A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Progress Is Derivative – What The!! – It’s Not Okay To Show Your Influences

Led Zeppelin became the biggest rock act in the world. They wrote songs based on their influences and some songs even sounded like the songs they were influenced by. From traveling the world, they were also exposed to exotic sounds and as technology got better, to new sounds.

Suddenly, thousands of wannabe guitarists and singers and drummers and bass players started to copy the licks and melodies and beats of the mighty Zep, forming an influential bond with the music, much in the same way, the members of Zep allowed other artists and songs to influence their music and melodies.

And Zeppelin wasn’t just an act with a geographical location. Their music was everywhere and there was no way that any teenager in the 70’s could escape the sounds of the Zep. Fast forward into the mid 80’s and suddenly a lot of bands on record deals had a lot of musical passages in their songs which paid homage to Zeppelin and in some cases too much homage. But Zeppelin never sued. These derivative versions of songs based on Zep cuts actually increased the value of the Zep cuts.

I’ve been listening to some songs recently, and the resemblance to other songs is a beautiful thing to hear. I know that these kinds of similarities are bringing forth a lot of court cases in pop music where a jury is asked to decide what is plagiarism and what isn’t.

In the Cult’s song “Peace Dog”, the middle part section has a similarity which comes from the “Stairway to Heaven” section before the solo section kicks in.

And on the topic of Led Zep, no one can forget Kingdom Come. “Get It On” basically lifted the whole “Kashmir” chord progression, and “What Love Can Be” is similar to “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “The Rain Song”. Regardless, Kingdom Come made me want to listen to Led Zeppelin.

Whitesnake broke through in the 80’s on the backs of MTV and a sound that rivalled the Sunset Strip, but when they started off on the blues rock journey, David Coverdale was channelling Led Zeppelin in “Trouble”. Coverdale even looked like Plant and sounded a lot like him on this cut and along with Sykes they brought the Led Zep sound, filling the void for a lot of fans of that music.

And this was okay, to show your influences and pay homage to styles.

But Copyright kept changing and evolving, because the corporations kept pushing for perpetual laws, as they knew that if they lost the copyrights to valuable recordings and songs, they would be losing money.

And by pushing for laws that lasted 70 years after the death of the creator, it also meant that the heirs of the creator would also benefit as a by-product. And the heirs are now taking from the hand that gave them the right, because if copyright terms stayed the same (28 year term (14 years with the option to renew for another 14) or if the artist died before the 28 years, on death), the majority of these court cases would not even exist, because the songs would be in the public domain.

But it was still okay to show your influences and pay homage, because the record labels and publishers still paid the heirs and the artists for their rights, as the labels made 300% more profit due to CD sales. But when the record labels stopped paying, as mp3 ripping and then digital downloads and then streaming took over, suddenly, there was a problem for the artists or the heirs/organisations who owned the copyrights. The payments ceased or became dramatically less.

So with a combination of Copyright law changes and a change to the distribution model, a new situation was created with lawsuit after lawsuit, because every artist or heirs of the artist feels that their work is so original and free from influence, that they must be compensated.

And suddenly it wasn’t okay to show your influences or pay homage. But all progress made in music was to build on what came before.

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

Copyright Just Keeps On Giving

Copyright is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Remember how copyright is meant to protect the creator so they have a monopoly on their work, with the aim to be paid if the work is popular. A lot of artists create works which are not popular and as such, their monopoly on their copyrights have no value.

However, in this case, the creator gets a stroke and other people allegedly forge the creators signature to transfer the rights to corporations who seem to benefit.

The Seinfield creators couldn’t even come up with this kind of a story. You can add elder abuse to the list for Copyright court cases.

The other big one is Ed Sheeren and his song, “Thinking Out Loud”. You see even if Sheeren did copy a Marvin Gaye song, the song should have been in the public domain anyway because both Gaye and his co-writer are dead. Then again the labels wanted these kind of perpetual laws many years ago and now they are getting bitten in the ass.

And companies like Structured Asset Sales, founded by an investment banker called David Pullman exist by purchasing a lot of copyrights from the children of these creators many years ago and now we have this stupidity of suing people.

