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SWEDISH SUPREME COURT REFUSES PIRATE BAY APPEAL
All three were found guilty of copyright infringement for their former roles in the file-sharing enterprise at two previous court hearings in Sweden, with all three ordered to serve jail sentences and pay mega-damages to the music and movie industries. The penalties did not apply until all appeal options had been exhausted though. A third founder had already been refused future appeals for failing to attend in person his first appeal hearing.
A lawyer for Lundstrom said this morning: "This ruling is absurd. I am disappointed that the court is so uninterested to dissect and look through all the legal comings and goings in one of the world's most watched court cases of all time".
But welcoming the ruling, Henrik Pontén of anti-piracy body Antipiratbyrån said: "A society ruled by law has now had its say and this is a breaking point in a drawn out discussion about copyright on the internet. The highest court has made it clear that anyone who takes any part in these crimes, even those who supply the internet connection, will have to face up to their responsibility".
It's not yet exactly clear what this means for Sunde, Neij and Lundstrom in terms of the jail sentences. Sunde and Neij would never be able to afford to pay the damages demanded of them anyway.
Courts all of the world have ruled The Pirate Bay is liable for contributory copyright infringement, though the site continues to operate, albeit with domain blocks in place in some countries (but web savvy users can circumvent such blocks). The Swedish case was most important as the site and its founders hark from there.
WARNER WILL FIGHT UNIVERSAL'S EMI TAKEOVER, SAYS OUTGOING CHAIRMAN
Of course Bronfman isn't necessarily in a position to confirm Warner's intent on the Universal/EMI merger, his influence at the music firm being nominal since he stood down as CEO last August following the company's acquisition by Access Industries last May. However, the man who led the Warner music enterprise from 2004 to 2011 will stay on the company's board of directors, so it seems unlikely he'd speak out against Universal's EMI deal in such strong terms if his personal opposition wasn't also company policy.
At a swan song Q&A as part of an AllThingsD conference in California, Bronfman said that allowing Universal to take ownership of the EMI record companies "would create what I call a super-major that would control not only the future of recorded music but the future of all digital media". According to the Wall Street Journal, he continued: "I think it's dangerous, I think it's problematic and I think it's got to be stopped. It does strike me as hubris, particularly for Universal to think it's going to be easy to buy EMI, and frankly to think they can buy EMI at all".
He concluded "Warner is going to fight this tooth and nail", saying the company planned to lobby against the merger in both the US and Europe, where competition regulators must approve the deal. As previously reported, earlier this month the Legal Times noted that Warner had recently hired the services of American legal firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck seemingly to work on anti-trust matters, which suggested they were planning to oppose the EMI deals, in the US at least.
Of course Warner, and Bronfman personally, could be accused of just being bad losers if they now try to block Universal's EMI purchase. Bronfman tried for years to engineer a merger of Warner and EMI, initially in totality, and later, when cash became harder to come by, by bidding against Universal for the EMI record companies.
Indeed, after Warner itself had been sold to Access and Bronfman stood down as CEO, he stayed on primarily to coordinate a merger of the Warner and EMI record companies. But even with the cash reserves of billionaire Access owner Len Blavatnik, Bronfman was unable to bid higher than Universal, who Access believe overpaid for the EMI sound recordings business.
But Bronfman insisted that his opposition to Universal's expansion was based on general concerns for the future of the music industry and artist community, adding that had EMI and Warner merged - even in their entirety - Universal Music would have still been the biggest music company in the world. (The other little irony here, of course, is that Universal in its current form was a Bronfman Jr creation too, he having orchestrated the merger of the Universal and Polygram companies in the late 1990s).
Elsewhere in his interview, which looked back at his time running Warner Music, he said that his greatest regret wasn't failing to combine the company with EMI, but his misjudgement regards the speed with which the mobile phone would become the dominant content device, which he admitted he had expected to happen much sooner after he led a consortium to buy Warner in 2004. The iPhone had begun that transformation, he added, but Apple's competitors still had some way to go, and he had expected the mobile companies to become serious business partners for the big music firms much sooner.
On his company's relationship with the tech community - Bronfman's Warner gained a reputation for being most resistant to new digital services - he had positive words about Apple and Spotify, but remained cautious about Google, echoing the opinion of U2 manager Paul McGuinness at MIDEM last weekend. He said Apple had benefited most from its partnership with the music industry, but that iTunes has been important for the labels too.
