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VIVENDI SELLS SMALL STAKE IN ACTIVISION - MOTIVATED BY EMI DEAL?
Activision Blizzard was created in 2007 by the merger of Activision and Vivendi Games, and still trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange, although Vivendi is its single biggest shareholder, holding 63%, now 60%, of the stock.
Needless to say, coming so soon after its EMI acquisition announcement, many have speculated that the Activision share sale is in part to boost cash reserves so Universal Music's billion dollar takeover of the EMI labels does not impact on the French conglom's credit rating. Others speculated the Paris-based firm was trying to alleviate fears among credit agencies about the impact economic turmoil in the Eurozone could have on the company.
But Vivendi chiefs denied that either of those factors had motivated the Activision share sale last night, insisting the move was "tactical" and designed to benefit the group's "overall capital structure" rather than provide cash for any particular deal. They also pointing out that Vivendi's stake in Activision has fluctuated before, and this week's share sale brings the group's stake in the gaming business back to where it was at the start of the year.
But an analyst at Bernstein Research told the FT last night it was "quite natural" for commentators to link the Activision share sale to last week's EMI deal, adding that those who believe there is a link will question the move. Bernstein's Claudio Aspesi told the paper: "The wisdom of selling about 3% in a business that is one of the key bastions of growth for the group to aid a transformational acquisition in a challenged business, such as recorded music, seems questionable".
Vivendi admitted last week that it will sell up to 500 million euros of "non-core" Universal assets to help fund the EMI takeover, assuming it is approved by competition regulators.
DANISH RIGHTS GROUPS CALL ON ISPS TO BLOCK GROOVESHARK
An anti-piracy group in Denmark is taking legal action to try and force ISPs in the country to stop customers from accessing the sometimes controversial streaming music service, which has licensing deals in place with some music companies, but which carries content from many more because users are allowed to upload tunes.
In the US, Grooveshark claims that it operates a takedown system where it removes any unlicensed content if made aware of it, and therefore is not liable for copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Whether that interpretation of the DMCA is correct will be assessed if and when Universal v Grooveshark reaches court.
Some argue precedents set in previous court cases based on the DMCA's so called safe-harbour provisions mean Grooveshark has a strong case. Others allege that Grooveshark management pay only lip service to the takedown system, and that their takedown activities should not constitute a defence. And if they were to prevail in court, it is possible that the Recording Industry Association Of America would begin lobbying for a change in the DMCA to set out the minimum requirements of a takedown process in order to get safe-harbour protection.
But, of course, none of this applies in Denmark, where Grooveshark would have to defend itself under local copyright law. According to Torrentfreak, Maria Fredenslund of the anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen has told local media that she is certain Grooveshark is not compliant with local laws and that there is a strong case to force ISPs to block access to the service through the courts.
She said: "When you want to offer music on the Danish market, one must have an agreement with rightholders to do so. Grooveshark does not and has been completely uncooperative", adding: "We are in a situation where the [digital music] market will die if Grooveshark continues".
A Grooveshark spokesman told Digital Music News earlier this week that they had not received any paperwork or contact regarding the action against them in Denmark, though it would probably be for Danish ISPs to respond to RettighedsAlliancen's claim rather than the Grooveshark company directly.
As previously noted, Grooveshark's main major ally in the music space to date has been EMI, who settled a legal action and licensed the streaming platform. Of course the EMI labels are now being bought by Grooveshark's biggest enemy in the music space, Universal.
RIAA ISSUE CEASE AND DESIST ON REDIGI
As previously reported, ReDigi enables people to resell their MP3s. The US-based tech company claims its technology can verify whether the MP3 being sold is legit, and will then wipe it from the seller's PC once it has been sold. The company also says that its service is simply a digital version of a CD resale website, and that the clause in US copyright law that allows the resale of CDs should also apply to digital. A similar service launched a few years back, called Bopaboo, quickly disappeared after complaints from copyright owners, but ReDigi insists that US copyright law is on its side.
