A Mau5 In The Courtroom

International dance music superstar Joel Zimmerman (p.k.a. Deadmau5) has found himself in the courtroom once again. The notorious twitter bully and social media antihero is back in the face of justice, though this time it is to defend his… moral rights?

Mr. Zimmerman recently filed a multimillion dollar law suit against Play Records its operator, artist Meleny “melleefresh” Brown over the use of bootleg remixes and mashups.

For any of those who do not know the difference between a remix and a mashup: a remix is an approved recreation of a piece using stems from the original recording, and a mashup is a combination of two or more songs (i.e if you laid Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over the Star Wars theme song). A mashup does not use stems from an original recording, but rather pieces of full recordings placed on top of each other to create a new, still recognizable work).

Read the summons here:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2487472-deadmau5-vs-play-records-inc-10-26-15.html

Deadmau5 is essentially most upset over the fact that Play Records has authorized remixes and mashups to be made without his consent, and released without his approval. In addition to the pending unauthorized releases, Zimmerman claims that they are also not of “good technical and commercial quality.” One interesting piece outlined by this case is the differences of moral rights and laws in various countries and the varying definition of “Fair Use” from country to country.

Read the full article here:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/deadmau5-sues-remixes-mashups-834630

The Launch & Quick Tear Down of Aurous; The ‘Popcorn Time for Music’

This past Monday Aurous, known as the ‘Popcorn Time for Music’, launched Alpha. This streaming service, like many before it, offers a completely free, on-demand way to listen to music. The biggest attraction to this service is that not only is it ad-free but also allows the user to pull together playlist from multiple platforms whether that is off the internet, Spotify, or from the users own library of music. Creator Andrew Sampsons announces that Aurous has teamed up with ProTip, a tipping services that uses bitcoin’s blockchain technology to pay rights holders so that in this way, users will be able to compensate artists. What seems a bit unclear is whether or not users are forced to pay through listening to a song at a time or are given the option of paying per song.

aurous platform layout

See Aurous layout / interface above.

Essentially illegal to most label and artists a like, Sampson points out that there is a portal for rights holders to take their music off the service if they would like. The idea behind this is simple but is it legal?

According to reports this morning the RIAA has quickly cracked down on Aurous claiming that this service is not only pulling music from companies that to not negotiate with record labels to have their music played on but also with illegal websites that put up free music illegal such as MP3WithMe and VK. Published today on 20KHZ, the RIAA said quote, “This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale.” Sampson earlier mentioned that his intent was geared for users to take off of ad-supported services such as YouTube or paid streaming services.

Although this service seems like a great idea, there are still a clear amount of problems to figure out. Piracy is already a overwhelming problem enough. In my opinion the way in solving this is to make a portion of the website that detects when content is converted from an illegal source that way the company and the user don’t get in trouble pushing the user to legal means of service.

Music as a Muse: “Copyright Criminals”

copyright criminals

Sampling.  A common practice nowadays.  The term refers to the creation of a montage of sorts out of audio by cutting a sample of a recording and introducing and reworking it into a different, more dominant musical piece, oftentimes as a motif within the new piece.  This takes place in many genres, particularly in hip-hop, rap, R&B and even pop music.

“Copyright Criminals” is a film that examines this practice and its artistic and commercial value.  Directed and produced by Benjamin Franzen, this 2010 documentary further delves into the subject, documenting debates concerning artistic expression, copyright law, and the money that all of this entails.

The film sports an all-star cast of a-list names offering their take on the subject, including Aesop Rock, George Clinton, Chuck D, and Clyde Stubblefield the ex-drummer for James Brown.

The film shares interviews with many of the first artists who began to use sampling in their work, and documents the legal questions that are involved, namely how in its beginnings, artists would sample other artists’ work without their consent.  It documents the progression from a sporadic whim to a ubiquitous custom, demonstrating how the music created with samples began to generate an unignorably substantial income.  It was then that the original artists began to seek reparation in court.  They sued for copyright infringement and the remuneration of royalties, and the debate thickened as the artists retorted with claims of fair use.

