CMU Digest

CMU Digest 30.08.21: Nirvana, Sex Pistols, Megan Thee Stallion, TekSavvy, Flo & Eddie

By | Published on Monday 30 August 2021


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

Nirvana were sued over the cover artwork of 1991 album ‘Nevermind’. The lawsuit was filed by Spencer Elden – who was the nude baby that appears on the famous album cover – and claims that the use of his photo “constitutes commercial child pornography”. That’s based on the argument that the image included “a lascivious exhibition of Spencer’s penis and genital area” and was made to look like the baby was grabbing a dollar bill “like a sex worker”. The defence will likely point out that Elden has spoken positively about appearing on the album cover in the past and has famously recreated the image several times over the last 30 years, albeit wearing shorts. [READ MORE]

John Lydon lost his legal battle with fellow Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. The dispute was over Lydon’s attempt to block the use of the band’s music in a new TV adaptation of Jones’s memoir. Jones and Cook argued that an old band agreement meant that only a majority of the band’s members needed to approve a sync deal, with no one member having a veto. Lydon said he didn’t remember signing the agreement and that the band had always operated on the assumption unanimous approval was necessary to issue sync licences. But the High Court in London upheld the old agreement, saying that Lydon had good legal advisors and management at the time it was negotiated so should have known what he was signing up to. Therefore he cannot veto use of the band’s music in the new TV show. [READ MORE]

Megan Thee Stallion went to court in order to clear the release of a remix of BTS track ‘Butter’ on which she guests. The legal move was part of an ongoing dispute between the rapper and 1501 Certified Entertainment, the Houston-based label she signed to in 2018. Last year she secured a temporary restraining order preventing 1501 from blocking the release of any new tracks she wanted to put out, and last week’s legal filing argued that that order meant the label couldn’t block the release of the new ‘Butter’ remix. The court agreed and the new BTS track was released. [READ MORE]

Canadian internet service provider TekSavvy took its legal battle over web-blocks to Canada’s Supreme Court. The net firm has been fighting the first web-blocking order issued by a Canadian court. TekSavvy argues that Canadian copyright law doesn’t specifically provide for such orders to be issued, and that being forced to block its customers from accessing certain websites contravenes laws governing net neutrality and freedom of expression. The country’s appeals court rejected those arguments, so TekSavvy now wants the Supreme Court to intervene. [READ MORE]

The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court in the US ruled that there isn’t a general performing right for sound recordings under Californian copyright law. Although the relevant laws are a little ambiguous, the appeals court said that, when passed in the Nineteenth Century, the copyright rules clearly only covered the reproduction and distribution of recordings. The ruling was part of a long running legal battle led by Flo & Eddie to try to force Sirius XM to pay royalties when it plays recordings released before 1972, those older recordings being protected by state-level rather than US-wide federal copyright law. At a federal level there is a specific digital performing right that requires Sirius to pay royalties, but that doesn’t exist at a state level, so the musicians needed to prove there was a general performing right. A lower court previously said there was. Although the appeals court decision was a loss for the musicians, federal law has already been amended so that the digital performing right also applies to pre-1972 recordings. [READ MORE]

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