’ when he wrote his 2014 song. It’s the estate of the co-writer of the earlier work – Ed Townsend – that is suing for copyright infringement. Jurors were told by legal reps for the estate that a video of Sheeran mashing together his song with the Gaye song at a concert in 2014 was the “smoking run” in this case, because it demonstrates both the similarities between the two works and Sheeran’s awareness of them. But, taking to the witness stand, Sheeran said that lots of pop songs can be mashed together in that way because they have been constructed with the same musical building blocks. He also observed that he’d have to be an “idiot” to deliberately rip off ‘Let’s Get It On’ and then draw everyone’s attention to the similarities via the on-stage mash-up. Like most song-theft cases, the real question for the court here is whether short musical segments shared by many different songs can be protected by copyright in isolation. [READ MORE]

Pan-European indie label trade group IMPALA updated its ten point plan to make streaming work. The new plan and an accompanying white paper builds upon and amends a similar plan published two years ago. Many of the same themes and policy positions are covered as last time, including opposition to both Spotify’s discovery mode and the proposal that performer equitable remuneration be applied to streams. Some of IMPALA’s ideas in 2021 for changing the way streaming monies are shared out across the industry have got more attention in recent months and are repeated in the new document. There is also more of a focus this time on the need for streaming subscription prices to go up. Plus – somewhat controversially – it asks whether the labels’ share of streaming income is being undervalued. Although the label share has slowly declined as the digital market has matured, labels still often get the biggest slice of the digital pie, and many others in the music community argue that the label share is still too high. [READ MORE]

Peermusic sued Sony Music Publishing over an interpolation in Lizzo track ‘About Damn Time’. That song interpolated an element of ‘Hey! DJ’, a 1984 release by The World’s Famous Supreme Team which was co-written by the late Malcolm McLaren. Peermusic represents McLaren’s rights. Reps for Lizzo properly secured a licence for the interpolation, so the legal dispute is between the co-owners of the ‘Hey! DJ’ copyright. Sony seemingly claims that Lizzo actually interpolated an extended instrumental version of the earlier track which, when registered with the US Copyright Office, did not include McLaren as a co-writer. The major represents the other co-writers and reckons it can therefore license the interpolation without the involvement of Peermusic or the McLaren estate. Peermusic counters that, because the extended instrumental was a derivative work, only the new elements of that song are covered by the copyright that was registered without McLaren’s involvement. The element interpolated by Lizzo was in the original, it adds, so it’s the copyright in the original work that is being exploited. [READ MORE]

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