Despite having once expressed concerns about Spotify's freemium model, he said yesterday that the streaming service was "ultimately beneficial to the artist", backing his counterparts at other major labels who maintain having catalogue on the streaming platform does not harm iTunes-style download sales. He also spoke positively about Amazon, despite Warner - like all the majors - responding negatively to the mail-order site's decision to launch an unlicensed digital locker last year.
But on Google, Bronfman was less committal, but implied ongoing concerns. This was hardly surprising, given Warner is the one hold out on the Google Music service (despite being the first to licence YouTube, albeit before Google's acquisition of the video site). He said neither he nor Warner "had a beef" with Google, but added that he felt the web giant hadn't yet properly decided whether or not it wanted to be a true content platform, or just a company that helps users organise their content, and that was reflected in their dealings with the music companies.
According to MediaBeat, he mused: "Google has a conflicted ideology around content that dates back to its origins as a company focused on the value in the organisation of content and not the content itself". But, he concluded, in the ideal world he'd like to see Warner licence Google's music ventures in due course.
EFF LEADS CHARGE TO SAVE MEGA DATA
As previously reported, the entire Mega business was shut down by the US authorities last month over allegations the multi-million dollar enterprise was built on the back of mass copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering. As part of the shut down, the Mega websites, which were mainly hosted by two Virginia-based server companies, were taken offline with no warning.
Although some, many and possibly most Mega customers used the firm's platform to share and access unlicensed music, movies and TV shows, the MegaUpload file-transfer and digital locker service did have legitimate uses, to help people distribute and store their own content and files. Since MegaUpload was taken offline users have been unable to access those files, and there are fears the server companies whose hardware the data is stored on might delete the content, given the Mega company is no longer paying its bills and all its bank accounts having been frozen.
The US authorities which orchestrated the Mega shut down have so far washed their hands of any legitimate data that is currently inaccessible to its owners, and which could still be deleted, though the lawyer representing Team Mega said earlier this week that he had negotiated with the two hosting companies - Carpathia Hosting and Cogent Communications - that no files would be deleted for at least a fortnight.
Carpathia went further yesterday, and said it would hold onto the data for as long as possible, and would give the world seven days notice before anything happened to files stored on its servers. Explaining that, for undisclosed reasons (possibly technical, possibly legal), it couldn't currently access Mega files stored on its servers, Carpathia urged any affected customers unable to access legitimate content to contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation which is investigating legal routes to ensure former Mega customers can get their data back. The two organisations have set up a website called megaretrieval.com containing information for affected people.
In a statement, the CMO of Carpathia Hosting, Brian Winter, told reporters: "Carpathia does not have access to any data for MegaUpload customers. [But] we support the EFF and their efforts to help those users that stored legitimate, non-infringing files with MegaUpload to retrieve their data".
Meanwhile EFF attorney Julie Samuels added: "EFF is troubled that so many lawful users of MegaUpload.com had their property taken from them without warning and that the government has taken no steps to help them. We think it's important that these users have their voices heard as this process moves forward".
One would have thought there was a great opportunity here for the movie studios and music majors who pressured the US authorities to shut down the Mega business to score some positive PR points by backing efforts to enable legitimate MegaUpload users to retrieve their data. While it's not clear what percentage of Mega users hosted legitimate content on the web firm's platform - and it may be small -in standing by and quietly watching those users' data be deleted the entertainment giants are opening themselves up to serious charges of hypocrisy - "hey Mr Congressman, pass new laws to protect our content, but as for your content Mr Voter, fuck you, who cares?"
And in the context of the successes enjoyed by the Wikipedia-led protest against new anti-piracy laws in the US last month, and with an albeit anonymous online group now proposing a month long boycott of the entertainment industries in March, the music majors and movie studios could do with some positive PR just now.
RUSSIAN FACEBOOK CLONE LIABLE FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGMENT
vKontakte is very similar to Facebook, down to its design, colour scheme and many of the social networking tools it offers (indeed, some might call it a straight Facebook rip off), and is big news in Russia and neighbouring countries, where it boasts 110 million registered customers and 33 million users daily.
The site has come under increased criticism from both local and international music companies for allegedly facilitating and encouraging the sharing, streaming and downloading of unlicensed music files over its platform. According to local media reports, vKontakte countered that it had no control over the actions of its customers, that it warned users against copyright infringement, and that it had offered to hand over the personal details of users who uploaded unlicensed music.
