Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Copyright Suits

Poor old Lana Del Rey. Radiohead are suing her for copyright infringement in her song “Get Free” which has a verse that sounds similar to “Creep” released in 1992. On her own Twitter page, Del Rey mentioned the below;

“I know my song wasn’t inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% publishing – I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court.”

Boy George had the best quote on his Twitter account. “Radiohead were sued by The Hollies and now Radiohead are suing Lana Del Rey. Utter Madness!”

For those who don’t know, when “Creep” came out in 1992, everyone said how similar it sounded to “The Air I Breathe” from The Hollies, released in 1972. So of course if a song shares a chord progression and melody with another song, the artist must be sued for copying.

So the song’s writers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued and received co-writing credits and a percentage of the song’s royalties. And now, Radiohead are doing the same.

But Radiohead claim they are not suing Lana Del Rey. All they want is a credit, and Radiohead’s Publisher disputes what Del Rey put on her Twitter account.

And how many copyright infringement court cases does “Uptown Funk” need to get through. The song came out in 2014. In 2015, members of The Gap Band were added as songwriters of “Uptown Funk” because The Gap Band had a song with the lyric “Oops! Upside Your Head” and so does “Uptown Funk”.

In 2016 it was certified Diamond for 10 million track sales in the U.S. Also in 2016, the funk band Collage sued claiming “Uptown Funk” was a copy from their 1983 song, “Young Girls”.

In 2017, Lastrada Entertainment, owner of the copyright of Roger Troutman and Zapp’s “More Bounce to the Ounce”, put papers in court claiming the first 48 seconds of “Uptown Funk” and the repetition of the word “doh” crossed the line into infringement.

Seriously, this is how messed up it all is. “Oops, upside your head” and “doh”, crosses the line into infringement. And suddenly the songwriters of “Uptown Funk” is starting to resemble a football roster.

And now at the end of December 2017 and going in to 2018, 1970s rap group The Sequence are suing Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson, claiming “Uptown Funk” is infringing on their 1979 single, “Funk You Up” and of course everyone wants credit and monetary damages.

The thing that is scary is that the people who sued Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson, believe that their words and music are totally original, created in a vacuum and free from any influence. I don’t think so.

And for even more stupidity, Taylor Swift has a lawsuit to contend with based on words and phrases.

The two songwriters Nathan Butler and Sean Hall believe they should be credited on Taylor Swifts song “Shake It Off” because a song they wrote in 2001 called “Playas Gon’ Play” has the phrase, “Playas, they gonna play/And haters, they gonna hate” which they believe Swift ripped off by having the phrase, “Players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,”

Wow. Just wow.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Public Domain 2018

In the US and Australia, we don’t get nothing entering into the Public Domain. The US from next year (unless Disney, the MPAA and the RIAA lobby really hard) will get works released in the 1920s entering the public domain. For Australia, I think we had works up to 1955 in our Public Domain and then the law got changed to be plus 70 years after death, so we will not get any works into our public domain until 2026. And these works will be from 1956.

And the Copyright industries are still pushing hard for longer copyright term extensions because once the person who created the works to be under copyright passes, it’s the corporation who benefits.

Duke University has a cool list of what could have entered the public domain on January 1, 2018.

Now you need to remember, these works would have been in the Public Domain, under the Copyright Law that existed until 1978.

Basically all works from 1961 would be in the Public Domain this year.

“Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1961 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2018, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2057. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different—thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.”

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

So what books would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22
  • J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  • William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine
  • Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach

“The Soft Machine” by Burroughs broke all Copyright rules back then anyway as it was created by using the “cut-up technique,” where existing text from books got cut up and rearranged to create a new work.

The above books are but a fraction of what would be entering the public domain on January 1. And if they did enter the Public Domain, people would be free to use these books for whatever they want. Re-write their own versions of the books, modernise them, make them into space operas, make a film from them, create a stage play from them, write a concept album from the stories and so forth.

Instead, people from the U.S will have to wait until 2057 to have these works enter the Public Domain.