The film highlights how in the modern paradigm, artists have to be much more cautious about what material or not they choose to include, because ultimately they are going to have to pay the original artist for the sample clearance.  This preocupation has transformed the way in which sampling artists operate because with tighter restrictions, be them from the wallet or not, mean the artists cannot practice the art in the same, unobstructed manner as was typical in the past.

One particularly notable case in the film is the interview with Clyde Stubblefield, the ex drummer for James Brown.  As the production unfolds, we find that although he is not a household name, he is actually the most sampled artist of all time.  One particular clip where he was given a break became the birth of the funk drum sound, one that can be heard in the music of L.L. Cool J., Public Enemy, Madonna, Prince and Sinead O’Connor and became the standard beat for thousands of other songs.

Interestingly enough, given the profoundness of his contribution to modern music in comparison to the obscurity of his name and the fact that he has never seen a dime worth of royalties, he is happy that other artists are using his creation.

Copyright Criminals received its funding from the Ford Foundation, the University of Iowa, and the John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation, and after premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, it was broadcast at the national level on PBS.  (Wired.com)

The Beatles. Copyright. And a Funny Interview.

On the 4th of November, the copyright term for sound recordings and performer’s rights in sound recordings was increased from 50 to 70 years in the UK.

Depending on how you look at it, this means that  –

  • Some of Rock and Roll’s biggest hits will not be made available to the public domain until 2033, to be –

    a) Ruined by the likes of PITBULL
    b) Used to take music forward (eg. The Grey Album)

  • Musicians and corporations behind those musicians stand to profit from re-releases and will continue to generate profit in a purely selfish manner.

Dj’s in both the EDM and Hip Hop industries have a valid argument that music should be available to re work, re mix and sample. Without sampling, it may be argued that these two styles would not exist. My personal beef with this remix culture, however, is that I don’t want my children to grow up listening to the pop star of the day singing over an over produced, tacky, sped up version of an amazing song like Blackbird.

Conversely, Fran Nevrkla, the chairman of the music licensing body Phonographic Performance Limited questions “where is the investment going to come from to fund the next generation of bands such as U2 and Coldplay?”

This law comes as no coincidence and is a result of of much pressure from powerful figures in the industry.

In a speech at the music conference Midem in June this year, Nevrkla put extreme pressure on government legislation, highlighting the “crucial importance of IP rights to the British and global economy.”

So what has happened since this law was changed?

Interestingly, seven days after the announcement of the copyright change, The Beatles’ Apple organisation released On Air Live At The BBC – Volume 2. This release came almost 20 years after the release of Volume 1. Surely at this rate, Apple, EMI and Universal will be milking the money out of Beatles fans for years to come.

Next Tuesday, 59 Beatles bootlegs will be officially released, the CD will include outtakes, demos and live BBC performances. Whilst they are circulating online and are not actually that rare, this is just another opportunity for these corporations to make money. How big is the unreleased discography and how much of it will we never hear? This release comes due to another recent change to the copyright law that makes unreleased material free of copyright – and therefore in the public domain – 50 years after it has been recorded.

If the Fab Four were around today, I wonder how they would feel about this issue – would they sit back and reap the benefits, or would they see it as the music they lovingly created for the world being stolen from the public domain? I’d like to think the latter…

COPYRIGHT #5 – Created by and for publishers?

