TODAY'S TOP STORY: Original master tapes and recordings of music by the likes of Elton John, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow, Soundgarden, Beck and REM were all lost in the 2008 fire at Universal Music's LA archive, it has been confirmed in new legal filings. However, the major continues to strongly criticise those lawyers pursuing legal action in relation to the blaze. ... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Universal names nineteen artists who lost recordings in its 2008 fire, but continues to fire back at class action lawyers
LEGAL GMR's radio industry battle heading to full trial
Beatles company score $77 million win in counterfeit merch case
Congressional review of the DMCA asks whether the American safe harbour needs reforming
MEDIA Minister plays down reports of radical government plans for BBC
ARTIST NEWS Frightened Rabbit donate artworks to Australian bushfire relief
GIGS & FESTIVALS Elton John cuts short show due to ill health
AND FINALLY... Adele promises new album in September
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Secretly Group is looking for a motivated, ambitious and enthusiastic full-time Project Manager. The position will be based in one of our three main US offices: Bloomington (IN), Brooklyn (NY), Los Angeles (CA). 2-4 years of music industry experience are essential.

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Union Chapel looking for an experienced Head of Events and Commercial Activities with a keen interest in events management, programming and income generation for the benefit of the arts, culture, social justice and heritage.

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Warp Records is seeking a legal and business affairs assistant to join its team in London. The role will also give the opportunity to work closely with other parts of the Warp Group, including Warp Publishing and its retail and technology businesses.

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Experienced digital marketing person required to work within long established independent record company Snapper Music in central London. The label covers a broad section of music from alternative rock to metal. Knowledge of this music genre is not essential but a passion for digital marketing is.

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Universal names nineteen artists who lost recordings in its 2008 fire, but continues to fire back at class action lawyers
Original master tapes and recordings of music by the likes of Elton John, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow, Soundgarden, Beck and REM were all lost in the 2008 fire at Universal Music's LA archive, it has been confirmed in new legal filings. However, the major continues to strongly criticise those lawyers pursuing legal action in relation to the blaze.

The 2008 fire at the Universal archive became newsworthy again last year after the New York Times ran a report accusing the Universal music company of covering up the scale of the losses caused by the blaze at the time of the incident. It claimed that hundreds of artists potentially lost master recordings in the fire, most of which had never been told about the losses.

Universal's PR team went into damage limitation, insisting there were numerous errors in the NYT article. But that didn't stop lawyers approaching some of the allegedly affected acts. A class action lawsuit then followed with Soundgarden, Steve Earle, and the estates of Tupac Shakur and Tom Petty, among those listed as plaintiffs.

That legal action is ongoing, with a side dispute over how much information Universal is obliged to hand over regarding the fire. Lawyers leading on the class action reference legal and insurance claims made by Universal back in 2008 that said the incident had affected "118,000 original music recordings dating back decades" featuring music from "17,000 artists".

According to Rolling Stone, in a new legal filing - made as part of the ongoing case - Universal lists nineteen artists who were definitely affected by the fire.

In some cases, the major says that it found other copies of the affected recordings. Regarding the lost Elton John masters, it is "still working with the artist to determine the extent of such impact". The filing also suggests that recordings from Sonic Youth, Peter Frampton and Slayer were lost without back-ups being found elsewhere in the company's archives.

One of the lawyers representing Soundgarden et al, Howard King, continues to criticise Universal over its handling of the archive fire, both in 2008 and over the last year.

He told reporters: "Universal claimed 17,000 artists were affected by the fire when they were suing for damages. Now that they face a lawsuit by their artists, they claim a mere nineteen artists were affected. This discrepancy is inexplicable".

But Universal claims that the lawyers - like the New York Times - continue to misunderstand the original documents relating to the fire, which they say were based on what was estimated to be lost at that time; include lots of assets which were not master recordings; and were compiled before much of the work to locate other back-up copies had begun.

In a statement, a rep for the major said: "Recognising the lack of merit of their original claims, plaintiffs' attorneys are now wilfully and irresponsibly conflating lost assets - everything from safeties and videos to artwork - with original album masters, in a desperate attempt to inject substance into their meritless legal case. Over the last eight months, UMG's archive team has diligently and transparently responded to artist inquiries, and we will not be distracted from completing our work, even as the plaintiffs' attorneys pursue these baseless claims".

They added: "The plaintiffs' lawyers have already been informed that none of the masters for four of their five clients were affected by the fire - and the one other client was alerted years earlier and UMG and the artist, working together, were still able to locate a high-quality source for a reissue project".