What films from 1961 would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • West Side Story
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • The Parent Trap
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • The Misfits
  • The Hustler

“If these films were in the public domain, you could use them in your own works, just as they used earlier works in theirs. West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents) was free to draw upon Romeo and Juliet because Shakespeare’s work was in the public domain. And as Judge Richard Posner observed, if the underlying works were copyrighted, “Romeo and Juliet itself would have infringed Arthur Brooke’s The Tragicall Historye of Romeo and Juliet . . . which in turn would have infringed several earlier Romeo and Juliets, all of which probably would have infringed Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe.” One work inspires another. That is how the public domain feeds creativity.”

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

While popular films have a larger shelf life and commercial life, 90% of films made are forgotten. The true tragedy is that these films are disintegrating while preservation libraries wait for their copyright terms to expire.

What 1961 music would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Patsy Cline’s classic Crazy (Willie Nelson)
  • Stand By Me (Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
  • Runaway (Del Shannon, Max Crook)
  • Let’s Twist Again (Kal Mann, Dave Appell)
  • Surfin’ (Brian Wilson, Mike Love)
  • Crying (Roy Orbison, Joe Melson)

Again, it’s just a sample; however you would be able to use the above songs in your own songs and perform them without permission or a fee. The same way the above songs used other songs as inspiration, you would be free to use them as inspiration. Instead these musical works remain copyrighted until 2057.

Like West Side Story, some of the hit songs from 1961 borrowed from earlier works. Elvis Presley’s Surrender (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) was adapted from the 1902 Neapolitan ballad “Torna a Surriento” (Ernesto and Giambattista de Curtis), and his Can’t Help Falling in Love (Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss) is derived from the 1784 French song “Plaisir d’amour” (Jean-Paul-Égide Martini).

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

A U.S Congressional Research Service study showed just 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old still make money. So for the sake of a few films and few corporations who benefits, the Public, which is millions upon millions strong is robbed.

“Locking up culture does no one any good, except for a small number of copyright holders on the few works that are still economically viable.”

Techdirt

The Public Domain Review page as a Class of 2018 article. Check out the class that should in the Public Domain all around the world, not just in some countries like the UK and Canada.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Ride The Copyright Until Forever

I have a Google Alert set up for Copyright news stories and there is a lot of em, every single day.

In Australia/NZ, there has been coverage about Eminem’s copyright win against the New Zealand National Party for using a track called Eminem Esque in a political advertisement.

So the courts found a political party guilty of infringing Eminem’s copyright on “Lose Yourself” even though they paid a license fee for a “sound-alike” song called “Eminem Esque” to a production music company.

I’m curious to know why the production music company who created the track “Eminem Esque” escaped punishment.

Didn’t the production music company create a work and then fraudulently claim it as their own work?

Didn’t the production music company pocket a license fee for their fraudulent song?

So shouldn’t that production music company who wrote the song “Eminem Esque” be in trouble as well.

Instead the deviousness of the political party to seek out a song which sounds similar to “Lose Yourself”, so they could pay a cheaper licensing fee is why the case is in the courts.

While the rest of the world worries about job security, it’s so pleasing (loaded with sarcasm) to see the Copyright industries securing their future with the courts.

In the U.K, Copyright complaints take up most of the High Court’s time. The world is dealing with all forms of crime, but intellectual property crimes are more important. It’s probably why the Commonwealth Bank of Australia invested via a tax haven into the performing rights income of popular artists. Thank god for the Paradise Papers which sheds some light on how the elite avoid paying taxes?

Copyright disputes are not just in the courts. They are in the local bars, the coffee shops, the sandwich shop and any other mum and dad place which play music or might have live music at the venue. Basically, if music is played anywhere, the collection agencies want to be paid via a license. Don’t be surprised if the price of the car you purchase is loaded with a music licensing tax based on how many people could listen to music for free in the car. Because, you know, for a five seater care, five people in the car could be listening to music at any point it time. And don’t be surprised if your car service fee is loaded with a music tax.

In a lot of European countries, blank media like CD’s and portable drives and USB keys already carry a music tax in their price. The lobby groups argued hard that every blank CD, USB or Portable Drive sold would be used to store copyrighted material, so a tax must be paid. The Courts believed them; maybe got influence by them in other ways and a law was passed for these devices to carry a copyright tax.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Rock/Metal in the early 90s

In 1990, the biggest hit singles in relation to sales and chart placement where “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor, “Vogue” by Madonna, “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer and “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette.