The debate on the existence of copyright focuses on whether the content creators need state enforcement to enable owners to gain returns, or whether the producers of the works respond significantly to financial incentives. [1]  If there is a way to prove that authors (a widely defined term) do not need the intellectual property concept of copyright to earn a living, then we can truly question ourselves if is it necessary to continue with this concept.  By looking into the history of copyright, we can see that copyright might not be needed in order for creativity to flourish. Copyright was introduced in England in the sixteenth-century as outgrowth of the privatization of government censorship. It thus helped the publishing industry to conveniently earn money through mass pressings with centralized distribution. This helped a few lucky works to be available to a wide audience providing the publishers a considerable profit. Publishers from most types of creative works have fought not only to preserve the business model, but to build a belief into people’s minds; the belief that using somebody else’s creation is stealing, and that those creators can only survive with the benefits of copyright. Regardless of the historic period, we talk about two different concepts that help us understand this belief. – I steal when I take something from you, and you don’t have it anymore – In terms of creation, I cannot steal something from you, if I take it and then, we both have it –. Returning to the beginning of copyright in New England for the writers, it started out as a censorship law.[2] With the world’s first arrival of the press, writers, if anything, were energetic to know about this new resource to get their work widely known. The English government was concerned about too many works being produced, and more specifically, about which works were distributed out there to the citizens. They had to control what creators wanted to communicate; this was achieved through a royal filter directly connected to the emerged publisher’s industry of that time. The method the government chose was to establish an association of private sector censors called the London Company of Stationers. They were granted a royal monopoly over all printing in England that could control unauthorized presses, books and basically publish only what they wanted. This way, the organization a private strategic profit maker that acted as a tax collector. All members that entered as Stationers had the right to copy and distribute a written work; This law was intended for publishers and sellers, not for authors. New books entered under a company’s member’s name, not the author’s member’s name. [3] The strategy behind this, is that authors do not have the means to distribute their own works, and thus they always need a publisher’s cooperation to make their work generally available.  

In 1710, the first recognizable modern form of copyright took effect in England. The Stationers persuaded the Parliament that authors were the first one to own the rights to copy and distribute their creation, knowing that they had little option but to give those rights to the publishers since they were entirely dependent on them to succeed. At first, this option seemed great for the Stationers until time passed by and the Parliament didn’t contribute anymore to the monopoly of printing and publishing. In this crucial period of history of copyright, was when the force of the copyright turned to the authors and the offer of printers and publishers suddenly increased. The Stationers had no more bargaining power and the authors now could decide were to publish they works. The creators now had the rights to authorize the copy with whomever they wanted. The overall record of the story of copyrights clearly states that it was created by and for publishers. Even though authors were benefited at that time and it can be seen as a fair model from author to publisher, the consequences of this design has lead us to what we have today. Publishers are the ones that have pushed the government to create and modernize the copyright law, while that is the core of their business. Surprisingly, this is not the core business of a creator.


[3] “An Unhurried View of Copyright”, Benjamin Kaplan Columbia University Press, 1967, pp. 4-5.

THINKBAND 10: Bye bye Warner Music PT2 (Welcome Spotify).

As-Metallica-Arrives-on-Spotify-Napster-s-Sean-Parker-Makes-Peace-with-Lars-Ulrich

If last week’s announcement about the split between Metallica and Warner Music wasn’t surprising enough then you are ready to see Napster’s founder and current Spotify partner Sean Parker having a friendly press event along with his new partner Lars Ulrich from Metallica. Yes, Parker and Lars together… pure surrealism

If you are reading this blog I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Just in case you didn’t know Metallica sued Napster for several copyrights infringements back in 2000, a move led by the band’s drummer Lars Ulrich. Not only the band image was damaged by this but their global fanbase turned against them and Lars became one of the most hated guys in the music industry, and memes like the following appeared everywhere…

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But yesterday Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek along with Parker announced their brand new partnership with Metallica which represents the second big strategic move from the band in less than a year (actually in less than a week) so now we can guess why the band split with Warner Music. We all know that copyright licensing can be a real nightmare nowadays and in the end of the only winner is the lawyers’ team.

But apart from avoid losing time and money, what exactly is Spotify going to gain with this partnership? Apart from the obvious (more advertising and memberships to say the less) we can suspect that Spotify will take advantage of the band’s wide catalog, immense global market and diverse psychography to develop strategies that can integrate more and more partnerships in an exponential way (streaming of the band’s never ending tour performances, for example).

So what could be the next big move for Metallica? Looks like the genius musicians turned into brilliant businessmen…

Lawyers in the Music Industry

Seeing as we missed this class due to the Mama Event, (a great cause no doubt) I figured I’d take matters into my own hands and learn/blog about something I’m personally interested in. Maybe those of us who were in Paris can get the gist of what we missed.