But the commercial courts in St Petersburg sided with the content owners, saying vKontakte hadn't done enough to stop its platform being used for copyright infringement, and that it must therefore accept liability (so, contributory infringement, basically). The web firm was ordered to pay 210,000 Roubles (about £4400) in relation to the specific infringement considered in this lawsuit. Other rights owners are likewise already suing vKontakte in relation to other alleged infringements.
Welcoming the ruling, the boss of the record industry's global trade body the IFPI, Frances Moore, told CMU: "This is a very important ruling for Russia. It shows that sites like vKontakte cannot build a business on making music available without licences from content owners. Such services are directly liable for the unlicensed music they make available. They cannot avoid liability by shifting responsibility on to their users".
She added that: "Russia is a market with the potential to develop a thriving legitimate music market, but this prospect is currently being undermined by unlicensed services such as vKontakte. Millions of unlicensed songs are freely available through vKontakte, competing unfairly with licensed services, and this must stop".
CYRUS CRACKS COCCYX
Tweets the teen star: "Cracked my tail bone doing a front flip... on to the couch. That's like when I tripped over a pillow and broke my arm. #onlyme".
Though the mishap hasn't so far led to the cancellation of any music-type activities, Cyrus might be forced to postpone her promotional activity for her new film 'LOL'. That's not out just yet, but The Guardian's Stuart Heritage has seen the trailer: www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2012/jan/18/lol-trailer-review-miley-cyrus
MAYNARD TOPS MTV'S NEW TALENT POLL
Leading the way is Brighton-based pop boy and EMI-signed Conor Maynard, who has been dubbed Britain's answer to both Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake (we're guessing the nineteen year old would prefer the latter comparison).
Speaking of his win in the MTV Brand New poll, which has previously tipped then emerging acts like Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Tinie Tempah and Jessie J for big things, Maynard told reporters: "It's such an amazing feeling winning MTV's Brand New 2012. I can't thank the fans and viewers enough for voting, and MTV for selecting me in the first place! Hope this is the first success of many to come!"
Here's the final ten in the MTV new talent poll...
1. Conor Maynard
ADELE APPOINTS GRAMMYS FOR LIVE RETURN, MIGHT SEE PROTESTS
Ms Adkins may have to dodge protestors when arriving at the big awards bash, with Rev Jesse Jackson threatening to lead protests outside this year's Grammys over that previously reported decision by award organisers the Recording Academy to cut the number of categories.
As previously reported, some have accused the Grammys of penalising certain minority genres and ethnic groups by cutting and merging some categories, and some affected acts have been quietly, and in some cases not so quietly, fuming all year. Jackson has requested a meeting with Academy boss Neil Portnow, who has said he'll gladly meet with the civil rights activist to explain why he believes the Grammy's voting process to be fair.
Assuming nominees and other industry types can get past any protests on 12 Feb, they will also get to enjoy performances from the Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Coldplay and Paul McCartney between all that tedious award presenting (there may be less awards to be dished out over Grammy weekend this year, but there's still flippin loads).
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT SETS RELEASE FOR 'POP' ALBUM
Described by the singer-songwriter as "the most pop album I've ever made", it was recorded in New York and features guest contributions from Nick Zinner, Sean Lennon, Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt, Rufus's sister Martha, and soul troupe The Dap Kings, the band also enlisted by Ronson to play on Amy Winehouse's 'Back To Black'.
A modest Ronson offers his thoughts on the project: "It's the best work of my career. It has a real seventies, Laurel Canyon spirit".
Out Of The Game
MALLARD THE WONDERDOG RELEASES NEW ALBUM
Williams previously released 'Pops His Clogs', a concept album about an atheist struggling to cope with finding himself in heaven only to discover he was just unconscious (more or less), in November. This week he has released a concept-less follow-up, 'Miserable Fuck', via Bandcamp. It'll only cost you a quid, which is very cheap considering the injuries he may be about to sustain.
Says Williams of 'Miserable Fuck': "Please consider buying it, I owe the studio a healthy ransom and they start taking my fingers one week at a time for each payment I miss. The album is a misery-a-thon, but it does have some nice tunes, and I've made the colours on my site gaudy and horrific to celebrate the release. It's priced at £1, and it isn't a concept album, so this time you get to hear me forcing my opinions upon you on a variety of topics, and not just religion".
