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SOCA REMOVES SINISTER WARNING MESSAGE FROM FORMER R&B DOWNLOAD SITE
As previously reported, not only did the message tell former RnBXclusive.com readers that the site had been shut down as part of a criminal investigation, it offered the stern warning that "if you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law". The warning was accompanied by a widget that showed the user's IP address, and an additional message that amounted to saying "we know where you live".
As noted yesterday, that warning is not really backed up by UK law, because while you could be sued by rights owners for downloading unlicensed content, a criminal prosecution is only likely if you operate a file-sharing service, or upload a significant amount of content to a file-sharing network, and even then a lengthy prison sentence would only be possible if it could be shown you were profiting from your infringement, ie you were running a commercial piracy operation.
In fact, so disconnected from the real law was SOCA's statement, that some online commentators started to wonder if the message was a hoax, perhaps a joker had somehow managed to take over RnBXclusive.com's domain after the UK police moved to shut the site down, and had posted an over the top warning to embarrass the authorities. (The slightly amateurish look of the police notice was also noted, though SOCA's official website does look a bit like it was designed on a night school course, so that probably wasn't relevant.)
Anyway, it turned out the statement was, indeed, the real deal. As criticism of the way the warning was worded started to spread yesterday, the crime agency took the message down and replaced it with a more simple "SOCA has taken control of this domain name", though the government body insists that the more controversial statement was always intended to be temporary, presumably to shock and scare the 70,000 users apparently visiting the RnB downloads blog each day.
Commenting on the wider impact of its sudden swoop on RnBXclusive.com and the stern if misleading warning it posted on that domain for 36 hours, SOCA said in a statement yesterday: "Responses to the takedown have included action by three more [unlicensed] music sites. One has taken itself offline voluntarily, one claims to be considering taking itself offline, and another has posted a claim on its home page to now only be dealing in legal music files following the activity".
The man arrested in relation to RnBXclusive.com has been bailed, and faces charges of conspiracy to defraud. It's thought the site made money through ad sales, and the profits made on the back of the posting of unlicensed music files will be key to securing a conviction for fraud. It remains to be seen how the criminal prosecution spans out, though in the meantime SOCA hasn't really aided the anti-piracy cause by opening itself - and the record industry, which many believe (rightly or wrongly) was involved in the SOCA investigation and warning notice - to accusations of deliberately misrepresenting to law to scare web users into submission.
HOUSTON FUNERAL TO BE STREAMED ONLINE, FRANKLIN PAYS TRIBUTE
It was announced earlier this week that the funeral service for the late pop star, due to take place this Saturday a week after her premature death, would be a private occasion to be held at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where a young Houston first sang in public. However, yesterday representatives for the Houston family said that the event would now be made available to TV networks and streamed on the internet at livestream.com/aplive, possibly amid fears that fans looking to mourn, and with no official public memorial to attend, would flock to the Newark church.
About 1500 people will attend the funeral service in person, including various singers and music industry execs, while it's thought Aretha Franklin will sing and gospel singer and pastor Marvin Winans will deliver the eulogy. There have been media reports that Bobby Brown has been asked to stay away from the service, with some blaming Houston's ex-husband for the drug problems that dogged the latter part of her life, though said reports are almost certainly not true, because even if some of the singer's family do resent Brown, they are unlikely to stop him from supporting the couple's daughter on such a traumatic day.
Franklin, who was Houston's godmother of course, has written a tribute to the late singer for People magazine in which she urges people to "remember the hits" and "forget the misses". Recalling the first time Houston's mother brought Whitney to a studio where Franklin was recording, the queen of soul writes: "I thought 'what a cute, darling little red-headed girl!' From then on, I watched her growth and development as an artist. It became apparent that she was the signalling of a younger generation coming in and a role model for many young vocal aspirants - a rose who came into full bloom. It wasn't just the hits: Whitney knew how to be a star, and she was one of the brightest stars in the universe".