First things first. Not common to popular belief, lawyers are wonderful, compassionate and charitable people in the music industry. I’m not very good at being sarcastic in writing yet but nonetheless, I suppose that could be true if personal incentives aren’t taken into consideration. Unfortunately, we live in a time where these bastards are truly needed in practically every aspect of an artists career, (and anyone else in the industry for that matter) and boy do they know it. I say unfortunately because this makes them extremely valuable and necessary and it always sucks to be that dependent on something. Even so,  what is always important to remember is that the lawyer works for the artist, not the other way around.

With that out of the way, the point is that hopefully after reading this you won’t be able to justify their existence, but rather you will definitely be able to understand their purpose. How’s that? Off we go!

What does a lawyer do?

The most obvious role of the lawyer is to be involved anywhere that an artist is potentially generating income. And anywhere an artist is potentially generating income, there will be a contract or an agreement needed. And when a contract or an agreement is needed a lawyer should be involved. So as you can see from the lovely circle of reasoning here, they exist because they are needed and they are needed because they exist.

Other than negotiating contracts and working with you and literally every other member of your team they (the good ones) also act as reliable A&R persons for labels. Lawyers are involved with everyone in the industry, so they know everyone in the industry, and that means they have some clout that, in the early stages at least, the artist probably doesn’t. A good lawyer promotes the acts that he/she truly believes in, to the labels and actually wants them to be successful. Why do they do this? Quite simply because the more successful the artist, the more successful the lawyer.  In other words they want the artist to do good, so they can make more money from them. Labels know this so it is easy for them to seriously consider the acts recommended by lawyers. Lawyers won’t just submit any shitty band to a label because that devalues their judgement in the eyes of the label. If a lawyer only submits artists that truly have potential, the label will love them and take every recommendation seriously.

The lawyer can also play an active role in putting together an artists’ business team which brings us to the next point.

When is a lawyer necessary?

Many people think (at least I did) that lawyers don’t come into play until much later down the road in an artists career but that isn’t necessarily the case. Lawyers can be an important member of the band’s team during it’s initial formation (so basically, when the band should be dealing with the band agreement).

Furthermore, since lawyers have so many connections it is often the case that a band hires a lawyer before they even have a manager, let alone any other member of their team. Hiring a lawyer before agreements with these members even exist makes sense because a lot of the time it can be the lawyer that finds the manager, agent, business manager, and so on for the artist in the first place. Look at it this way, an ethical label won’t let an artist sign without a lawyer. Even if you have a manager, but no lawyer, they won’t sign you. And if they do they are probably assholes that are trying to take advantage of you in a deal, so be wary of that if you are an artist.

Alright, we have established that it can be a good idea for an artist to hire a lawyer early in their careers. But good lawyers have the power to be selective. So in a weird way in order for the artist to have a good lawyer, they need to deserve one. Because of the role that lawyers play in A&R the good lawyer must be interested in the band, as I mentioned earlier, he/she must believe in the bands potential and work ethic. This means that once the artist has some stable ground under them in terms of songs written, demos recorded, and a small promo package, it can be a great time to get a great lawyer. I know this sounds contradicting to the statement of getting them as early as the band agreement, but you can always hire a lawyer on an hourly basis to deal with the band agreement, and have no other involvement with the band until the band feels they are ready enough to go for a great lawyer, or at least hire one full time.

How can an artist find a great lawyer?

The simple answer is look for one. Talk to local bands that seem to have their shit together. Find a band that you like and look inside their album to find a name that has ‘Esq.’ after it. Look for them online as there are several legal directories available. Most importantly, interview them. Ask them what experience they have in the music industry specifically, and if they foresee any conflicts of interest with other clients. Finally ask them how, and how much they bill you. Which leads us to the final part.

How does a lawyer get paid?

This is one aspect where they can get just as creative as any of the artists they are signing! I’ll briefly and simply try to outline the four main ways they like to take their money.