How can you say no to that? Also, I should add that like everything Williams has ever released, solo or otherwise, the new album is full of very brilliant songs. Buy it here: mallardthewonderdog.bandcamp.com/album/miserable-fuck
NEW BRAINMATH COMPILATION TO REVIVE EARLY JAMES BLAKE, ZOMBY SINGLES
Tracks credited to those three alumni, plus less established bass artists Airhead and SPiDERS, appear on 'Brainmaths Vol 1', which is due out on 27 Feb. Assembled in honour of its parent label's 50th release to date, the album will precede 'RAMP 50', a seventeen track collection of RAMP standouts that's due out on 12 Mar.
'Brainmaths Vol 1' tracklisting as follows:
Airhead - Paper Street
SPIRITUALIZED CONFIRM TOUR
Given the whole mixing mix-up, we'll just have to trust these are the actual dates, and not mere first drafts to be revised if and when Spiritualized frontman Jason Pierce ever gets around to it.
So to conclude, these are the real live tour dates:
16 Mar: Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
AFRICA EXPRESS SOUND SYSTEM AMONG FIRST TGE FESTIVAL ANNOUNCEMENTS
Leading the first round of announcements is the Africa Express Sound System, which will appear as one of the high profile Dome shows during the three day festival in May. Also confirmed are Dry The River, When Saints Go Machine, DZ Deathrays, Spector, Grimes, Zulu Winter, Nils Frahm and many more. Meanwhile this year's featured region is Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, with a partnership between TGE and the Institut Ramon Llull. The first bands confirmed to appear from that part of the world are Mujeres, Me And The Bees and Seward And Furguson.
Commenting on the first round of artist announcements, TGE Festival Programmer Natasha Haddad told reporters: "It feels great to be announcing such amazing acts right off the bat, and there's plenty more artists of all genres to come. This is a really exciting year for new music and for TGE, and we're fortunate to be able to showcase some of the greatest talent worldwide".
As previously reported, the conference side of TGE is programmed by the team at CMU, and last week we confirmed that this year's convention will mark Xfm's twentieth year on air with an interview with the station's longest standing DJ and acclaimed new music champion John Kennedy, who will be in conversation with another great radio presenter, Jon Hillcock.
Many more convention and festival announcements from The Great Escape will follow in the coming weeks. Meanwhile delegate passes getting you access to the whole convention and priority access to festival shows are still available for the early bird rate of £120 here. Festival tickets are also available from escapegreat.com, including a small number of super early bird bargain tickets.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
BENICASSIM, FIB Heineken, Valencia, Spain, 12-15 Jul: Dizzee Rascal, Kurt Vile, Maverick Sabre and Strokes-esque US outfit Howler are the latest acts to slot into a rammed Benicassim roster. These late additions mean company for The Stone Roses, Florence And The Machine, New Order, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, David Guetta, Bombay Bicycle Club, Crystal Castles, The Horrors and Katy B. www.fiberfib.com
GLADE FESTIVAL, Houghton Hall, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, 14-17 Jun: German techno type Sven Vath, Rusko, Andy C, Toddla T & MC Serocee and Dub Pistols are amongst those named by organizers as part of the specialist electronic festival's first line-up announcement. This lot will grace the Glade Stage, with many more acts playing across multiple platforms such as the Psychedelic Village, Overkill Arena, Bassment and Rabbit Hole. www.gladefestival.com
LIVE AT LEEDS, various venues, Leeds, 4-6 May: Initial acts slated to blossom amidst this springtime fest include Marina & The Diamonds, Ladyhawke, Friends, Stooshe, Howler, Niki And The Dove, Spector, Jessie Ware and Charli XCX. Beatsmith Example will appear at a separate but related ticketed event on 4 May, with Wretch 32 confirmed as support. www.liveatleeds.com
SNOWBOMBING 2012, Mayrhofen, Austria, 9-14 Apr: Replacement rapper Dizzee Rascal subs in for ex-headliner Snoop Dogg, who has cancelled all forthcoming European dates. Dizzee tops an ice-cool selection that also features DJ Shadow, Example, Groove Armada, The Vaccines, Fatboy Slim and Labrinth. www.snowbombing.com
JAMES MURPHY CONSIDERING OWN COFFEE LINE
Says Murphy: "I make a lot of coffee. For my birthday, my girlfriend got me a training course with the world champion. That's what I'm going to do when I get back to London".
Asked how he planned to prepare for the venture, Murphy said he would "just go to a roaster who lives near me and start tweaking beans and temperatures".
