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MEGAUPLOAD FOUNDER SCHMITZ REFUSED BAIL
As previously reported, after his arrest last week in New Zealand in relation to various allegations made against him by the US in regards to the Mega business empire, Schmitz's lawyers applied for bail, claiming their client had so far complied with the authorities, that his passport had been seized and bank accounts frozen, and that his distinctive appearance (ie size) would make it hard for him to sneak past customs. But prosecutors said Schmitz had a history of evading criminal charges, adding that they feared he may have passports and bank accounts the US authorities have not yet seized, which could aid his escape from the criminal justice system.
The judge hearing the bail application, David McNaughton, initially told the court he needed more time to consider Schmitz's case, which he said was particularly complicated. But yesterday the judge sided with the prosecution, saying that "with sufficient determination and financial resources, flight risk remains a real and significant possibility which I cannot discount and bail is declined".
McNaughton added that the presence of unlicensed firearms at the property where Schmitz was staying suggested criminal connections, who could possibly aid an escape from the country, and that Schmitz would be highly motivated to attempt a return to his home country of Germany, because it would be much harder for America to extradite him from there - the Germans, as a general rule, will resist any efforts to force them to hand over one of their own citizens to a foreign criminal justice system.
Schmitz's lawyer immediately announced his intent to appeal the decision. The Mega man's legal reps also re-stated that their client is innocent of all the charges made against him by the US authorities - of commercial copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering - while also claiming Schmitz was in ill health, suffering from diabetes, hypertension and a slipped disc.
The other three Mega associates arrested in New Zealand last week were also remanded in custody, with each requesting separate hearings to present arguments in favour of bail.
WEB SHIFTS IN THE WAKE OF THE MEGA ARRESTS
Filesonic and Fileserver have probably gone furthest, putting blocks in place that mean users can now only download content they themselves uploaded. This means that the platform can only be used to make back-ups of content, or to move digital files from one device to another, and users cannot make public links to their content available or access other peoples uploads. It's not clear if this is a temporary or permanent change, but many of those who have paid subscription fees to the two companies for file-sharing services will not be pleased.
Presumably management at both Filesonic and Fileserver fear also being targeted with criminal action if they are seen to be profiting from copyright infringement - being sued by rights owners is one thing, but being arrested and facing jail time quite another (five years for copyright crimes, though other charges made against Team Mega could result in 20 year jail terms).
There are parallels with what happened after the landmark Supreme Court ruling against Grokster in 2005, which caused several other American P2P file-sharing providers (though notably not LimeWire) to go offline almost immediately, amidst fears the owners and financial backers of such technology could also be sued for millions. Though this time around, not only are the stakes higher - it's criminal rather than civil action - the impact goes beyond the US, given Mega was a Hong Kong-based company, and its executives were outside the United States when arrested.
That said, jurisdiction is still an issue - the US courts and authorities were in a better position to act against Mega because it had a key server base within the States. Sites with no operations of any kind within the USA may feel they are safe from a Mega-style swoop, though some of the file-transfer sites tweaking their operations this weekend focused on blocking users from America, and ending alliances with partners and resellers there, to put further distance between their set ups and the jurisdiction of the American courts.
The shut down of the Mega sites completely, coupled with the impact of the Mega swoop on other file-transfer services, is likely to immediately boost legitimate online content services, or so says the Recording Industry Association Of America, which responded to the action against Schmitz et al in a blog post. Although you probably can't see at the moment because the trade body's website is down again amidst ongoing hacktivist action. But the Association's data chief, Joshua P Friedlander, said that, while he knew a portion of Mega users would find other unlicensed sources of content, web trends following the closure of LimeWire in 2010 suggest some, maybe many, will be forced to try out legit digital content platforms, and they might like what they see.