And as usual, Copyright is already benefiting the corporations who create nothing and now it is benefiting the heirs of artists who create nothing, to sue the creators who create something.

But if you really want to know how the recording industry via the RIAA caused this mess, then read this article over at Techdirt.

Nothing is original especially in music which has mass appeal. No artist writes music without being exposed to music. Everyone is working from the same instruments and the same chords.

And the courts now cannot make a distinction between influence and theft. It’s set the precedent that all influence is theft. And the labels went with that for decades only to be sued over the last 10 years from heirs of dead artists.

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

Keep Your Eye On The Copyright

I haven’t done a copyright post for a few weeks, but the Google Alerts each day come up with some of the most WTF moments.

First up, is Eminem’s music publisher is suing Spotify because somehow Spotify is playing songs on its service without the proper permissions from one of the biggest artists.

Is Eight Mike serious?

I guess they are. Read the article here.

Eminem is streamed a lot on Spotify and somehow, Eight Mile (which is basically Eminem) reckons Spotify doesn’t have a license to have his songs on the service.

One of his songs” ‘Till I Collapse” has 702 million streams, so I wonder when or at what stage in those hundreds of million streams did the music publisher realise that Spotify didn’t have a license.

And there is so much talk about Eminem’s most popular track “Lose Yourself”, which to me is a rip off from “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. The Am to F transition over a droning pedal tone is not original or unique at all.

What seems to have happened here is that Eminem has seen how other artists have made their own special deals with Spotify and he’s thinking, “I want a piece of that pie”, so let’s drum up some BS rubbish to get Spotify to pay me more.

And while I am on the topic of payments, here is a win for the artist. Ennio Morricone, who composed some massive soundtracks back in the 70s won back the right to some of his songs from the label. But he had to go to court and to appeal to get his songs back.

Morricone gave up his Copyrights for a large upfront payment and low royalties in the late seventies, however his music became very popular from the 90’s onwards.

Metallica kept using his music as an intro to all of their concerts and suddenly the movies from the 70’s in which he composed music for, had a new lease of life in the 90’s with DVD releases and what not, but the composer got nothing.

The labels of course argued these are works for hire and that the artist is not entitled to his works.

And that large upfront payment the label would have made in the late 70’s would have been recouped tenfold over the last 30 years, while the artist would have had that just one payment.

And finally, we have the US Government siding with an artist on a copyright suit.

As people are aware, Plant and Page were accused and then cleared of copyright infringement in June 2016 over the opening bars of “Stairway To Heaven” and the song “Taurus” from the band Spirit.

The decision was appealed by the heirs and the judge agreed so it’s going back to court.

So should the Government pick a side here, especially when the whole mess of copyrights is because previous Governments kept on changing and extending the terms of Copyright to suit their back pockets.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Andy Warhol Was Right

As I was reading a Copyright story about a suit being brought against Lady Gaga for the song “Shallow”, I was also listening to “Andy Warhol Was Right” from Warrant.

And I couldn’t find any difference between the chords of these songs. And Warrant or the heirs of Jani Lane could have gone to court with Lady Gaga, but they haven’t.

And then you get a nobody like Steve Rosen who reckons that the song he created is so original and free from influence that someone must have copied him.

And he is claiming that his song “Almost” must have been copied. And he uploaded it to SoundCloud six years before “Shallow” was released, to prove that he was first.

Well, Warrant released “Andy Warhol Was Right” 20 years before Rosen’s “Almost”.

Andy Warhol said that every person will have their fifteen minutes of fame. I guess it’s the perfect song to sum up the range of copyright cases. People searching for their fifteen minutes.

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

Copyright And Hell

When I was writing this post I was listening to “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath, so “Copyright And Hell” felt right for a title. Because when you start to get into the Copyright World, it’s hell.

So here we go on another post about Copyright absurdity in the music business. If I start including the art world, the photography world and so forth, I’ll never be able to finish a post.

YouTube has finally changed its content claim system, which now puts onus on the copyright holder to prove which section of the video broke Copyright laws.

In case you didn’t know, Copyright claimants had it all in their favour and they used this power to censor YouTube videos.

