|MONDAY 26 JUNE 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A stack of MPs have joined with artists Billy Bragg, Norman Cook and Metronomy in calling for the Home Office to change its position regarding the testing of drugs on festival sites around the UK. The MPs and music-makers say that the government department's current position is "short-sighted and dangerous".... [READ MORE]|
MPs and musicians urge Home Office to change position on festival drug testing
A number of festivals now have drug testing operations at their events. Experts test drugs confiscated by police and security to assess whether there are any substances in circulation that could pose heightened risk to those consuming them. That information is then pushed out through social media, and provided to police and on-site medical personnel.
The Parklife festival in Manchester has undertaken such work for a number of years, working with drug testing charity The Loop and in liaison with Greater Manchester Police.
However, that couldn't happen this year after the Home Office told organisers that a specific licence was required to test any drugs on site. Getting a licence increases costs and can take three months, which means - with that requirement now in force - many festivals, especially smaller events, will not be able to do any drug testing this year.
The letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman - organised by Sam Tarry MP and also signed by Parklife co-founder Sacha Lord - states: "Regardless of your position or personal beliefs on drug usage, the simple fact remains that people will take them, and especially so at festivals this summer. The decision to prevent this testing from going ahead is short-sighted and dangerous. We urge you to reconsider this decision and allow this vital testing to continue".
For its part, the Home Office says that it hasn't actually changed its position, and that licences have always been required to do on site drug testing at festivals. It remains to be seen if, under pressure from MPs, it now agrees to be more flexible to ensure drug testing can still go ahead at festivals this summer.
Songwriter calls for review of US mechanical rights compulsory licence
The existence of that compulsory licence means that songwriters and music publishers are obliged to allow the copying of their songs - whether onto physical discs or through digital delivery - at rates set by the panel of judges known as the Copyright Royalty Board.
Recent CRB rulings on what those rates should be have proven to be controversial, with Johnson actively participating in those proceedings.
When it comes to the royalties due on CDs and vinyl, the major publishers were criticised for too readily accepting the status quo, given the biggest customers of mechanical rights in that domain are their sister record companies. In the end, in no small part thanks to Johnson, the status quo was not accepting and the rates were increased.
When it comes to digital, the songwriter community and the music publishers, including the majors, were much more closely aligned after many of the streaming services tried to get the rates they have to pay reduced.
The CRB reviews the rates every five years. And at one point the streaming services were both appealing a previous rate increase while also campaigning for a deduction as part of the next review.
That rate increase - which was due to come into effect in a staggered fashion between 2018 and 2022 - was ultimately upheld last year, although the CRB only actually issued its final determination on the matter last week.
Meanwhile, the writers, publishers and streaming services reached a deal regarding the rates for 2023 to 2027, although that also led to some concerns around transparency for the writers.
But, here's the big question: why is there a compulsory licence covering the mechanical copying of songs at all? Why can't music publishers and collecting societies negotiate fair commercial rates with the streaming services on the open market, like they do in most other countries?
And why can't the rate due on discs be negotiated commercially rather than in a court, even if a collective licensing approach would still likely be adopted?
"The century old compulsory licence is no longer an incentive or profitable for all US songwriters and music publishers", Johnson writes in his recent letter to the Copyright Office, published last week by Digital Music News. And, he adds, "there are many problems arising from it's use, and misuse, not intended by Congress, the Constitution, [or] copyright law".
As with many of the quirks of American copyright law, the compulsory licence originated in a very different era. "The 1909 compulsory licence was designed for a different time, for the local sale of piano rolls", Johnson then notes, the concept of mechanical rights having begun with the sale of player pianos.
It could not have been anticipated, he goes on, that that compulsory licence would ultimately be "used billions of times, by the largest trillion-dollar corporations in the history of the world, with teams of attorneys".
Johnson acknowledges the past reviews of the compulsory licence undertaken by the Copyright Office, buts adds: "Unfortunately, those studies are now outdated and considering the vast changes in the delivery of musical works and sound recordings, experts now think a new study would be very helpful".
Indeed, he explains, such a review would help Congress better assess the impact of the copyright reforms introduced by the 2018 Music Modernization Act and the MLC collecting society that was subsequently established, as well as allowing law-makers to "make an informed decision on full repeal or full reform".
We await to see how the Copyright Office responds.
UK Music sets out priorities for regulation of music-making AI
In an opinon piece published by Music Week and on the UK Music website, Njoku-Goodwin declared: "We must ensure that AI technologies are developed in a way that supports human culture and artistry, rather than eroding our creative endeavours and threatening the deeply personal creations we all cherish - whether that's music, literature or other great works of art".
Law-makers across the world are considering how to best regulate rapidly evolving AI technologies, including generative AI technologies. The latter pose lots of questions around copyright law, but also personality and publicity rights, plus there is increasingly lots of talk about the need for more transparency.
The music industry is adamant that if a generative AI tool is trained by crunching data connected to existing songs and recordings - so, for example, the AI crunches digital music files - then that activity needs to be licensed by whoever owns the copyright in that existing music. Which would give the copyright owner the right to veto any such training and also make some money.