Hourly – usually $150-$600 per hour. The extremely expensive ones are usually only dealing with big acts and even bigger labels.

Percentage – 5%-10% of income generated from the deal they worked on/negotiated. When dealing with percentages the lawyer takes the money from the net artist share, not the gross money received. ***This type of billing is very common. It can technically be paid by the label through the artists’ personal advance; which makes it recoupable against artist royalties.

Hybrid – At first they charge a (relatively) low hourly fee and then take a percentage later once things get going. I recommend this way ideally, for a beginning act.

Value-Billing – This one is pretty abstract. It is based on this: the more “value” the lawyer helped you get in a deal, the more they get paid.

At they end of the day it all comes down to the fact that the more money the artist is making, the more money the lawyer is making.

Final Note

It is in the best interest of the artist to have the same lawyer for as much of their career as possible. You get to know them and yes, can eventually build trust. As an artist always remember the lawyer works for you, and at the end of the day they can be the only ones who can save your ass. Anyways, I hope you learned something from this post.

Love them or hate them, lawyers are not going anywhere fast and they play a massive and distinctly important role in the careers of anyone and everyone involved in the music industry.

Phillip Richard

Sources and Further Reading:

All you need to know about the music industry by Donald Passman.

http://d83mezhuhqi17.cloudfront.net/76/05/57/3956967?Expires=1353662961&Signature=Eln4vmkeSHIlfD8LGdxv6-wMGOsp5oPLPx8~HiqDkeB23z3gr-N9IezlzFsklm~7KWDuhFofBXb9tlqcKhMt~5~DwzUZk8DYQiArSX76FQ3RMaQzjDFnPSlxSe38weiJJc6-csCUPw-EEdS70rARvE~r8CrWigGqlmfXpH-D3YQ_&Key-Pair-Id=APKAIVZN4AJ762UIENTQ

No more copyright in China?!

The main six revenue streams of record label and the copyright collective society in China are from website such as baidu or sogou, Karaoke such as Redbox or neway, Telecommunication Company, broadcasting, background music used by commercial center and from the live performance. However, record label and the copyright collective society still suffer for not getting a full amount of copyright fee due to the incomplete regulation and system and this depressed the talented music composer to compose music.

This April, China had announced the draft resolution for amended the copyright regulation yet triggered the music industry. Numerous music composers in China had disputed about the regulations, one of the contentions is No.48 regulation: “ After three months the record been launched, every music producer could applied the creation on their own record without the permission of the original composer.” So that means the copyright will flows into the public domain!!!

If the government of China amended the regulation according to the draft resolution, I assumed the music industry in China would gradually dead because no composer would willing to compose if their music could not be respect by people and talent drain would become an issue in the music industry too!!!

 

Reference:

http://culture.nmgnews.com.cn/system/2012/05/02/010761180.shtml

The Birth of a Criminal

It is a great week for lawyers in Japan. The Worlds second largest market for music is hungry for more and has figured it is a good idea to expand on their initial plan that made piracy illegal in 2010. Instead of this issue remaining a civil matter, it now turns everyone that downloads or uploads illegal copyrighted content (which is apparently a shit load of people) into criminals that could potentially face up to 10 years in prison with a 10 Million Yen fine. Pretty classy stuff. A study in 2010 revealed that the laudable music loving people of Japan illegally pirated about 4.36 BILLION music and video files, while ONLY legally purchasing around 440 million. It seems like they are trying to shut down a pretty damn good potential market here. But will it work?

This is history repeating itself. (Prohibition of Alcohol, Marijuana etc…) People demand their freedom, but it is shut down by a few corporate interests (who in this case happen to be record companies falling apart like a cheap suit grasping at anything they can to save themselves). However will these legal threats actually do anything? Will they actually save the music industry? No. Because the music industry they are trying to save exists only in the old stubborn “in denial” minds of these record companies. Here is a neat quote from Naoki Kitagawa, Cheif Executive of Sony Music Entertainment Japan on the new laws:

“This revision will reduce the spread of copyright infringement activities on the internet.”