Noting the personal problems that haunted Houston's later life, Franklin said that her goddaughter's worldwide fame was "perhaps too much, too soon", while adding: "Let us all applaud and remember Whitney for the beautiful, giving and caring young lady and talented artist she was, the great music and performances. Remember the hits. Forget the misses. A true superstar has gone on, flown away on the wings of love".
KENNY ROGERS SUES EMI OVER DIGITAL ROYALTIES
As previously reported, the digital royalties dispute currently rocking the US record industry revolves around whether download revenue should be treated as record sales or licensing income (there are arguments for both interpretations). It's an important distinction, because many pre-internet record contracts, which obviously don't specifically mention downloads, pay out a considerably higher royalty to artists if revenue comes in from licensing deals rather than record sales.
Record companies have always treated download sales as the digital equivalent to record sales and paid heritage artists the smaller royalty. But many of those artists aren't happy with that situation. Early efforts to fight that interpretation in the American courts, however, were not successful, but things changed when FBT Productions, who have a stake in the early Eminem recordings, successfully sued Universal Music for the higher pay out on download sales.
Universal insists the ruling in the FBT case only relates to that specific contract, and does not set a more general precedent. But that hasn't stopped Rob Zombie, Chuck D and the estate of Rick James from suing the major over their old record contracts. Earlier this month Sister Sledge pulled Warner Music into the dispute by suing over their digital pay outs, and now Kenny Rogers wants the courts to force EMI to pay the higher royalty on his download sales. That only leaves Sony Music out of the proceedings, though interestingly it was Sony which successfully fought off some of the earlier lawsuits in this domain, led by the Allman Brothers and Cheap Trick.
Rogers is the first to file his digital royalties lawsuit in the Tennessee Court, which, of course, will be more convenient for those artists whose music industry base is Nashville, should Rogers be successful. Major label lawyers remain confident that - while certain contracts may enable certain artists to get a higher pay out on downloads - there will be no general ruling on this issue, and in most cases their interpretation of what constitutes record sale and licensing income will prevail. But if the heritage artists win, the impact could be huge on the labels, with the Future Of Music Coalition estimating the majors might have to hand over $2 billion in extra royalties if they lose outright.
It's worth noting that Rogers' lawsuit isn't just restricted to a disagreement on digital revenue, with other complaints also included, stemming from a number of royalty disputes that seem to have been rumbling on since 2007.
IMPALA ANNOUNCES SHORTLIST FOR BEST ALBUM AWARD
And the shortlisted albums are:
Adele - 21 (XL Recordings)
COLD SPECKS SIGNS TO MUTE
Says Anderson of discovering Spx: "My little brother, who was spending his summers with our mother in Toronto, had always told me of this girl he was friends with that had this amazing voice. As a producer I'd heard that so often that I didn't take too much notice. Then I came in one night to find him and a few friends drinking in the flat and playing a CD of her demos. I was completely transfixed and just kept pressing repeat. I knew I had to work with her. I eventually persuaded her to come over. At that point she had never played with another musician and was completely self-taught with her own unique tuning and timings, which we had to decipher".
Spx herself adds: "Jim convinced me to fly out and work on the record for a few months. That was a year and a half ago. I guess I'm permanently based here now. I didn't know anyone when I moved here. We needed musicians and Jim knew a bunch. Rob Ellis [PJ Harvey's regular collaborator] has been helping out with some arrangements and percussion, and Jim's old friends Pete Roberts [guitar], Thomas Greene [piano] and Tom Havelock [cello] also play on the record".
If you're curious and can't wait until May, Cold Specks will undertake a UK tour later this month, dates as follows, and for the very impatient, a video of previous single release 'Holland' is below.
23 Feb: King Tut's, Glasgow
BEYONCE MAY RELEASE TWO ALBUMS IN 2013
Tedder, who composed 'Halo' for Beyonce's 2008 double LP 'I Am... Sasha Fierce', says this of the R&B star's potential next moves: "The conversations about her next album literally just started and there [are] two projects happening. All I can say is you kind of feed her the best that you have and she's this phenomenal filter and she takes it all in".