GMR's radio industry battle heading to full trial
The long-running legal battle between Global Music Rights and the US radio industry is heading to court after a judge knocked back both sides' request for summary judgement in their favour. The judge also declined the radio sector's attempt to seek monetary damages, but accepted an amicus brief from the National Association Of Broadcasters despite GMR's objections.

GMR and the Radio Music License Committee both accuse the other of anti-competitive conduct, of course. The RMLC says that, although GMR is a newish boutique song rights collecting society - representing a much smaller catalogue of music that is competitors ASCAP, BMI and even SESAC - it should still accept external mediation over royalty rate disputes. GMR counters that it's a small rights organisation while RMLC reps the vast majority of the US radio industry, and that competition law rules should apply to buyers as well as sellers.

Last week's ruling in the Californian courts on various requests in relation to the case was something of a mixed bag, allowing both sides to claim victory.

According to Law 360, GMR said that the ruling "clears the way for GMR to challenge the cartel power which the RMLC has exerted over songwriters for decades". It also reckoned that the judge's comments meant that "the court rejected the core arguments made by the RMLC in an attempt to justify its decades of illegal collusion to pay songwriters below-market rates".

Meanwhile the RMLC said the decision was a "significant victory" for them. "The major news here is that the court agreed that if RMLC can prove the facts alleged ... then GMR is a per se illegal cartel. GMR's entire reason for being is to raise the price of pre-existing music licences, through what the antitrust laws call 'concerted action'".

So there you go, a victory for everyone! But it remains to be seen whose optimism is justified when the case gets properly to court.


Beatles company score $77 million win in counterfeit merch case
Beatles company Apple Corps last week won a $77 million ruling against 77 online operations that sell knock off Beatles merch. So that's fun.

It was a default judgement in Apple's favour because none of the 77 accused companies bothered to respond to the lawsuit. Which is quite common in cases involving the sale of counterfeit goods online. Unfortunately for Apple, what is also common in cases like this is that it's quite hard to find the counterfeiters to collect the damages.

Nevertheless, the Florida judge who ruled on the case said: "The award should be sufficient to deter defendants and others from continuing to counterfeit or otherwise infringe plaintiffs' trademarks, compensate plaintiffs, and punish defendants".


Congressional review of the DMCA asks whether the American safe harbour needs reforming
The first of eight hearings on America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act took place in US Congress last week, with the senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons leading a review of the 1998 legislation. They are considering whether it needs reforming given all the subsequent changes and evolutions in all things digital and internet that have happened since.

According to IP Watchdog, Tillis himself observed: "In those early days of the internet, Congress wisely recognised [that] the ability of individuals to post anything they wanted online would raise a lot of new and complex, arguably difficult legal questions". But, he added, "almost everything has changed in the last 22 years and law simply hasn't kept pace with technology".

From a music industry perspective, the most interesting element of these Congressional discussions - of course - is the copyright safe harbour contained within the DMCA and whether it could and should be reformed. Obviously, as far as the music community is concerned, the safe harbour definitely should be reformed, in particular increasing the liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube.

Last week's hearing involved various lawyers and academics who were pretty much split on the issues, with half reckoning that the DMCA does a good job of balancing the rights of copyright owners and technology platforms, while the other half argued it was time for some reform.

Some did basically endorse the music industry's arguments, ie that there are platforms and technologies invented since 1998 that claim safe harbour protection but which couldn't have been envisaged as being beneficiaries when politicians first came up with the concept in the 1990s. And also that the courts have incorrectly interpreted elements of safe harbour in landmark cases, so that the responsibilities of technology companies have been set too low.

But some of the common arguments against reforming safe harbour and increasing the liabilities of tech companies were also presented. In particular, that new rules designed to increase the liabilities of the likes of Google and Facebook could have a much bigger impact on smaller online platforms, which risks increasing the market dominance of the tech giants.

Two of those presenting also suggested that the much talked about 'value gap' which, the music industry argues, is caused by the exploitation of safe harbour by companies like YouTube, could actually be countered via competition law rather than by "weaponising copyright".

The next of these Senate hearings on the DMCA next month will specifically look at how copyright law has evolved in other countries, which will likely mean lots of talk about the safe harbour reform contained within the European Copyright Directive, and whether the US should or should not be influenced by any of that.

