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CMU Digest – 18 Jan 2013

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HMV

The five biggest stories in the music business this week…

01: HMV went into administration, putting the music business at the very top of the wider news agenda. The flagging retailer’s board met on Monday evening and announced that administrators from Deloitte would be called in the next morning. The debt-laden retail firm was set to break covenants on its loans, and had been unable to renegotiate terms with its money-lenders, or persuade suppliers to pump in some investment. Administrators are currently speaking to up to 50 possible bidders for parts of the HMV business, though it seems unlikely that an HMV company anywhere near the size of the current group will emerge from the administration. The firm’s UK stores are currently operating as normal (though, controversially, aren’t taking HMV vouchers), though in Ireland the receivers have been called in and the sixteen HMV shops there are shut. CMU reportFT report

02: MMF and FAC called for an artist-centric approach to copyright extension. The two trade bodies, representing managers and artists respectively, said that while labels will benefit hugely from the upcoming extension of the sound recording copyright term from 50 to 70 years, and session musicians will receive tangible benefits too, the longer copyright term offers a “mixed bag” to so called featured artists. MMF and FAC had hoped that when the UK Intellectual Property Office considered requirements in the European Directive for some artist-centric rules to be included as part of term extension, they might propose giving artists the right to renegotiate record contracts at 50 years. That is not part of the IPO’s current consultation on term extension, though a ‘use it or lose it’ clause and ‘clean slate’ provision are, both of which MMF/FAC welcomed. Though they also called for a standard minimum artist royalty to be introduced at the 50 year point. CMU report | MMF/FAC statement

03: Mega got ready to launch. The new file-transfer service from Kim Dotcom will launch on Sunday, a year to the day that the US authorities shut down his original digital venture, MegaUpload, accusing it and him of rampant copyright infringement. The new Mega this week took out ads on radio stations in New Zealand, where both Dotcom and Mega are based, though one of the country’s main media firms, MediaWorks, pulled the promo spots from its networks, seemingly because of pressure from the music and movie companies. Meanwhile the legal wranglings relating to MegaUpload continue, in New Zealand, the US and Canada. CMU report | TNW report

04: Speculation rose of an Absolute Radio sale. Current owner TIML Radio reopened talks about selling its UK radio business last year after being approached by John Pearson, who ran Absolute in its earlier incarnation as Virgin Radio. Though he pulled out of takeover talks this week in disagreements about price. But by the TIML Radio was also in talks with Bauer Radio about it buying the main Absolute station and its sister digital services. Meanwhile Absolute’s high profile COO Clive Dickens announced he was leaving the company to take up a job in Australia. CMU reportGuardian report

05: Universal was back in court fighting Grooveshark. The mega-major has two legal battles ongoing with the controversial streaming music service, which lets users upload content to its libraries, meaning the digital firm routinely makes available Universal-owned content without having a licensing deal with the music company. Grooveshark claims it isn’t liable for copyright infringement though, because it operates a ‘takedown system’, so gets protection from the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In one lawsuit Universal alleges Grooveshark staff also upload unlicensed material (something the streaming company denies). In the other Universal says that DMCA protection does not apply to pre-1972 recordings, which are governed by state rather than federal law. That latter argument failed in court last year, but late last week Universal’s lawyers were back in court trying again, claiming that judges had been wrong to rule that the DMCA was assuming power over state as well as federal copyright law. CMU report

In CMU this week, Editor Andy Malt offered his thoughts on the HMV situation, we chatted to Michael Spearman of Everything Everything on the release of their new album, and we reviewed recent announcements in the world of brand partnerships. Approved were Lapalux, Bleached, Frida Sundemo and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

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