Citing post-LimeWire digital stats, Friedlander writes: "So where did those [LimeWire] users go? There's good data that shows many turned to legal services. In 2010, digital album sales grew 13% while digital tracks only grew 1% according to The Nielsen Company, and many suggested that rapid growth in download sales was finished. But in 2011 [after LimeWire's demise], digital sales rebounded, with digital album sales up 19% and digital tracks up 8% versus the prior year. [And] when Billboard looked at the data after the LimeWire shutdown it said 'The spike in sales was immediate, noticeable and lasting'. Collectively, this evidence strongly suggests that the shutdown of illegal sites helps create a thriving and diverse digital marketplace".
Which is all lovely. Though, of course, the owners of file-transfer sites are not totally wrong when they insist that their services have legitimate uses, allowing users to store, distribute and share content they themselves own. And while it may be true that for some, maybe many, of these file-transfer platforms, the vast majority of users are accessing illegal content, what about those who do not?
There is a real demand for web platforms that allow users to share their own content with others, and while the Mega companies may have been dodgy in a number of ways, what about those file-transfer firms who have legit intents, but who may inadvertently enable some infringement? Of course that brings you back to the concerns stressed by opponents to the American web-blocking proposals in SOPA and PIPA last week - will basically legit services be lost in collateral damage?
Meanwhile some MegaUpload users are asking what happens to legit content they had uploaded to the Mega company servers, which are now offline? The Spanish branch of the Pirate Party has already announced its intent to pursue a civil action against the US authorities, who they believe have breached Spanish law by "misappropriating personal data" when they seized Mega's servers. Supporting this action, the UK branch of the Pirate Party noted yesterday: "Much of the apparently infringing content held at MegaUpload is still available via other means, so closing the site has not had any serious impact on piracy. On the other hand, millions of archives stored entirely legitimately by private individuals and organisations are now offline - and this clearly causes significant personal and economic damage".
Finally in Mega news for today, while hacking group Anonymous has been leading the hack-attacks against the US government and big copyright owners in the wake of the Mega arrests, it yesterday denied involvement in a project called Anonyupload.com, which reportedly plans to buy server space and to set up a service to replace MegaUpload. The venture is looking for donations to fund the purchase of server space in Russia, outside the jurisdiction of the US courts (though PayPal has shut down its account, so it's not clear how donations can be made).
Despite seemingly being associated with the Anonymous movement by name, organisers of Anonyupload.com have admitted there is no official link, while some of those involved in Anonymous have warned the Mega-replacement project could be a scam mainly aiming to get cash off those who feel angry about the Mega-empire's demise. However, Anonyupload.com subsequently denied it was a scam via Twitter, adding that any funds raised would be used to fund shared server space.
ONLY TWO SONGS NOMINATED FOR OSCARS THIS TIME
Eligible songs from Elton John, Lady Gaga, Mary J Blige, Elvis Costello, Chris Cornell, Zooey Deschanel and Will.i.am all missed out on nominations because of the way this Oscar shortlist is worked out - members of the Academy's music branch are asked to rate all eligible songs out of ten, and only those which get an average mark of 8.25 or more get nominated. Usually that means a shortlist of four or five tracks, but this year's it's only two.
Of course that means favourable odds for both Sergio and Bret. Commenting on his song and nomination, McKenzie told MTV: "I woke up to the phone ringing non-stop, so then I picked up my phone and saw the news. I was very excited. I don't sound it, but I am very excited. I was amazed there were only two nominees. It seems unusual, but it's great because the odds are 50-50. The only thing that would be better, I guess, would be if there was only one nomination".
On the nominated song, he continued: "I really wanted [this song] to be hilarious and beautiful, and I feel like we got that combination. It's sincere but ridiculous. The idea of children singing the song at school cracks me up. The night we recorded it, we had a few drinks and ['The Muppets' co-writer and star] Jason Segel was predicting we'd get together at the Oscars, but he was joking. [Though maybe] that guy can see the future".