Given the music business would very much like those particular reforms extended beyond Europe, the industry's lobbyists will be watching these debates closely. Not because they will necessarily result in any imminent changes to American law, but because they will reveal what arguments the other side in the debate are most likely to rely on, and may give some indication on what kind of support there might be for reform of the American safe harbour in Washington.

Minister plays down reports of radical government plans for BBC
A cabinet minister has played down reports in the Sunday Times that the UK government has already decided that it wants to axe the television licence and force the BBC to radically downsize as part of upcoming reviews regarding the way the broadcaster is funded.

It's no secret that some of the BBC's biggest foes in the political community are now in positions of power and that could make reviews of the Corporation's royal charter in 2022 and 2027 somewhat tense. The Times said that Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson was "really strident" about the need for radical reform at the BBC, quoting a source who said "we will whack it".

Among reforms being seriously considered, the newspaper's source added, was axing the compulsory licence fee and shifting the BBC over to a subscription system; forcing the Corporation to sell off many of its radio stations to the commercial sector; and cutting back on the number of TV channels and the scale of the BBC website.

The Times report also said that ministers would try and stop BBC stars and execs from pursuing fee-paying projects outside of their work for the broadcaster.

"It's an outrage that people who make their profile at public expense should seek to give themselves further financial rewards and personal gain", the source said. Which presumably means Johnson will be returning all the dosh he has received from the Telegraph newspaper writing nonsense columns while also taking tax-payer funded salaries as an MP and minister.

However, in an interview with Sky News, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said everyone should be "pretty cautious of some unattributed comments" about the future of the BBC. He added that while a consultation was under way looking into decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee, there were no "preordained" decisions on future funding models.

He went on: "The BBC is a much loved national treasure. We all want it to be a huge success. But everybody, including the BBC themselves, recognises that in a changing world the BBC itself will have to change. But it is simply not the case that there is some preordained decision about the future funding of the BBC out there. The charter runs to 2027 so there is long way to go on all these decisions".


Setlist: Top ten legal battles - Morrissey v the NME
It's the fifth in our series of special editions of Setlist looking at some of our favourite music industry legal battles of all time. CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke discuss the libel proceedings Morrissey launched against the NME in 2011, four years after the magazine published an article he claimed called him racist. But with an album and plenty of tour dates under his belt in the interim, could he claim that his reputation had been damaged? Setlist is sponsored by 7digital.

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Frightened Rabbit donate artworks to Australian bushfire relief
Frightened Rabbit have donated some pictures drawn by late frontman Scott Hutchison to an auction raising money to help Australia recover from the recent extreme bushfires that have ravaged parts of the country.

In an Instagram post the band wrote: "For our most fun festival run ever in 2014 as part of a ridiculously good line-up at Laneway Festival, Scott drew some pictures for the Australian shows. We have donated them to Creative Climate for an auction to raise money for the Australian Red Cross to help the fight against and recovery from the recent fires".

They added: "Australia is a country where we always felt so welcome and it is heartbreaking seeing what's happening to such a beautiful place".

You'll find more info about the wider Creative Climate auction here.


Elton John cuts short show due to ill health
Elton John was forced to cut short a show in New Zealand this weekend due to ill-health.

The musician went ahead with the Auckland date of his lengthy retirement tour despite being diagnosed with so called 'walking pneumonia'. That's a less severe type of pneumonia, but nevertheless results in cold like symptoms including a cough, chest pains, a sore throat and a headache.

John was visibly upset when he told his audience that he'd have to finish his set early having basically lost his voice. That audience was seemingly very understanding though, providing rapturous applause as he was helped off stage by his assistants.

He subsequently posted on Instagram: "I want to thank everyone who attended tonight's gig in Auckland. I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier today, but I was determined to give you the best show humanly possible. I played and sang my heart out, until my voice could sing no more. I'm disappointed, deeply upset and sorry. I gave it all I had".

He went on: "Thank you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight's performance. I am eternally grateful. Love, Elton xx".


Adele promises new album in September
Adele has said that her next album will be released in September. So that should help the British record industry's 2020 stats. Providing Sony don't fuck it up. Or Adele. She could fuck up herself, I suppose, and make a dud album. But I'm sure it'll all be fine.

We know about the September release plan because Adele herself apparently told guests at a friend's wedding over the weekend. She both officiated and performed at that wedding, providing plenty of opportunities to drop the sneaky album plug.

I like to think she did it just before they said "I do".


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
[email protected] (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights and CMU Pathways consultancy units and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
[email protected] (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU InsightsCMU Pathways and CMU:DIY.
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CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
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