It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on the insanity which Copyright has become.
Over at YouTube, the copyright holders like Warner Music Group (WMG) are sending takedown notices for a super popular video called “The Fans Deserve Better” which has been allowed to operate since July 2014. In this takedown, WMG even blocked it, so nobody could watch it.
All the video shows is an 11 second clip of Iron Maiden’s “The Number Of The Beast” to demonstrate what a great vocalist is and then 11 seconds of an Asking Alexandria song to demonstrate how bad a vocalist can be.
In my own backyard of Australia, the music labels and movie studios pumped up the political parties with lots of cash to get legislation passed and site blocking is a real thing in the land of Oz.
This time around, the music labels Sony, Universal, and Warner, with assistance from Music Rights Australia and the Australasian Performing Right Association, are asking Australia’s Federal Court to approve their demand for the ISP’s to block stream-ripping sites.
So the ISP’s need to be the Copyright Police for the labels, because they haven’t been able to figure out the stream ripping market, and why people stream rip and what relationship to music these stream rippers have.
Do they attend concerts? Do they buy any recorded music? Do they just want to have content? What do they do with the content?
I know people who have terabytes of books, movies and music on hard drives which they’ve never listened too, watched nor read and they will never have the time to devote to all of that culture. But they want to say they have it. And it makes them feel good. There are articles stating the same about people who hoard digitally.
Is site blocking really needed as the labels and studios profit and loss statements are looking pretty healthy.
Did you know that recorded revenue earned by the labels keeps going up and up and up?
Four years straight.
And of course streaming revenue was the star of the show, which offset the decline in physical and download revenues.
Along the way to these increases in revenue, something magical happened.
The record labels for a long time complained about Latin And South America being a haven of piracy activity. In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned how metal and rock bands continually tour these areas to massive crowds and the bands haven’t sold any recorded product in these areas. Basically the people were starved of legal offerings and resorted to bootleg recordings and then piracy.
Finally Spotify is allowed to open their servers for the people of these countries to stream and these areas along with Australia (which the labels class as another haven for piracy and needs more court blocks) have been the fastest growing markets.
The labels didn’t create this new income stream, the techies did, but hey, the techies are the bad guys here. And isn’t it funny when people are given the choice to stream at a super low price, the majority would pay for that. So instead of focusing on 90% of the music fans who do the right thing, the labels and their lobby groups believe the 10% who obtain music illegally is worth spending money on and to increase the price the other 90% pay for legal options.
Speaking of the techies as the bad guys, you might have noticed headlines like “Spotify Sues Songwriters To Pay Less Royalties”. It’s all B.S. but with the way the internet spreads news and with people looking for someone to blame at their own failings in connecting with their fan base, these headlines spread like crazy.
What is happening is that Spotify and Amazon have taken issue with the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (which should never ever exist), raising the royalty rate amount that Spotify needs to pay to the Copyright Holders. So instead of paying 10% of their revenue, they need to pay 15% of their revenue.
Spotify is not suing songwriters at all. What they and other streaming services are proposing is a different payment model.
And then you have Apple, which went from an innovative leader to meh, coming out in support of these increases, because hey, since streaming is a small portion of their bottom line, it can only help them out if their competitors close shop.
And the solution to make users pay more, will get some people paying more, and the rest will return to torrents and stream ripping.
But, what everyone seems to forget is that the money in music is due to the relationship a customer has with the music and the artist. They determine the price they are willing to pay.
Here are a few articles on the Spotify vs The Royalty Board to form your own viewpoints on.
Rolling Stone article which summarises the facts without any bias.
Music Business Worldwide article that has Sony and Warner Music reps urging composes to fight Spotify’s royalty rate challenge.
A Vulture article which explains the facts even better than the Rolling Stone article.
Here is the rock and metal worlds response via Loudwire.
And let’s not forget the reapers hand hovering over “Blurred Lines”, the song written by Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams, which had no infringing riffs or licks, but a funk feel similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”.
In this case, a homage to funk led to $5 million being paid to the heirs of Marvin Gaye plus 50% of all future earnings. And the worrisome part is, these kind of cases put the idea out there that Marvin Gaye was so original and free from influence and that his songs did not pay homage to any artist or style.
From a rock perspective it’s the same as Led Zep suing Greta Van Fleet over a song of theirs for having a rock feel similar to a Led Zep song.
Ed Sheeran is also going to court to defend “Thinking Out Loud,” from the heirs of Ed Townsend who co-wrote, Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
A few years before that, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph” had a few extra writers added to it (out of court) as well. In this case, the writers of a song called “Amazing” believed their song is so original and free from influence that other artists couldn’t resist copying it (that’s sarcasm by the way). The fact that Sheeran’s song went huge and their amazing song didn’t, meant a writ needed to be served.
In relation to “Thinking Out Loud”, it looks like another out of court settlement is on the cards and an extra songwriter who is dead, will be added to the credits of an Ed Sheeran song. Yep, Copyright was meant to expire when a person died, but not in this lifetime. They still get songwriting credits.
And these out of court settlements keep coming.
The most ridiculous one out of them all was where a person called Alisa Apps, took Universal Music Group and artist John Newman to court, because Newman’s song had the lyrics “I need to know now” in it, which is the same lyric line as her song.
Are you serious on this one?
Lucky the Justice system actually came to the party on this one and said you can’t copyright generic words or short phrases.
And finally, here is copyright as a shakedown tool, as collection agencies sue bars, nightclubs, restaurants and any place playing music over licensing fees.
In this case, the place in question is meant to owe BMI (a collection agency for 900K plus artists) $6,850. BMI alleges the organisation played music without a proper public license in place. I’m just curious for which songwriter is BMI collecting these monies for. Because when a collection agency sends employees to visit establishments and log the music they hear being played, it sure sounds like a shakedown than a warning or to educate business owners.
P.S. COPYRIGHT AS AN ENFORCEMENT TOOL
One last special Copyright case is how the RIAA, and the labels are suing an ISP for the fast speeds it offers because those high speeds foster piracy and it wouldn’t kick off the people responsible because it might damage their brand. I kid you not. I’m waiting for the day, when the makers of knives are sued because the sharpness of their knives foster greater damage to human organs when someone plunges it through skin in a fit of rage.
P.S.S. – COPYRIGHT AS AN ENFORCEMENT TOOL
People who create a tool that connects to the TV and internet and allows people to watch content they didn’t pay for are jailed for a total of 17 years. I’m waiting for the day when gun makers (a tool created by people) get jailed for 17 plus years, when their tools are used to take the life of people who didn’t want to die.
P.S.S.S – COPYRIGHT AS A MONOPOLY
And one of the outcomes of the Music Modernization Act was that a new music collective would be created for streaming royalties and suddenly we have groups fighting over who should be in it and lots of money going into different people’s hands to approve.
I thinks that’s all I have patience for. Till next time.