If you want to know what kind of a mess it became, a video of bird calls and white noise had takedown notices sent to it. Other videos that used 5 seconds or less of music as part of a news story or comedy routine (which is fair use) got taken down.

And every one wants a piece of the pie.

Here’s a lawsuit from a Christian rapper who claims that Kate Perry stole his beat. Yep, people are claiming beats as copyrightable. I guess when you move into a pop world which is all about beats and vocals and no music, suddenly everyone who creates a beat (either using a live drummer or samples) has a case.

Even insurers are caught in the crossfire. A rapper took out an insurance policy which covered any liabilities related to their professional music career. The rapper was involved in a copyright dispute which incurred costs. He asked the insurance company to pay, and the insurance company said no, accusing the rapper of withholding important information when purchasing his insurance policy. And now the rapper is suing the insurance company for not paying. And both will have spent more dollars fighting each other than paying the bill.

But each time I do these posts, there is a story about Copyright which defies the logic of fantasy fiction.

The issue that Taylor Swift has with a competitor manager buying out her old label is old news today. But two weeks ago and for a 48 hour period it blew up in my Google Alert Copyright feed.

It just goes to show how quickly content becomes irrelevant in the internet age. So when you spend 12 months perfecting that album, remember that it could be hot for a week or two and then crickets.

So, an artist writes a song, records it and they release it as DIY and they own the publishing and the masters.

But if the artist signs a deal, writes a song, spends the money advanced to them to record it and then spends more money of the advance to release and market it, well the label owns the master recording for a very long time and the artist still has their publishing rights as the songwriter.

If the songs make no money, the label wouldn’t care much about them, but they still wouldn’t let go of the masters easily, just in case those songs make millions later.

However if the songs make millions, then the label has a good income stream and they would fight tooth and nail to keep those masters. Which is ridiculous, especially when Universal kept it secret that a fire at one of their storage facilities wiped out the Masters of some of the greatest albums. And the back up Masters Universal made got placed in the same facility, next to the original Masters. In other words, the labels don’t care about the Masters, because if they did, they wouldn’t have burned like that.

In relation to Big Machine (Swift’s Old label), 80% of its income came from Taylor Swift’s catalogue of songs. So it’s selling point to any buyer is that catalogue.

So what say does the creator have about who buys their most profitable work, the songs which made them popular?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney got a buyout back in the day before the owner of their songs ended up changing hands so many times that eventually Michael Jackson (realizing how the recording business works) purchased them.

Well if you are a creator and you sign a basic deal, you basically have no say whatsoever in who owns the master copyrights to your songs. However if you had the negotiating power, you can add these terms into your contracts. But in most cases it’s stacked against the artist.

The best advice is to build your brand so it’s strong enough to negotiate in your favour, so you own your masters and your publishing when the label comes calling.

But everyone is tempted by money and the patience and discipline is hard to maintain.

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

In Copyright We Invest

Music makes money because people form their own unique connection to a melody, a riff, a beat or a lyric. It’s personal and each connection is different. As a by product of this connection, we spend money on music. And when the ‘we’ in the equation is over 200 million people worldwide, you sort of understand the volume of dollars in play.

And the organizations who hold the rights to popular songs benefit a lot from those songs. Next time you hear “Eye Of The Tiger” from Survivor, there is a pension fund around the world which benefits.

You see the Michigan Pension Funds have invested in a music publishing company called Concord Music which is advertised as “owning” a lot of copyrighted works (like close to 400,000 songs). And when those songs it “owns” are played, Concord gets paid the royalties and the state pension fund benefits. 

But, isn’t Copyright meant to benefit the creator and give them an incentive to create more art. As the article states;

The state initially invested $25 million in Concord Music, and as the investment team got more comfortable, put a total of $1.1 billion into the company. The market value of their investment today is $1.8 billion, representing $700 million in profit.  

If the pension fund made $700 million in profit, how much profit would Concord Music make as the holders/keepers of the Copyright and then how much would go to the creators. Hell the creators can’t even get their rights back under their own control, even though the law states they can after 30 years.