However, some companies developing generative AI tools argue that they can make use of copyright protected content for training purposes without getting permission, because that activity is covered by a so called copyright exception. Or at least it is in whichever country they have set up their servers to crunch the data.
That argument is still to be properly tested. Though at one point the UK government said it would actually add a new copyright exception into British copyright law for data and text mining, which would specifically cover a lot of that activity. That controversial proposal was dropped, though copyright owners are still seeking clear confirmation from the UK government that the training of AI technologies with copyright material must be licensed.
Of course, the AI-generated music that has got the most attention of late is that which imitates the voices of famous artists. Which poses the additional question: can an artist protect their voice, over and above controlling the training of any AI with their recordings through copyright? It's possible that can be done through legal concepts like personality rights or publicity rights. Though that is still to be properly tested. Plus that concept doesn't currently exist in UK law.
The other big talking point around generative AI is the need for more transparency. It's argued that generative AI platforms - and users of those platforms - should be more transparent about when AI has been used in the creative process, especially if a piece of content is predominantly or completely AI generated. And there should be more transparency about what content was used to train that AI, both generally and specifically in relation to each piece of content.
All these things are now being debated by law-makers in multiple jurisdictions who are looking into how to regulate AI in general and generative AI in particular. In the European Union, an AI Act is now in its final stages of negotiation.
That legislation was originally focused on AI technologies which EU law-makers reckon pose an "unacceptable risk", such as those that "deploy subliminal or purposefully manipulative techniques, exploit people's vulnerabilities or are used for social scoring". However, with generative AI becoming such a big talking point while those proposals were being debated, the final draft of the AI Act includes some regulation of that too.
There has been plenty of debate around regulating AI and generative AI in the US as well - with a recent Congressional hearing specifically considering the copyright questions. And China's internet regulator has also set out some new draft measures.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the government is currently drafting its own code of practice that will provide guidance for AI firms using copyright protected works. It's in relation to that draft code that Njoku-Goodwin published his opinion piece last week. "It's imperative that that this code of practice promotes the highest ethical standards of copyright and intellectual property protection, and we protect the property rights of creators", he wrote.
In terms of the music industry's priorities, Njoku-Goodwin stated: "Government must put copyright and IP protection at the heart of its approach to AI, and commit categorically to there being no new copyright exceptions".
"Secondly", he went on, "there must be an obligation for adequate record keeping. We need to know exactly what content an AI has been trained on".
"The same applies across the generative AI field. While it's exciting to play around with large language models like Chat GPT, don't forget that we have no idea what the inputs for these technologies were. We don't know what trained them or whether the creators' consented or what biases may have been introduced unwittingly".
"Thirdly, labelling. It's important to know whether something has been generated by a computer, or if it is a real human product. This is true not just for music, but for all manner of content. Advertisements, political campaign materials, reports, advice. This helps not only the creator, but also protects the consumer".
And finally, he said, "we must rapidly look at the issues around the protection of personality rights, and ensure that there are adequate protections in order to keep pace with the rapid development of AI in the creative space".
"Other countries are ahead of us", the UK Music boss then noted. "It would be quite something if we were to end up in a situation where the UK's regulatory framework ends up less transparent and with weaker protections for copyright and property rights than the People's Republic Of China".
"If our standards are set at a low bar then this would undermine both the AI sector and creative industries in the long-term. The AI industry can only benefit from high standards as it needs a successful creative sector to generate 'new' products".
Concluding, Njoku-Goodwin wrote: "There is much to be excited about and just as much to be rightly concerned given the ferocious pace of AI development. It's absolutely critical we enshrine and uphold these key principles as we work our way through these issues".
Sony Music appoints former BPI boss to senior AI role
In an internal memo confirming the appointment, the major's COO Kevin Kelleher wrote: "Artificial intelligence has great significance for the future of the music industry and, as a result, more focused attention on it is required. Accordingly, we are delighted to share that Geoff Taylor will be joining us as our new Executive Vice President, Artificial Intelligence".
Taylor will work with Kelleher and Sony Music's digital and legal teams to "align and help coordinate the work of every part of the business that touches AI".
Referencing Taylor's past trade body work, Kelleher continued: "Most recently, from 2007 to 2022, Geoff was the Chief Executive of the BPI, our UK trade body for recorded music, where he led the fight against piracy and fraud and advocated for the strategic importance of recorded music to jobs, investment and maintaining the UK's global competitiveness".
"Prior to joining the BPI", he added, "Geoff was General Counsel and Executive Vice-President at our global recorded music trade body, the IFPI, from 2005 to 2007".
"In these roles", the memo went on, "Geoff has worked with our company for several years and I am delighted he is joining to help us successfully navigate a key moment in the history of the music industry".
NTIA responds to BBC report on the abuse experienced by door staff at clubs and venues
In the report, called 'Abuse On The Door', the BBC says that its conversations with door supervisors around the UK revealed "shocking incidents of physical assaults, racism and sexual harassment".