He continues: "She's not interested in 2012, [she's interested in] what's [going to sound good for] 2013. Without question she steers the ship. [With] Beyonce, you just let her go, she's ridiculous, she's the best".
As for the inspiration behind the new records, Tedder claims he has already suggested to Bey that she might like to write about the miracle of motherhood. "I would say that goes without saying", he adds.
This Ryan Tedder character does say a lot of things, though, which recently include that he has collaborated with both Lana Del Rey and Azealia Banks. He's so very in demand, that Tedder. Or so he says.
IAMAMIWHOAMI PREPARES AV ALBUM
Described as the 'first chapter' of the album, lead single 'Sever' is out now. See its very uncanny accompanying video here:
GIANA FACTORY ANNOUNCE DEBUT
And now here's the new video for 'Save The Youth' standout 'Rainbow Girl':
THROATS OFFER DISCOGRAPHY FOR DOWNLOAD
The collection includes Throats' first and only album, 'Throats', and tracks from their split releases with Rolo Tomassi, Maths and The_Network, and their contributions to volumes one and two of Holy Roar Records' 'Happy Holy Roar' Christmas cassette compilations.
So, download Throats' full musical output, via their Bandcamp page: throatsofgold.bandcamp.com
Here's what you get:
- Locked Blue, Deathnaps/Comatosed, and Sometimes (Throats' demo tape)
MARINA & THE DIAMONDS ANNOUNCE TOUR
Singer-songwriter Marina has various things to say of her new record, one being this: "It's an ode to dysfunctional love. I based the project around character types commonly found in love stories, film and theatre, usually ones associated with power and control in love, as opposed to weakness or defeat. I guess it was a way of dealing with the embarrassment that, for the first time in my life, I got 'played'. Rejection is a universally embarrassing topic and 'Electra Heart' is my response to that. It is a frank album".
The band will release new single 'Primadonna' on 16 Apr, with the next natural progressions being said tour and an appearance at the Live At Leeds festival on 5 May.
Dates as follows:
4 May: Manchester, Cathedral
FUTUREHEADS HERALD A CAPELLA LP, TOUR
Says the band's Barry Hyde: "The Futureheads have been together for a long time now. And we have the right to do something different".
His bandmate Ross Millard, meanwhile, says this: "If we were going to carry on making music, we needed to change it up. Making another Futureheads record as per usual wasn't something that appealed to us. We've always been a four-part harmony group; it's been a massive part of the genetics of this band".
Hear, hear. Now hear the boys' choral battle cry in this here acoustic restyling of 'Robot':
There's also a tour to consider:
3 Apr: Bristol, Colston Hall
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
BEACONS FESTIVAL, Funkirk Estate, Skipton, Yorkshire, 17-19 Aug: Organisers open additions to the Beacons Festival's 2012 billing with news that Roots Manuva, Ghostpoet, Factory Floor, Willy Mason and Cass McCombs are all slated to appear at this resurgent Skipton bash, which was cancelled last year due to excessive flooding. On the sunny side, this year's edition also plays host to the likes of Errors, King Krule, Gross Magic, Bos Angeles, Peaking Lights and Mazes, which sounds a very weatherproof programme indeed. www.greetingsfrombeacons.com
CAMBRIDGE FOLK FESTIVAL, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, 26-29 Jul: Irish folk nobility Clannad will be accompanied by Joan Armatrading, The Proclaimers, and Canadian singer-composer Loreena McKennit at this year's edition of this Cambridge-based happening. Also joining already announced fixtures Lucy Ward and June Tabor & Oysterband are Billy Bragg, who'll celebrate what would've been Woodie Guthrie's 100th birthday with a commemorative set, and Nic Jones, who will perform in public for the first time in thirty years at the festival. www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk
