Friday 20 January 2012, 11:13 | By

The music business week in five – 20 Jan 2012

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Chris Cooke

Well, what a very busy week this has been – all that SOPA action in the US spilling over into the UK as Wikipedia went dark, the campaign against the EMI sale gaining some momentum, The Big Chill being cancelled for 2012, and more developments from Planet Grooveshark. And then, just as we thought we were done for the week, the US announced it’d shut down MegaUpload and arrested its bosses for criminal copyright infringement.

All things considered, I’d better get on with the Week In Five with no delay…

01: A global spotlight fell on US anti-piracy proposals as Wikipedia went on strike. The online encyclopaedia blocked access to its English language edition for 24 hours in protest at two pieces of legislation being considered by US Congress – SOPA and PIPA – both of which would introduce a system by which copyright owners could force ISPs and search engines to block access to copyright infringing websites. Opponents say the acts would result in censorship of the internet, and many US-based tech firms and websites supported Wiki’s protest, leading to some key political sponsors of SOPA and PIPA withdrawing their support. A rethink of the anti-piracy proposals is now likely. CMU report | Billboard report

02: MegaUpload was taken offline by US authorities. The file-transfer and video sharing service has been pissing off the US music and movie industries for some time now, they accusing the site’s owners of committing copyright infringement on a vast scale to create a multi-million dollar business. Last night it was announced the American authorities were beginning criminal action against key execs at the Mega company, and that they had got court approval to shut down Mega operations at the Virginian centre where many of its servers were stored. Four Mega execs, including co-founder Kim Schmitz, were arrested in New Zealand and will now likely be extradited to the US, where they face infringement, racketeering and money laundering charges that could result in 20 year jail sentences. CMU report | BBC report

03: The campaign against Universal’s EMI acquisition gained momentum. The UK Association Of Independent Music urged its members to contact their MPs to stress that they oppose Citigroup’s intent to sell the EMI record companies to Universal Music, and the EMI publishing catalogues to a consortium led by Sony/ATV. The deals will have a damaging effect on the wider music industry, the indie trade body claims. The campaign came as Warner Music – the third major, which will be dwarfed by its main competitors as a result of the EMI deals – hired the services of a US legal firm that specialises in anti-trust lobbying, leading to speculation they too may oppose the Universal and Sony deals as American and European competition regulators consider them. CMU report | Legal Times report

04: There were Big festival finales and cancellations. First, organisers of the Big Day Out touring festival in Australia announced that the New Zealand date of the venture, the 2012 edition of which is happening right now, will be the last in the country. From 2013 the Big Day Out will only take place in Australian cities because disappointing ticket sales have made the New Zealand version unviable. Meanwhile in the UK, Festival Republic announced The Big Chill would not happen this year, blaming the Olympics which will clash with the festival’s August dates. CMU Big Chill report | CMU Big Day Out report

05: Grooveshark hit back, in face of lawsuits from all four major labels. First it launched an HTML5 web app making its streaming platform available to smartphone users, their traditional apps for the iPhone and Android phones having been removed from the Apple and Google app stores after complaints from the big music companies. Then it sent legal papers to Digital Music News to try to identify the anonymous reader who left a comment on the DMN site accusing Grooveshark bosses of copyright infringement, a comment being used in Universal’s lawsuit against the web firm. And finally it dissed German collecting society GEMA, saying it was having to cut off their service in Germany because of the society’s unreasonable royalty demands. GEMA denies having had any negotiations with the Groovesharkers. CMU reports

And that’s your lot, people! Have a good day.

Chris Cooke
Business Editor, CMU

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