But we never expected the RIAA to concur, and earlier this month the trade body sent the long anticipated cease and desist. With regards the clause in US copyright law, often called the "first sale doctrine", which allows customers to resell their CDs, the RIAA says that only allows the resale of the actual copy of a recording a customer has bought, it does not give the customer permission to make additional copies.
By definition, if an MP3 is transferred from one computer to another a mechanical copy has to be made, even if, by the seller deleting the original file, the outcome is similar to the resale of a CD. So, basically, to have protection under the first sale doctrine, in the RIAA's mind, a customer would have to sell the computer the track was originally downloaded to.
But ReDigi, which recently raised half a million in investment, remains convinced it is on the right side of copyright law. Which means there's unlikely to be any ceasing or desisting here, which presumably means this whole matter will eventually end up in court. Good times.
PAUL SIMONON REVEALS PRISON STINT FOR GREENPEACE
Joining the crew of the group's ship Esperanza, Simonon used a pseudonym so that he wouldn't receive any special treatment and became the assistant cook for the duration of the mission. He then volunteered to climb on board the Leiv Eriksson oil rig with seventeen other activists as part of an ongoing campaign demanding that companies stop Arctic oil drilling.
Arrested, Simonon and the other campaigners spent two weeks in jail, during which time the musician decorated the cell with some of his own artwork and convinced guards to let him cook for his cellmates.
Find out more about Paul Simonon's time with Greenpeace in this video:
CONRAD MURRAY MOVED TO JAIL'S MEDICAL FACILITY
As previously reported, Murray, whose negligence was blamed for the late king of pop's death, was jailed immediately after being found guilty last week, and will now be sentenced on 29 Nov. He faces up to four years in jail, though will likely spend much less time actually behind bars, partly due to overcrowding in the Californian prisons.
A spokesman for the LA County Sheriff's Department has confirmed Murray has been admitted to the medical facility in the jail where he is incarnated, but said he was unable to comment on what condition had caused the doctor to be moved to the medical wing.
UK FESTIVAL AWARDS PRESENTED
Line-Up Of The Year: Sonisphere
Agent Of The Year: Steve Strange
Concession Of The Year: The Beat Hotel
Best New Festival: Wilderness
Best Small Festival: End Of The Road
Outstanding Contribution To Festival Production: The Event Safety Shop
ARTROCKER AWARDS NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED
Artrocker Editor Marc Sallis told CMU: "A lot of awards these days are made to fill up time on TV and fill pages in glossy magazines spreads, Artrocker aims to make its first ever awards about the music, the bands and giving the public a great gig with a line-up that will recall the heady days of The Brats and inject some much needed drunken fun and rock n roll back into the industry. The inaugural Artrocker Awards are cutting back the ever-expanding gloss and going for the true spirit of music; there will be no fireworks, stage tricks and countless re-takes, it's quite simply rock n roll in its simplest and rawest form".
Not lighting fireworks will be Radio 1's Jen Long, who will host the ceremony, and just getting on with playing live will be Gruff Rhys and The Jim Jones Revue. There will also be DJ sets from Tim Burgess, Gary Numan, Tribes, Is Tropical, Heavenly Jukebox and others.
Here are the no frills rock n roll nominations in full:
Band Of The Year: The Horrors, Bombay Bicycle Club, British Sea Power, Metronomy, Grinderman
CULTURE CLUB RETURN TO THE STUDIO AHEAD OF REUNION SHOW
George told Australia's Channel Seven, "Last time we got together was ten years ago - it takes that long to recover from the last time we worked with each other! [We are writing new songs], that's the thing that makes us want to come back and do it. The nostalgia thing is OK, but it's a bit limited, so for us to come and do this and enjoy it; we need to kind of do something new and incorporate the two things - the past and now".
GALLOWS ANNOUNCE NEW EP
Said guitarist Laurent Barnard: "[With] 'Death Is Birth', we're going back to where we started and working with people we consider Gallows family. The EP is being released on our long-term friend Faz's record label 30 Days Of Night and the songs were recorded with The Bronx's very own Joby Ford".