EVOLUTION, Gateshead Quayside, Tyneside, 3-4 June: The North East's very own Evolution festival has just announced its full 2012 line-up. Headline sets will be provided by Dizzee Rascal and Deadmau5, with performances from Maximo Park, Noah And The Whale, Rizzle Kicks, Here We Go Magic, Devlin and more. Plus the likes of DJ Fresh, SBTRKT and others will be on hand with DJ sets too. www.evolutionfestival.co.uk
EXIT FESTIVAL, Novi Sad, Serbia, 12-15 Jul: New Order, Wolfmother, Gossip and Buraka Som Sistema are perhaps most notable amongst EXIT's initial line-up missive, with Richie Hawtin, Miss Kittin, Maceo Plex and Kenny Larkin down to appear at the festival's specialist Dance Arena. www.exitfest.org
FLOW FESTIVAL, Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland, 8-12 Aug: Taking place, as is Flow tradition, on the site of a former power plant, this fully-charged Finnish fest will this year take in new bookings St Vincent, Feist, The Black Keys, A$AP Rocky, Nicolas Jaar, The War On Drugs and Caibou, all of whom join Björk, Bon Iver and a host of others on the existing line-up. www.flowfestival.com/en/
GLADE FESTIVAL, Houghton Hall, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, 14-17 Jun: German production duo Plantage 13 are set to make a sole UK appearance at this year's Glade, while Stanton Warriors, System 7, Lewah and The Correspondents form further fresh additions to the dance and electro festival's 2012 roster. The previously announced likes of Andy C, Sven Vath and Vitalic top the bill as it stands just now. www.gladefestival.com
PRIMAVERA SOUND, Porto, Spain, 7-10 Jun: Team Primavera supplement an already appealing bill with such extra draws as The Flaming Lips, Rufus Wainwright, The Rapture, The Walkmen and Spiritualized. The existing bill also includes Björk, Saint Etienne, The Afghan Whigs and Explosions In The Sky. www.optimusprimaverasound.com
ROUGH BEATS, Bottom Farm, Clapham, North Yorkshire, 8-10 Jun: Topmost confirmations for this Bottom Farm-based happening are Azealia Banks, Gruff Rhys, Pulled Apart By Horses and Mahala Rai Banda, who are due to reign supreme over a tbc overall bill. www.roughbeatsfestival.co.uk
SLAM DUNK, University Of Hertfordshire, 27 May: Taking Back Sunday front the first acts confirmed for Slam Dunk's one-day programme, as also features Architects, The King Blues, Every Time I Die, Make Do And Mend and Set Your Goals. www.slamdunkmusic.com/slam-dunk-festival
Y-NOT FESTIVAL, Matlock, Derbyshire, 3-5 Aug: A stretch of Peak District national parkland will provide a green and pleasant setting for performances from Summer Camp, The Subways, The Pigeon Detectives and headliners The Wombats, with extra acts and headliners yet to be announced. www.ynotfestivals.co.uk
FESTIVAL REPUBLIC HOSTS ANOTHER CRIME CONFERENCE
The conference, takes place next Wednesday, and will include reps from the Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading, Latitude, Electric Picnic, Bestival, Rockness, Download, Isle of Wight, T In The Park, V, Womad, Creamfields, Secret Garden Party, Global Gathering, Hackney Big Weekend, Great Escape, Oxegen, Green Man, Sonisphere and Wireless festivals.
SESAC FOR SALE
Unlike BMI and ASCAP, the two better known rights organisations that represent American songwriters and music publishers (and, for that matter, their UK counterpart PRS For Music), SESAC is a profit-making company. It represents a smaller roster of artists, but on that roster are some key American songwriters, including Bob Dylan, and some important songs, meaning that most music TV and radio stations can't afford not to be licensed by the firm.
Various private equity outfits are expected to discuss taking ownership of the rights agency, though the Post reports that Warner Music has also expressed an interest. That said, Warner taking ownership of the rights body might cause concern amongst some of the songwriters and publishers it represents, Warner itself being a music publisher, so some commentators reckon that deal wouldn't go ahead, even if there really was interest on the major's part.