As for specifics relating to blend and bean-count (if that's a thing), he wasn't giving much away. "I can't talk about that because I'm still in negotiations", he said. "I love that we're here and talking about a film, but I'm like, 'I can't really talk about the coffee".
So if this acting lark doesn't work out, and James still wants a sideline to his music, there's always a second career as a coffee mogul to consider. And speaking of acting, here's a clip from 'The Comedy': vimeo.com/35703057
PHISHING ATTACKS TO OBTAIN PRE-RELEASE MUSIC ON THE RISE
He told BBC Newsbeat: "They get a little bit of information by searching databases, publishers catalogues or reading forums. That's enough for them to write a cheeky email disguised as someone from the management, touring agency or someone related to the artists in an attempt to get you, the producer, to send them finished tracks or demos".
He continued: "You might think that someone wouldn't fall for these emails, but in a high turnover, fast environment, which making records is now, things are needed instantly. It's possible that you would send something. I know of a producer recently who did send out the demos and the masters to a random person. Not to encourage things, but it does seem like an interesting way of trying to get hold of these unreleased gems".
X puts the practice down simply to "rabid fans" trying to get hold of new music by their favourite artists, though as some file-sharing networks have been shown to pay serial uploaders of new unlicensed content via affiliate schemes, it may not be quite that innocent.
Of the sneaky emailers trying to confuse industry types into sending them pre-release music, Universal's Head Of Digital Paul Smernicki said "the intent can only be interpreted as malicious". He accuses the perpetrators of being people who "really want to damage an album campaign", adding "People through the label have been made aware to be vigilant, but leaks do still occur".
DAN MILLER MOVES FROM ANORAK TO VICE
Miller told CMU: "No one is producing more consistently exciting original content across music, film, fashion, travel and news than Vice. From A$AP Rocky's new video being directed by Vice's Andy Capper through to MIA's new video premiering on Noisey's new YouTube music channel, Vice's name seems to be increasingly attached to the most creative artists and musical initiatives around".
FACEBOOK IPO COULD BEGIN TODAY
The Facebook IPO, which has been a very long time coming, will be one of the largest US market debuts in history - and the biggest yet to come from the tech sector.
BIRMINGHAM SHOULD MAKE MORE OF SABBATH REUNION, COUNCILLOR SAYS
In a report called 'Destination Birmingham', Councillor Philip Parkin writes: "Black Sabbath's reunion and their agreement to headline Download Festival in June is an opportunity we should not miss. Early discussions are taking place about how best the city should celebrate this and the council should be supporting any celebrations".
Talking to the Birmingham Post, he added: "The report is saying that Black Sabbath reforming is significant, Black Sabbath are huge and metal is huge. Given this, it is us saying to the council that we need to celebrate the fact these people come from Birmingham. We could hold a civic event and potentially invite the band along to say thank you from Birmingham for the contribution they've made to music in our city".
As previously reported, Black Sabbath plan to continue work on a new album and to perform at Download despite guitarist Tony Iommi being diagnosed with cancer. He plans to undergo treatment while also working with his former bandmates.
LATE LABEL CHIEF LEAVES A MILLION FOR HIS CHAUFFEUR
Alan Meltzer, who founded Wind-Up, now one of the world's leading independent labels, in 1997, died somewhat suddenly from undisclosed causes last October. He left a $10 million estate, and allocated $1 million to his former chauffeur Jean Laborde and $500,000 to doorman Chamil Demiraj.
Asked about his windfall, Laborde told reporters: "[Meltzer] was always joking. He never looked down on anybody. He was such a nice guy. He left me money, but it's not a good deal for me because it means he's no longer here".
Meanwhile Demiraj said: "He was a generous guy. He was a really good friend of mine, and I was a good friend of his. It's a surprise. Peace and rest to him. That's all I can say".
Meltzer's former staff are benefiting partly from the Wind-Up boss's divorce from his ex-wife Diana. She was a co-founder of the Wind-Up business, but split from her husband and former business partner somewhat acrimoniously in 2010.
But the ex-wife insisted she didn't care that she wasn't benefiting from her former husband's will, delivering a fantastic statement to the New York Post as follows: "He can leave it to whoever he wants to. I'm doing fine. I could[n't] care less. If he wants to give it to the bums, he can give it to the bums. He could fuck a nun. I couldn't give a shit. He can give his money to whoever he wants. We're divorced. The man is dead".