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

The Copyright Empire

I have a Google Alert set up for Copyright and everyday there are ten or more stories on Copyright issues, ranging from Ed Sheeran settling with artists over a copyright suit to a song of his which has become super popular, to Led Zep asking a judge to throw away the Stairway appeal, to local restaurants playing music and asked to pay for a Copyright licence, to parents breaking the Copyright law when they film their kids dance to music, to ISPs being asked to block websites, to Google being told to remove search links to certain sites, to people being charged with piracy and to whatever else the Copyright Industry wants.

If the above doesn’t tell you who copyright benefits, then reread it again.

You see when Governments get involved and pass laws around copyright, there will always be an entity or corporation that contributes no music to the public that will benefit from this monopoly.

The new emperor in town is the Music Modernization Act (MMA). If it will deliver more streaming revenue to music publishers and songwriters as stated, remains to be seen, however for it to happen their has to be a price contraction somewhere else in the recording business market or a price increase passed on to the customer.

As the Billboard article states;

Apple Music has already negotiated to pay a smaller share of its revenue to labels in order to offset undetermined increases to publishers, targeting a rate of 55 percent to labels.

So in this case, Apple will pay less to the labels and more to the publishers.

As the article further states;

Publishers, which have been getting 12 percent of Apple Music’s revenue, could therefore see their slice of Apple’s streaming revenue grow to 15 percent.

But …..

Those three big publishers are owned by the three largest record labels. So for those publishers to get more in their profit and loss means their owners will get less. It’s all the fucking same, isn’t it. The money is still within the creative accounting teams.

So how much more will songwriters really get?

It’s still a great mystery.

And these amounts the publishers get could be greater in the future because hey, judges are allowed to decide the rate regardless of the economic market. So lobby hard and get the rates you need.

Remember folks, Spotify is yet to make a profit and somehow they have higher rates to contend with. So Spotify has two options, keep their monthly prices the same and negotiate with the labels for a reduction in their rate (like Apple) or increase their monthly prices to cover these extra costs but risk losing customers.

But art is a relationship between artist and fan. And somehow these two parties cease to exist when corporations control the copyright monopoly. If the artist has no fans, there is no money to be made.

Another thing the Billboard article states is;

The MMA also mandates that unmatched royalties be divvied up after three years to publishers according to their market share, which could produce close to $100 million in new annual revenue.

Are you fucking serious?

This is revenue earned by the corporate copyright holder because they cannot find the original writers due to death, bad book keeping on behalf of the label and publisher and what not.

So instead of these songs being in the public domain as they should be, corporations are forming new income streams. All in the name of Copyright. All in the name of intellectual property.

What a fucking joke.

If you want to read about why we should stop using the term “intellectual property” around Copyright, then give this story from Aeon a read.

Because the recording and movie industries have tricked everyone into believing that artistic expression of an idea is like real property.

Remember how these industries linked downloading a song or a movie to stealing a car. It never was the same thing, but people fell for it. Even artists fell for the “stealing” part.

The article further states about how the limited copyright terms have sort of become forever terms;

Copyrights, intended to be temporally limited, have grown nearly without limit. Congress drastically increased copyright terms in 1976, and again in 1998. The latter piece of legislation was the infamous Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, passed thanks in no small measure to the Disney Corporation lobbying to retain exclusive hold over its ‘property’, Mickey Mouse, and not to allow it to pass into the public domain. Elsewhere, users of ‘intellectual property’ suggest that protections be passed on to a so-called heir: so that the notion of inheritance has been carried over from real estate and now, ‘copyright trusts’ battle for the intellectual property rights of the long-dead original holder, placing onerous restrictions on those who would seek to make derivative works based on material that should long ago have passed into the public domain. But if that rights-holder is not present, then the original motivation for that legal protection – the encouragement of the further production of artistic works by the artist – is clearly not met.

Damn right.

If the artist is not around then their creations should be in the public domain like the way it was up until 1976.

Basically there should be no Copyright transfer to the heirs as Copyright was created to encourage an artist to produce more works for a limited time monopoly. Not for heirs to sue other artists and use it as a pension fund.

I guess their building, empire, empire.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Music, Unsung Heroes

Steve Vai and Ozzmosis

Steve Vai was confirmed to do an album and tour with Ozzy until Sharon Osbourne canned it. This is what Bob Daisley had to say on the matter in an interview on the Classic Rock Revisited website;

“In 1994 Ozzy got hooked up with Steve Vai. Steve came in and played guitar and co-wrote everything with Ozzy.

They were looking for bass players who sounded like me. Steve Vai said, “Ozzy, why don’t you just get Bob Daisley to come in?” So they got me in.

We started in Steve’s studio in LA and then we went to CBS studios to write and rehearse but it wasn’t really working out between Ozzy and Steve.

Instead of firing him and doing it the right way and saying, “Steve, it is not working out” Sharon came in and said, “Sony has pulled the plug on the project. There is no album to be done.”

I thought what a load of bullsit. Deen Castranova said to me, “Oh fuck” and he got all depressed. I said, “Deen, don’t worry. We will hear from them in a couple of days. This is just a ploy to get rid of Steve Vai.”

The phone call came a couple of days later and that is when they started talking to Zakk. They kept me hanging around for months as I was supposed to do the album. They changed their mind again and got Geezer Butler in to do it. I thought, “Oh fuck, thanks a lot.” I said, “Hey Sharon, how about a cancellation fee?”

I had already had five grand up front and she said, “I will give you another five grand. That is a $10,000 cancellation fee.” They never ever paid me that other five grand, those cocksuckers.”

There is no love lost there when it comes to Daisley and the Osbourne’s especially when you know the lyrics that Ozzy sings every night came from the mind and pen of Daisley.

Steve Vai’s involvement in the Ozzmosis album became limited to co-writing just one song “My Little Man”.

I read a lot of discussions around an uncredited guitar performance on that song. My general view is that Steve wrote it and Zak played it the way Zak plays. Others believed Steve played on the track.

And while the song is credited to Ozzy and Vai, I always had my doubts if Ozzy wrote the lyrics.

So if Ozzy didn’t write them, who did?

Well the lyrics came from the great Lemmy Kilmister.

Yep, Lemmy wrote the lyrics about his son Paul.

And all of these debates about intellectual property and how it’s valuable and how copyright protects the writer. It’s bullshit.

Lemmy is not even credited.

How is copyright protecting him?

Much like how Jake E. Lee and Bob Daisley got shafted for the “Bark At The Moon” album.

Copyright is a mess and the Copyright’s for Ozzy’s songs are even messier.

Over at Vai.com, there is a blog around this album. It’s mentioned how the original version of “My Little Man” had much weirder Vai-like chords than the version that was Zakkified.

And one of the commenters on the site, who seemed to be very close to Vai, responded that the song “Kill The Guy With The Ball” that appeared on “Alien Love Secrets” was conceived during the Ozzy sessions, and if you listen to the song it would give you a good idea of the direction of the material Vai was writing with Ozzy.

Maybe, Gary Cherone might be able to put lyrics to it.

And what the above tells me is how the record labels would just throw money at people for no reason whatsoever on a new album and then expect the artist to pay that money back from sales.

Vai would have been paid something. Daisley as well. Lemmy has mentioned how he made more money co-writing Ozzy tracks than what he did with Motörhead. Castronovo would have been paid. The studio for this session would have been paid. Zakk would have been paid. Geezer would have been paid.

And all of this for just one song.

What about the rest of the songs?

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