I highly doubt that. It might scare a few people but not for long. All this does is take innocent people, turn them into criminals, and then punish them. It does not stop the activity. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) one in four internet users around the globe regularly access unlicensed services. Looks like Japan might need to invest in some extra prison cells.

The music industry is slowly progressing towards a universe where record companies are not needed. They know this but refuse to acknowledge it and are waging war on the freedom of information that they can not control anymore. I think they are so pissed off they are literally trying to drag everyone down with them. Unfortunately they are letting themselves dissolve through focusing their efforts in the wrong ways. Forget about piracy, you won’t get rid of it, you wont stop it, you will only promote it.

Every time there is an article in the media about the pirate bay, or bit torrent, or some other file sharing/torrent hosting service, the traffic on the websites significantly increase. It’s like a sore tooth: stop poking at it cause it will just get worse.

At the end of the day all this will do is screw over a few Japanese citizens that have an apparent love for music (remember 4.36 billion illegal downloads) and wont benefit record companies, artists, fans, or anyone else for that matter that isn’t a lawyer. What a waste of time.

Phillip Richard

Additional links:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/10/01/162096387/japan-introduces-stiff-fines-jail-time-for-illegal-downloads

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19767970

http://torrentfreak.com/japanese-bittorrent-user-avoids-virus-but-not-the-police-100720/

Black and White Makes Grey

“When you hear a riff similar to your own, your first feeling is ‘rip-off.’ After you’ve got over it you think, ‘Look at that, someone’s noticed that riff’… Imitation is the highest form of flattery!”
– Paul McCartney

Chances are this is old news to a lot of people, but I just heard about it yesterday so I’m betting there must be some people out there as oblivious as me. In 2004 a man by the name of Brian Burton, or more commonly known as DJ Danger Mouse, released an album called the Grey Album. There are a few remarkable things about this album I would like to outline in this post.

Content

The Grey Album is a mashup between an a capella version of Jay-Z’s iconic Black Album and the Beatles’ timeless White Album. The Grey Album is more than just a slovenly thrown together mash up of the two albums, it is a complete breakdown and reconstruction of the music that creates something completely unique and different. Doing something like this is not easy, it takes enormous amounts of vision, skill, and talent. When listening there are parts where it is hard to believe that what Danger Mouse is creating came from only the two albums and no other outside sources or samples.

Context

Danger Mouse has done something in 2004 that I believe is still far beyond our times even today. What is essentially being proven through this album is that recreating is in fact creating something new (hence black and white makes grey). And even further by that notion, that computers can be used as a tool to create music. Another way to put it would be that computers are valid and useful musical instruments that through mash-ups can most definitely be used to “promote the progress of useful arts.” Though the a capella version of Jay Z’s Black Album was released with the intention for it to be remixed, Danger Mouse did not have permission to use the work from the White Album. Within the context of copyright law this album was illegal and due to its popularity and hype, EMI ordered its distribution to be terminated. This album is ahead of its time both technically and in context with the legal boundaries it crossed. What I mean by that is that in the very near future, it is my belief that those legal boundaries will not exist. After all, the album did “promote the progress of useful arts”.

Concomitants

The album left a legacy.  It influenced some controversy with the law through an event not directly affiliated with Danger Mouse that was known as “Grey Tuesday”. On February 24th 2004 an activist group by the name of “Downhill Battle” organized an online protest. This was a protest against EMI’s attempts at halting the distribution of the album, as well as a general act against the structure of the music industry. Several free copies were released on over 170 websites to promote the idea that artists should be free to sample. Over 100,000 copies of the Grey Album were downloaded that day alone. Even more pertinent to creativity, the Grey Album inspired musicians all over the world to create several new mashups of Jay-Z’s music with artists including Radiohead, Metallica, Weezer, Wu-Tang Clan and others alike.

Whether or not record companies agree with sampling and remix, it is a large part of the future of music and it is important for music intermediaries to understand this. Changes in the law are most likely right around the corner and this means a world of both difference and opportunity in management, publishing, promoting and especially lawyering.

Phillip Richard