And while all of these dollars from music are going to organizations who contribute nothing to music, CD Baby (another organization) is teaming up with Audible Magic (another organization) to scan the audio artists put up, against its library of 30 million tracks. If the uploaded song matches another track or it has “potentially” copyright-infringing content based on a computer algorithm, then CD Baby can decline to upload the file.

I wonder if CD Baby and Audible Magic are aware that music fans like songs that sound similar to other songs. I can’t even start describing how many songs have an Em, C, G, D chord progression, with melodies which sound similar, so I’m not sure why CD Baby is wasting money they earn from artists to pay an IT company which is looking to be purchased by these kinds of organizations.

And you know that Copyright is out of control when the law suppresses online music teachers, who in most cases teach people for free.

Queue up Warner Music Group, who seem hellbent to takedown everything online and then like all of the other labels, when they are served with termination notices from the artists, they go to court to fight these notices.

But, I am sure the labels would still be pushing the same lines of needing stronger copyright.

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

Fight The Copyright Powers That Be

I know this is a site about metal and rock but sometimes I need to go outside these styles.

Case in point.

Taylor Swift and her new record deal.

She left Big Machine Record’s and signed with Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group.

In her new deal, Swift owns her Copyright. In other words, those master recordings are hers.

Remember I’ve been saying those who own their own copyright will win in the end. Swift isn’t stupid, she has seen how much streaming services pay the “copyright holders” of recordings. So instead of selling her rights to the corporation for a large advance right now, she’s keeping her future songs in her bank.

But that’s assuming that her future songs will have the same impact and success as her Big Machine Records catalogue, which in this case all stays with Big Machine Records.

The big one for me is how the sale of Universal Music Group Spotify shares are distributed (provided the sale happens).

Basically the label was in a powerful negotiating position against the streaming service because it had amassed a shit load of copyrights over the years. It held the rights of songs other people had written even when those songs should have been in the public domain.

So if Universal sells its Spotify stake, the label must pay all of its artists a cut of the sale as non-recoupable. Universal’s stake in Spotify is estimated to be above $850 million.

Sony already sold its stake for $768 million and Warner Brothers sold some of their stake for $504 million. Both labels, cashed up, distributed monies to their artists differently. Sony artists got monies paid as non-recoupable and Warner Brothers artists got the monies applied to their recoupable balances.

The VOX article gives a great example of why this happens:

When an artist signs with a music label, the label advances the artist some of the money it thinks the artist will bring in. Essentially, if an artist signs a $3 million contract, the label is saying, “We’re pretty sure you’ll earn $3 million in royalties in your first year of sales, so here’s that money early.” But that means the artist doesn’t get any more royalty payments until they’ve earned back that $3 million.

Whenever an artist hasn’t yet earned back an advance, they have what’s called “an unrecouped balance” with their label. As far as the label’s accounting books are concerned, the artist owes the label money.

So when a label sells Spotify shares — which means a big payday — it’s got two possible ways of sharing that payday with its artists. It can either count the money toward any unrecouped balances, or it can choose not to.

Sony decided that when it shared its Spotify money with its artists, it was going to ignore any unrecouped balances and send them the money directly, without applying it to their advances. Warner Brothers did the opposite, and applied the Spotify money to artists’ unrecouped balances before passing any of it along. In practice, that meant Sony artists got a big paycheck out of the Spotify deal, but the only thing that a lot of Warner Brothers artists got was the promise that they were a little bit closer to seeing an actual royalty statement someday.

For Universal, Taylor Swift is forcing their hand to distribute the monies to all artists regardless if they owe the label money or not.

Swift’s spirit here is the rock and roll spirit.

So how did a country artists who crossed over into pop become a rock star in ethos by standing up to the powers that be?

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” was the war anthem for a whole new metal/rock generation. But what are the rockers and metal heads doing right now.

Metallica with their label went to court against their fans, while Swift is seen as an artist standing up for other artists against the Copyright monopolies and greed of the record labels.

Like her or not, she had issues with Spotify and Apple over payments, and then probably realized it’s her label that was the issue.

Regardless, in true rock and roll spirit she asked for her music to be removed and it was. Until she decided it was time to put it back on, at the price she believed it was worth.

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