As previously reported, the band will also play their first live show with MacNeil on 13 Dec at XOYO in London.
SALEM ANNOUNCE NEW EP
I'm presuming that's got you interested. How have the witchhouse poster children tackled a shit commercial dance track form the late 90s? Well, kind of like this:
THE BIG PINK REVEAL ALBUM DETAILS, STREAM NEW TRACK
Having heard the new album, we can confirm that it is very good. Though you should have an inkling that this is the case already, assuming you've heard forthcoming single 'Hit The Ground Running (Superman)' (which you can hear below), and the first track to be released from the album, 'Stay Gold'. As a whole, 'Future This' sees the band developing their sound in new and pleasing directions.
The band have also just announced a new set of live shows, including a low-key gig next month at The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston.
24 Nov: London, Brixton Academy (Supporting Friendly Fires)
ODD FUTURE ANNOUNCE UK SHOWS
Appearing on Lowe's Radio 1 show, Ocean revealed that West had tried to muscle in on the record but "I said, 'As much as I want to work with you... I kind of want to do this without you. I kind of want to do it on my own'".
28 Mar: Birmingham, Academy
TUNE-YARDS TO TOUR
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
THE END FESTIVAL, Various Venues, Crouch End, London, 18 Nov: A raft of acts including She Keeps Bees, Real Fur and RM Hubbert are booked to perform at assorted clubs, pubs and hotspots around London's Crouch End this weekend as part of this small but perfectly-formed one-dayer. thelocal.tv/listings/eventdetails/18-nov-11-the-end-kings-head--crouch-end/
IRON MAIDEN EDVENTURE WEEKEND: Hopton Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, 5-8 Oct: So, a festival comprising Iron Maiden themed events, guest speakers, quizzes and, of course, live performances, is set to storm the gates of Hopton Holiday Park next October. Tribute rockers Hi-On Maiden and Maiden Scotland, plus Pocket Godzillas and The Fallen should provide ample compensation for the lack of any actual Iron Maiden members on the billing. www.ironmaiden.com/edventure/
BMG NOT TOO UPSET TO LOSE OUT IN EMI RACE
As previously reported, BMG were long mooted as possible buyers for the EMI publishing catalogues, even though Masuch once told Music Week he was just as interested in the EMI recordings business. The acquisitive version-two BMG co-owned by German media conglom Bertelsmann and investment types KKR has grown rapidly by buying up a load of independent music rights owners in the last few years, though the EMI deal would have made them industry leaders.
Still, Masuch says his company will continue to grow in the coming years, telling Billboard this week: "The acquisition of EMI Music Publishing would have been an interesting deal for us. But on the other hand, we will nevertheless reach our goals within the next three years. Therefore, [buying] EMI Music Publishing was not urgently necessary".
HMV LAUNCHES BUS STOP STORES
Yes, the struggling entertainment retailer has teamed up with 20th Century Fox to buy up outdoor ads at certain bus stops around the UK to promote various DVD releases. Each DVD pack shot will be accompanied by a QR code which will take film fans to a page on HMV.com where they can buy said film on mail-order there and then. Do your Christmas shopping while waiting for the number 49 to Catford Garage, perfect.
Says Mark Hodgkinson, recently appointed Marketing & e-Commerce Director at HMV: "We always look to enable our customers to discover and consume entertainment content in the way that best suits them, and, in an increasingly multi-channel world shaped by mobile technology, we see this innovative partnership with 20th Century Fox as a great new way to connect with film fans".
BLACKBERRY MUSIC SERVICE LAUNCHES IN UK
The new service, first mooted in August and powered by Omnifone, allows users to build a library of 50 tracks from a catalogue featuring music from all the majors, and to then access both their own library and those of any also-subscribed friends on the BBM messaging network, thus encouraging social interaction between users. It costs £4.99 a month to join, but there's a two month free trial period at launch.