In 1991, the biggest hit singles where “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams, “Black Or White” by Michael Jackson, “Joyride” by Roxette, “Wind Of Change” by Scorpions and “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

In 1992, the biggest hit singles where “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men, “Rhythm Is A Dancer” by Snap! and “To Be With You” by Mr Big. And of course let’s not forget “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.

By the early 90’s, I always believed that the remnants of the dominant 80’s rock movement was looking for ways to fit in and get back people’s attention. A lot of the acts signed towards the late 80’s had already splintered. Some got dropped and tried to get a new deal or they just left the recording business for good. And you had a lot of acts from the 80’s, who had platinum success and somehow were still together and looking for ways to survive in the 90’s. You also had the 70’s acts that re-invented themselves in the 80’s thanks to MTV and were looking to keep the momentum going well into the 90’s. Aerosmith and Kiss come to mind here.

However, rock and metal bands was a big album business. Because in 1987, after Bon Jovi’s and Europe’s explosion in 1986, the biggest hit singles in relation to sales and chart placement where, “La Bamba” by Los Lobos, “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me” by Whitney Houston, “It’s a Sin” by Pet Shop Boys and “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna. But Jovi was selling “Slippery” by the truckload.

In 1989, the biggest hit singles where “Like A Prayer” by Madonna, “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles, “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins, “The Look” by Roxette and “Love Shack” by The B-52s. So rock and metal music did do well commercially selling albums, but it paled significantly compared to the pop world.

Meanwhile, the recording business was in a race to the bottom with a winner take all mentality. Label after label started to get sucked into the vacuum of the larger label. Changes in personnel happened so fast that once an artist was signed, a few weeks or few months later, the people who signed the artist are no longer working at the label and the interest to develop and promote the artist disappeared. So the artist is in limbo. But the label is not letting the artist go, just in case the artist makes it with another label. It’s one of the big no-no’s in the recording industry.

A record company in the 80’s would get you on radio, music television, magazines and they would push the album hard enough to achieve platinum sales. If it didn’t “sell”, they would put you in the studio again, get you further in debt and if you failed again, you would be dropped. A record label in the 90’s would sign you and then drop you before you even released anything or had a chance to get your message across.

And in today’s world it’s getting even harder to get your message across. It’s weird, because everyone has smartphones and everyone is connected however this great digital era also means that the users are the product. Facebook makes billions selling your data. 

 

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Copyright Rants 

Copyright is all over the news again.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is speaking out against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), accusing it of “misstating copyright law” in a submission it made to the US Government around stream ripping sites. 

The RIAA states the popularity of stream ripping sites is high and the traffic volumes the sites get inflicts enormous damage to the US record industry. 

It doesn’t look like the balance sheets of the record labels show any damage whatsoever. 

The EFF states stream ripping has legal uses and stream ripping of music audio might be covered by fair use. The EFF also states the RIAA is asking the US government to apply copyright law the way RIAA wishes it to be applied and the US government needs to apply Copyright law as it’s written.

Then you have the music publishers seeking a new licence for mechanical (songwriter) royalties.

It’s no secret streaming companies are having issues paying royalties on songs. The reasons are many. Some obvious ones are because the data of who wrote the song is not available or if it’s available, it’s not entirely correct. Blame the record labels/publishers for having no duty of care to hold the correct information and when they provided this information to the streaming services, it’s been lacking. So they are happy to take the money from streaming services and then fail the artists they are meant to represent when it comes time to compensate them. Add to the mix how Copyright pre-1972 is driven by state laws and what you have is a litigation mess.

Streaming services are meant to pay both mechanical rights and the performing rights of a song. For the performing rights, there is a blanket licence paid to BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and GMR. For the mechanical rights, rates are set by laws and the streaming service has to get in touch with each individual copyright owner, to tell them a song they are involved with is being exploited and how they will pay the royalty rate to them. So suddenly, a technology that wants to bring music to the masses is tasked with FINDING all of the Copyright owners.  

Makes me wonder what the record labels and publishers have been doing for the last 70 years.