In the Oscar's Original Score category this year there are only four contenders, though that's because John Williams has been nominated twice (it's the seventh time that has happened). Following last year's win for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's electronic score for 'The Social Network', all the nominated scores this time are more traditional orchestral affairs, Reznor and Ross's most recent soundtrack, for 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo', not appearing on the noms.
Williams is shortlisted for 'The Adventures Of Tintin' and 'War Horse', while also in the running are Ludovic Bource for 'The Artist', Alberto Iglesias for 'Tinker Tailor Solider Spy', and Howard Shore for 'Hugo'.
The 2012 Academy Awards will be presented on 26 Feb.
SPIRIT ANNOUNCES TOWNSHEND DEAL
The deal follows a year of negotiations between Spirit CEO Mark Fried, Townsend himself, and his management, label and original publisher. The partnership will also see Spirit work with Townsend for at least a year on wider projects, including possible brand partnerships, and will also see the publisher represent the Who man's future works, including his in-development musical project 'Floss'.
Says Fried: "The songs of Pete Townshend are the soundtrack of our lives. They've been a mirror to decades of cultural growth and change, challenging our sensibilities, inspiring engagement and forever redefining rock and roll song craft and musicianship. We're thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to work closely with Pete in the caretaking and promotion of his life's work, and to help inspire his future successes".
Says Townshend: "I am very excited about my new relationship with Mark Fried and his team at Spirit. I feel that my song catalogue is at last consolidated with one guiding company, and I'm optimistic that Spirit will keep my music in the public mind. Further, the deal provides me with the resources to start all over again in my creative career - most songwriters don't get this kind of opportunity, a chance of creative renaissance. I am passionately committed to new projects for rock and for music theatre and I can't imagine a better company with which to be building a new creative life for myself".
FLAMING LIPS' KE$HA COLLABORATION IS REALLY HAPPENING
Already rumoured to be courting the 'Tik Tok' singer to appear on their album of collaborations with other artists (which also features Bon Iver, Neon Indian and Nick Cave), Wayne Coyne et al and have since shared a number of videos proving that it's all, in fact, true. They posted a bizarre series of photos and in-studio clips in which Ke$ha is seen at work on several psychedelic Lips confections, while Coyne tweeted: "She's crazy... But shit! She can really fucking SING!"
Wow, an endorsement that's inappropriate on so many levels. And yet, accurate in parts. That's assuming he means that Ke$ha is shit.
DANGER MOUSE PRODUCES NORAH JONES LP
Jones co-wrote and performed various instrumental parts on 'Little Broken Hearts' in collaboration with Danger Mouse, also the LP's primary producer, having encountered the Gnarls Barkley man when she was invited to contribute to his - and Italian composer Daniele Luppi's - 'ROME' album.
The LP was recorded at Danger Mouse's studio in Los Angeles, with Jones playing piano, bass and guitar while he - real name Brian Burton - added drums and strings.
Jones is now expected to tour around her latest release, with international dates due in the coming months.
KYLIE MINOGUE TO CELEBRATE 25 YEARS IN MUSIC WITH NEW OLD SONG
The full track will be released later today, but for now you can entertain yourself with this brief clip: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESCFSh5CkEY It's the first of several track reworks set to be put online to celebrate Minogue's 25 years in pop, though I think there'll be some sort of 'fans must tweet' thing before each free song goes live.
FIONA APPLE ALBUM DUE IMMINENTLY, SAYS LA REID
And yes, I know what you're thinking, that could be any old Fiona. Is Fiona Bruce planning to release an album? Maybe, but she is not who Reid is referring to. Asked for clarification, he followed up his first tweet with: "YES Fiona Apple!"
SEA OF BEES TO RELEASE NEW LP
You're free to peruse the LP's tracklisting, which includes a reimagining of John Denver's 'Leaving On A Jet Plane', after a quick listen to lead single 'Broke'.