Commenting on the new service, Blackberry co-Chief Mike Lazaridis told reporters: "More than 45 million customers already love the social communication benefits delivered through BBM. We have partnered with leading music companies to provide a 'full track' music sharing and discovery experience that will provide users with quality music on demand and allow them to connect with friends on a whole new level".
Among various label reps to provide comment in Blackberry's launch release was Universal's digital man Rob Wells, who said: "BBM Music dynamically and elegantly integrates the excitement of this social music discovery process with a high quality music service".
APPLE RECALLS THE ORIGINAL NANO
The IT giant will replace your 2005/6 Nano with a new one, and while most Nano users from that era have probably moved on to more advanced Apple devices, a nice new Nano would still make a perfectly good Christmas present for your seven year old nephew or aging aunt.
Apple says it is only first generation iPod Nanos, sold between September 2005 and December 2006, which are affected by the recall. While millions of them were sold, it's not clear how many people will still be holding on to said devices, let alone using them. Nevertheless, it's thought the recall could cost the IT firm millions of dollars.
Apple told reporters that the battery problem "has been traced to a single battery supplier that produced batteries with a manufacturing defect. While the possibility of an incident is rare, the likelihood increases as the battery ages".
Product recalls because of battery problems are not unusual, and have affected most consumer electronics firms over the years, though they more commonly linked to laptops than digital media devices.
The recall came as Apple announced that board member Arthur Levinson has been appointed as the company's new Chairman, taking over from the recently deceased Steve Jobs, who filled the role after stepping down as CEO in the summer. The long time director once sat on both the Apple and Google boards, but when the two companies began to compete more head on in the mobile space Levinson decided to quit the Google boardroom in favour of Apple.
STING ANNOUNCES 'APPUMENTARY'
Speaking at a New York Apple Store on Monday night, the musician said: "[It's] the first of its kind, which is why it's free - we have no idea what it's worth".
You could probably have a guess though, that is the norm in these situations. As well as ignoring the concept of price-setting, Sting also performed two songs, 'Message In A Bottle' and Fragile', the latter of which he dedicated to the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, saying: "I'm sorry he is not here. In some way he's created our future".
GOOGLE REFUSES TO BLOCK MP3 DOWNLOAD APP
The app makes it easier for users of Android smartphones to find free music on the mobile internet and to download them to their phones. But, a lot of the content being accessed via the app is coming from unlicensed sources, meaning - the RIAA argues - it is contributing to copyright infringement. So the organisation wrote to Google requesting it remove the app from its store. But, according to PC Mag, the web giant refused.
PC Mag quotes an RIAA rep as saying: "We sent a takedown notice to Google in August for this particular app, which is clearly being used for illegal purposes, and Google responded that they were declining to remove it from the Android Market. We continue to have concerns with Google's screening and takedown procedures and hope that they will be improved".
It seems Google is hesitant about blocking the Download Pro app because it can be used to download legitimate content, ie MP3s being given away by rights owners. Though when various file-sharing software makers used the "but our service has legitimate uses" argument in court when facing allegations of contributory copyright infringement, judges have usually insisted liability can only be circumvented if filters are put in place to block the downloading of blatantly unlicensed content.
Assuming Google continues to allow the MP3 Music Download Pro app to be distributed, it remains to be seen what action the RIAA takes next - ie whether to sue the app maker direct, or step up its demands of Team Google.
RIHANNA TO TONE DOWN HER IMAGE
She told Ryan Seacrest on his US radio show: "I kinda just wanted to scale right back instead of having a look. I didn't want to make it such a big deal about what hair colour or what cut. I just wanted to go right back to something simple and something flexible, something a little more natural. It's more about the music. I don't want to become a gimmick ever".
Listen to the full interview here:
PETE DOHERTY FLEES AMY WINEHOUSE'S GHOST
"A pal" told the tabloid: "He is utterly convinced that he has seen her ghost. A lot of people will think his visions are probably drug-induced but he claims he is clean".