 Of course, a blanket licence would simplify things. This also means another government granted monopoly needs to be created. And from past experiences, the songwriters will still get pennies while this new entity will make billions.

In Canada, the record labels are asking the government to change the copyright laws, so they can “offset internet-driven losses”.

“Our goal was to point at two changes that will put millions of dollars into the pockets of music creators and people who invest in them.”

Graham Henderson – Music Canada’s President

If the music creators got paid on a 70 (to the artist) / 30 (to the label) split, it would put millions of dollars into the pockets of the music creators. However, the splits are more like 80 to 90% to the record label which means the music creators would get hundreds to the thousands, while the label gets millions.

Because if Copyright is there to reward creators then why are the Spinal Tap creators taking Vivendi/ Universal Music to the courts.

“Further compounding this fraud, improper expense deductions were made in Vivendi’s accounting to the creators, allegedly representing print, advertising and publicity expenses (undocumented) totalling over $3.3 million and a further $1 million in freight and other direct costs, more than half of which extraordinarily appears to fall some 20 years after the film’s release. Vivendi has also recently charged over $460k in ‘interest’ on production advances for a film released in 1984 and $165k in ‘litigation expenses’ to the creators’ account. Vivendi clearly has no intention of honouring its obligations to account honestly or to fairly compensate the Spinal Tap creators for their work”.

So let me get this straight.

Vivendi owns the film rights via some past acquisitions and Universal owns the soundtrack (music) rights. Both of them are making up accounting transactions so the creators of the Spinal Tap movie and the soundtrack are shown as being in debt to the studio/label. 

35 years later. 

They are still in debt to the studio/label.

All they guys want to do is take back their copyrights. Copyright law was written to allow the creator to take back their copyrights after 35 years. But the corporate entity which currently holds the copyright is not letting go.

Don’t you just love how Copyright is there to benefit the corporate entity?

The corporation is well compensated while the creator is alive and even more so once the creator is dead.

Yep copyright is so far gone it’s not even funny anymore.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Def Leppard And The Digital World

There is a Def Leppard story that did the rounds at the start of August. Almost four weeks later, it’s forgotten. That’s how fast people move on. If you are an artist and you spend 12 plus months on an album, just be mindful that it could be forgotten within a month, especially if it’s not part of a cultural movement or crossed over into the mainstream.

Anyway, back to the Def Leppard article.

No one can forget how big Def Leppard was from 1983 to 1994. Huge. Even their sound was huge with multi-layered vocals and instrumentation.

Like all the 80’s heroes, they had a bit of a back lash in the 90’s and maybe alienated some of their fan base with their 90’s sounding “Slang” album. But like all great bands from the 80’s they had a renaissance. I wrote a while back about how I believe piracy made Twisted Sister relevant again from 2000 and onwards and that viewpoint is still held for Def Leppard.

It’s actually even more relevant for Def Leppard, because the band refuses to have their 80’s output on digital services due to a payment dispute with the record label. The label (Universal) wants to pay the band a royalty based on a sale, whereas the band wants the licensing royalty payment which is much higher. The band even found it easier to create their own forgeries (re-recording some of their classics) easier than dealing with the record label.

This leads to an interesting position.

If you cannot purchase the Def Leppard 80’s output legally or stream it legally (apart from the few forgeries the band did themselves and the live releases), what should people do?

Well in this case, they obtain the music illegally (provided they haven’t purchased a legal physical copy)?

In other posts, I have mentioned how bands survive by replenishing their fan base with younger fans. It’s the reason why bands like Ratt and Dokken haven’t really gone well in the 2000’s compared to Crue, Leppard and Jovi. Well, it turns out that Def Leppard is doing a pretty fantastic job at doing just that.

“In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fuelled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”
Vivian Campbell

While the band is on the road, it works and their popularity is as big (maybe even bigger) as their 80’s popularity. The band is also a heavy user of YouTube, even though the site is the punching bag for the RIAA and the record labels. As YouTube recently said, they pay $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S. If it’s true or not, we will never know until we see proper financials from both YouTube and the labels. But if it is true, Def Leppard would be getting that cut themselves, and I haven’t heard of them taking YouTube to task over their payments. Even Metallica who controls their own copyrights don’t take YouTube to task. Both bands are heavy users of the platform, constantly putting up new content. But if you believe the RIAA and the record labels, YouTube is evil and due to its high volume of users, the payments are not enough.