Commenting on that report, NTIA boss Michael Kill CEO says: "Door security staff face an unprecedented level of verbal and physical abuse every night that they work, according to the recent BBC survey, something which no staff member deserves to face within the workplace at any time".
"These individuals have a very difficult job to do, in many respects a thankless task to many, but an important one none the less as they work tirelessly to keep members of the public safe", he adds. "We are asking government to consider changing legislation to protect security workers against violence within the workplace with tougher sentencing".
"These licensed, vetted and trained workers must be given the same support and protection afforded to emergency service workers since 2018", he concludes.
The NTIA is backed by the UK Door Security Association in calling for the government to consider such changes to the law.
US Senators again criticise TikTok after distinction made between user-data and creator-data
Concern has been repeatedly expressed within political circles in multiple countries that the Chinese government has access to TikTok user-data via the app's China-based owner Bytedance.
For its part, TikTok has repeatedly denied there are any data security issues on its platform, including in statements made to Congress via letters sent to law-makers and during hearings before Congressional committees.
In statements of that kind, TikTok always insists that user-data relating its American users is stored on servers based in the US and Singapore.
It then usually points to Project Texas, the name for work being done as a result of ongoing talks between TikTok and US government, work that was first initiated when former President Donald Trump tried to ban Americans from using the video-sharing app.
But in a recent letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, Blumenthal and Blackburn cited recent media reports that suggested that at least some US user-data was, in fact, accessible from or even stored in China.
One recent article in Forbes, they noted, claimed that "for several years, TikTok has stored the sensitive financial information of US TikTok creators in China, including social security numbers and tax information".
The Senators wanted to know how that could be, given that TikTok execs have reassured Congress that all American user-data is stored in the US and Singapore. But, TikTok explained in a response letter published by the Senators last week, that's user-data not creator-data.
As part of Project Texas, that letter explains, it has been agreed that different rules may apply to "public data, business metrics, interoperability data, and certain creator-data, if a creator voluntarily signs up for a commercial programme to be supported by TikTok in reaching new audiences and monetising content".
TikTok then says in its response that it "believes that the Forbes article cited in your letter was referencing certain creator-data such as signed contracts and related documents for US creators who enter into a commercial relationship with TikTok - information that is collected outside of the standard app experience".
With that technicality employed, TikTok then insists that all the information previously provided to Congress is accurate. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, neither Blumenthal nor Blackburn are particularly happy with that response.
"We are extremely concerned that TikTok is storing Americans' personal, private data within the reach of the Chinese government", they said in a statement last week.
"TikTok executives appear to have repeatedly and intentionally misled Congress when answering how the company secures and protects the data of Americans. TikTok's response makes it crystal clear that Americans' data is still exposed to Beijing's draconian and pervasive spying regimes - despite the claims of TikTok's misleading public relations campaign".
Greatest Hits Radio airs Elton John top ten ahead of Glastonbury performance
Rick Astley was awesome, the BBC sign language interpreters were brilliant, Lewis Capaldi's audience were magnificent, the sound levels on the Beeb's broadcasts were inconsistent, Foo Fighters were the unsurprising surprise booking, and the headline sets from Arctic Monkeys and Guns N Roses were, well, let's just say they divided opinion.
Elton John's headline performance last night, however, was more of a general crowd pleaser. And, ahead of what was in theory John's final ever UK live show yesterday, Greatest Hits Radio teamed up with record industry collecting society PPL to compile and air the snappily titled 'Top Ten Most Played Elton John Songs In The 21st Century'.
Which was, well, the top ten most played Elton John songs in the 21st Century. As in, most played on radio and telly in the UK. According to PPL data.
"Since the start of the century the Rocket Man has generated over 600 million seconds of UK airplay on radio and TV", the PPL data dudes revealed.
"In other words, if all of those plays had been consecutive they would equate to Elton being continuously on air for more than nineteen years - or around 80% of the century so far. And, between them, our top ten tracks account for almost 60% of Elton's total air time, with the number one song alone - one of his greatest hits - making up almost 10%".
So what were those top ten tracks? Well, you'll have to read a quote from Mark Goodier - who ran through the special chart on Greatest Hits Radio - before I tell you that. And a quote from PPL's Head Of Repertoire Dave Goggin. Because you know the rules, quotes first, charts later. Both spoke before the airing of their top ten and John's Glastonbury set.
Goodier: "Over five decades of greatest hits, a Glastonbury headliner in 2023 and selling out stadiums across the globe on his farewell tour. Few singer-songwriters - of this or any age - can compete with the musical legacy of Elton Hercules John. The most played top ten showcases that legacy in the best way possible with songs that are still garnering an incredible amount of listening decades after their first release".
Goggin: "Millions of fans around the world continue to listen to and enjoy the wonderful music recorded and performed by Elton John - a truly iconic artist. As festival-goers and fans at home prepare for what could be his final UK show, we hope our ultimate Elton top ten chart will whet their appetite and get them in the mood for what will surely be a highlight performance from this year's event".
And now here's the top ten...