LADYHAWKE TOUR TAKES OFF
Since she has also just released 'Black, White And Blue', you can stream that very track - complete with chorus that occasionally sounds like The Bee Gees' 'Tragedy' - here: youtu.be/o8rLNG9Ma8o
She distinguishes the LP from its predecessor thus: "It's lot more rocky. The tone of it is definitely darker. It's still poppy and fun, but I listened to a lot of guitar rock when I was writing it, stuff like Pixies, Blur, Nirvana, and I've always wanted to make a guitar record. There's no synth, but there's some organ. It's more of a straight-up rock record".
23 Apr: Brighton, Komedia
As previously reported, Grimes will release 'Visions', her third long player, on 12 Mar.
In the mean time, the tour will progress as follows:
7 May: Glasgow, Berkeley Suite
ICARUS LINE SINGLE AND KILLING JOKE TOUR SUPPORT
The band have also been announced as main support on Killing Joke's upcoming European tour, which will hit the British Isles at the following dates:
2 Mar: Dublin, Button Factory
BBC AND SOUTHBANK CENTRE COLLABORATE ON NEW CLASSICAL FESTIVAL
Called The Rest Is Noise, the festival will feature concerts, films, talks and other events at the Southbank Centre, and will be accompanied by a television series on BBC Four about last century's classical oeuvre, and other related bits and pieces on Radio 3.
Says BBC Four boss Richard Klein: "The 20th century divides classical music lovers like no other and there's no more thrilling way of discovering what the last 100 years brought us, than by listening to its music, in all its rich, vibrant, challenging and melodic glories. As the home of classical music on television and a channel committed to partnering the arts sector, BBC Four's partnership with Southbank Centre will bring audiences an exciting opportunity to explore 20th century music in a way that only the BBC can do, with depth, breadth and passion".
Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly added: "We hope this groundbreaking Festival will inspire audiences and artists to experience 20th century classical music from a new perspective. By placing this music within its historical and social context, the Festival will reveal why individual composers were compelled to create the music they did and how the music was inspired by landmark moments and the turbulent upheavals of the century. We are thrilled to be working in partnership with BBC Four on this ambitious project".
DEATH IN VEGAS TO OPEN CAMDEN CRAWL
DIV's Richard Fearless says this of the booking, which takes place on 4 May at Koko: "We're really over the moon to be playing the opening night of this brilliant festival. We're going to bring out full on sonic and visual assault".
With the Crawl happening in earnest between 5-6 May, the weekend festival will feature evening programmes curated by Rough Trade, Moshi Moshi, Artrocker and Xfm.
Tickets and further details available at www.thecamdencrawl.com
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
BENICASSIM, FIB Heineken, Valenica, Spain, 12-15 Jul: Organisers have added British favourites Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Miles Kane and Bombay Bicycle Club to this year's Benicassim bill, thus providing some much-needed company for existing line-up residents The Stone Roses, Florence And The Machine and The Vaccines. www.fiberfib.com/en
FIELD DAY, Victoria Park, London, 2 Jun: The folk in charge at Field Day have named fresh additions including Blood Orange, Blawan, Friends, Korallreven, Liars and Modeselektor to accompany such afore-announced acts as Franz Ferdinand, Beirut, SBTRKT, Rustie and The Vaccines at East London's finest one-day festival. www.fielddayfestivals.com
ØYA, Middelalderparken, Norway, 7-11 Aug: Refused, A$AP Rocky, Feist and Florence And The Machine form the latest batch of acts to extend Øya's rather laudable 2012 line-up, which also boasts Björk, Azealia Banks, Pulp and The Stone Roses. www.oyafestivalen.com
REBELLION, Winter Gardens, Blackpool, 2-5 Aug: John Lydon's PiL are safely locked in as Saturday night headliners at this Brighton bash, with apt company coming from the noisesome likes of Rancid, Bow Wow, The Enemy and Kunt & The Gang. www.rebellionfestivals.com
ROCK WERCHTER, Rotselaar, Belgium, 28 Jun-1 Jul: Further enriching the meaty Werchter roster are fresh announcements The Cure, Elbow, Snow Patrol, dues and Kasabian, as are non-rock types including Skrillex, Katy B, Wiz Khalifa and Beirut. They join Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Florence And The Machine and Justice on what's shaping up to be a very mixed bill. www.rochwerchter.be
SZIGET FESTIVAL, Budapest, Hungary, 8-13 Aug: Placebo, Hurts, Noah And The Whale are amongst those acts just confirmed for Hungary's premier music event, with performances also due from Crystal Fighters, The Horrors and Mando Diao. www.sziget.hu/festival_english
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION RESPONDS TO BACKING OF LIVE MUSIC BILL
Chris White told reporters: "Councils already have a strong track record of working with a wide variety of groups to run events which enrich their local communities. We are fully in favour of making it easier for people to hold concerts, plays and public events and we support the aim of making the process as easy, transparent and free from red tape as possible".