But in Def Leppard’s case, you could say that YouTube is seen as a more likely driver of new fans than pirate torrent sites. Because all the research shows that YouTube has a user base made up of young people. They are also fostering a true connection with fans again which for a lot of artists who made it in the 80’s is a frightening prospect.

This model will not work for every band. In this case, each creator needs to look at the problem and find a solution that works for them. Eventually Def Leppard’s music will come to streaming services as the band will not be able to tour. But it will be on their terms and their terms only. Like AC/DC and Metallica. They signed their own streaming deal themselves and it’s got nothing to do with the record label.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Cash From The Old

I read on a blog post by Seth Godin that “Book publishers make more than 90% of their profit from books they published more than six months ago. And yet they put 2% of their effort into promoting and selling those books.”

So what do you reckon the numbers would be for music?

Would it be fair to say that 90% of the income that the record labels get comes from music that came out six months ago compared to what is new.

The majority of people don’t normally purchase creative content all the time but when they do, they buy what is popular. It’s the reason why each year the “Black” album from Metallica sells. It’s the reason why “IV” from Led Zeppelin still sells. It’s the reason why “No More Tears” still sells. It’s the reason why “Slippery When Wet” still sells.

Then you have artists putting out new stuff.

Back in the MTV era, the new stuff sold well on the first week. It was marketed heavy by the record labels, all on the budget of the artist. The record labels controlled the distribution channel. So many other industries came to be because of this distribution chain. Vinyl manufacturing plants, cassette manufacturing plants, CD manufacturing plants, video clip services, record shops, delivery drivers, image consultants and so forth.

However we are living in a different era, one controlled by consumers. And the new stuff released by artists in 2017 is originally purchased by a smaller hard-core super fan group. Much like to 70’s. Then in time as word spreads, people will check out the release and keep it in the conversation. Much like the 70’s. You know that person that doesn’t purchase much creative content a year, well there is a pretty high chance they will purchased something that is popular when they decide to purchase. Like Metallica’s “Hardwired” or “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” by Volbeat.

Actually Volbeat is one of those stories that you can write forever about. Death metal musicians in the 90’s. By 2000 they branched out into the Volbeat sound. By 2010 they had an opening slot on the “Death Magnetic” tour and U.S success came. “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” was released June 3, 2016. It’s still in the conversation with physical sales, streams and radio spins. Even their “Beyond Hell, Above Heaven” album released April 24, 2012 was certified Gold in the U.S on March 22, 2016. Yep, 4 years after its release.

“Inhuman Rampage” by Dragonforce was released on January 9, 2006. On July 21, 2017 it was certified Gold in the U.S. Not bad for a power metal act and it happened 11 years after the album was released. “Come What(Ever) May” by Stone Sour was released on August 1, 2006 and on July 21,2017 it was certified Platinum in the U.S. Yep, 11 years after the album was released. “I Get Off” is a single from Halestorm. It was released on February 25, 2009 and 8 years later on July 12, 2017, the single was certified Gold in the U.S.

The one song I want to bring to your attention just to show how out of touch and behind the RIAA and their certification systems are is “Human”.

“Human” is a song by Rag’n’Bone Man. It was released on July 15, 2016. On July 7, 2017, a year after its release it was given a Gold certification for 0.5 million certified units by the RIAA. On Spotify, the song has 206,745,038 million streams. It was in Spotify’s Top 50 hits for six months before radio and the labels and the normal PR label press outlets caught wind of it. To put into context, Metallica’s most streamed song on Spotify is “Enter Sandman” with 166,178,415 streams.

What’s the above telling us?

Recognition doesn’t come on day one or week one or month one or year one. It percolates year after year after year until it boils to the surface. Will you be around to capitalise and monetise? Maybe, but I can guarantee one entity which will be around to monetise. The record label and the publishers. The labels/publishers via their lobby groups like the RIAA have got Copyright wrapped around their little finger so tight and they have the power/money to influence the copyright conversation even more in their favour.

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