He continues: "It's important that any changes to the licensing laws strike a balance which ensures democratically elected councillors are still able to protect people who attend public events as well as those who work and live nearby. The Live Music Bill does a good job in streamlining the process while leaving councils with enough ways to protect residents who may be adversely affected".
Presumably referencing a government consultation on licensing issues, which was launched despite the Live Music Bill working its way through parliament, and which it's thought could therefore make more radical proposals, White adds: "Removing licensing regulations any further would mean councils and the police may be unaware a gig was taking place and therefore not be able to ensure audience members are safe and people living nearby are not kept awake until the early hours".
Despite the LGA backing the Live Music Bill late last year after some amendments were made, he says there is still one area of concern that central government must address. He concludes: "It appears there is a loophole whereby small live music events where alcohol is brought in by the audience, and not supplied by the organiser, will not require a licence. This obviously poses a risk of unmonitored and excessive drinking which could endanger audience members and disrupt nearby residents and businesses. The government must identify effective practice to address this issue".
PRS ANNOUNCES CONSULTATION OF AMATEUR SPORTS CLUB CUSTOMERS
PRS has already been working with the Sport & Recreation Alliance on this for a year or so, and now want to share the proposals they have worked out with affected licensees. The collecting society says it believes the revamped licence for not-for-profit sporty types should "simplify licensing whilst ensuring that the contribution of music creators to the sector is recognised"
Info about the consultation is on the PRS's consultations page, obviously, at:
7DIGITAL ADDS STREAMING TO RE-DOWNLOAD LOCKER SERVICE
According to PaidContent, an upgrade to the 7Digital site will also let people stream any songs they have bought via the digital firm's stores, as well as download new copies. Says 7Digital boss Ben Drury: "7Digital Player allows people to stream what they've purchased. When you purchase a song from us, you really own it".
CORNELL DOESN'T THINK KANYE IS RETARDED, OFFICIAL
Apparently Cornell got a little pissed off when a Kanye West soundcheck could be heard during his band's set, the rapper and his team being behind schedule at the fest, seemingly because of the rain (headliner West subsequently arrived on stage 45 minutes late). Noting that he and his audience could hear the West soundcheck, The Soundgarden frontman told his audience: "Sounds like there's children playing music there. Retarded children. Retarded as in held back. There's no other word for it".
But Cornell insists he was dissing production staff and not West personally, tweeting: "My comments [at Big Day Out] were directed solely at inadequate tour production. Kanye had nothing to do with it! We love him".
Big Day Out's Adam Zammit, who could possibly count himself amongst Cornell's "retards" as part of the festival's production operation, laughed off the squabble, remembering to blame the rain in the process. He said: "We love Chris and Soundgarden, Kanye and all our bands; he loves Kanye, love is all around us. It's a great show with big acts with big production. When rain plays havoc with production, we all have to play well together".