HTC WORKING ON MUSIC SERVICE WITH DR DRE'S COMPANY
Presumably Interscope boss Iovine could smooth over at least one major label licence for any HTC music service, should the company choose to licence direct rather than piggy backing on someone else's digital catalogue.
MOBILE MANUFACTURER TAKEOVERS: SONY ERICSSON AND GOOGLE MOTOROLA
Confirming that fact, Ericsson said in a statement: "Ericsson has today completed the divestment of its 50% stake in Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, including the broad IP cross-licensing agreement, jointly announced by Sony Corporation and Ericsson on October 27, 2011. This makes Sony Ericsson a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony. The agreed cash consideration for the transaction is 1.05 billion euros".
The completion of Sony's buy out of the mobile maker follows last week's news that Google's acquisition of the Motorola handset manufacturing business had now been approved by competition regulators in both the US and Europe, though both indicated they would be watching carefully to see that the web giant did not abuse the patents it had acquired as part of the deal.
That purchase is still to be approved in China, where Google still has a base despite moving a big chunk of its Chinese operations to separately regulated Hong Kong in 2010. If the Chinese government objected to the Google Motorola acquisition it could throw a serious spanner into the works, though few expect them to do so, despite past tensions between the web firm and the authorities in China.
UK TRIBUNAL REAFFIRMS LINKS LICENCE REQUIREMENT FOR PR AND CUTTINGS FIRMS
But first, some background. This affects any cuttings or PR agency, or in-house PR unit, that provides commercial media monitoring and reporting services, ie they provide cuttings of or links to any coverage about a company, its operations or its competitors (or, in the case of record labels, usually coverage of its artists). Traditionally this service would involve making physical photocopies of coverage, and such copies required a licence from the copyright owner, ie the newspaper or magazine publisher. And this was usually administered by one central body, the Newspaper Licensing Agency, which is sort of the PRS of the newspaper world (though News International and the FT operate their own systems).
Increasingly these days, though, cuttings and PR companies provide clients with lists of headlines and links rather than physical cuttings, and some in the sector argued that, as physical copies were no longer being made, no licence should be required. Which probably makes sense at first sight. But the NLA disagreed, successfully arguing in court that a copyright also exists in a headline or any URL primarily made up of an article's headline, so even if no physical copy is made, a licence is still required - albeit a special online licence. And as the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal on this matter, the Court Of Appeal's ruling in the NLA's favour stands.
That said, one additional issue in this debate will be argued before the Supreme Court - something which revolves around a technicality of how web browsing works - ie when you access a website your browser makes a temporary copy of the content you see. Under EU law that temporary copy is exempt from any copyright licence requirement, though it isn't clear whether that applies in a commercial context, especially where an article is accessed via a commercially supplied link. That particular point is still to be argued in the UK's highest court.
This week's hearing at the Copyright Tribunal was less to do with whether link licences are required, and more to do with what rates it's reasonable for the NLA to charge, and what form those charges should take. On this issue the PRCA, a trade body for PR agencies, and digital cuttings company Meltwater, who have both opposed the links licence throughout, claimed a victory, saying that, in an interim decision, the Tribunal backed seven of the nine changes they requested be made to the new licence, in particular on fees and how they are charged. Meltwater reckons those changes could save the PR and media monitoring industries £100 million over the next three years.
PRCA boss Francis Ingham told CMU: "Both Meltwater and the PRCA have invested huge resources ensuring the PR industry and other internet users are not subject to unreasonable costs. The savings we have achieved for the industry highlight how important it was that we stood up to this scheme when others just accepted it. This is a huge win for Meltwater, the PRCA and its members. We have won the battle. We must now continue to fight to protect the broader principles of the internet. The mandate the NLA has been given is against the ethos of the internet and sets UK copyright law in a head on collision course with every day internet users. We share their concern and will now step up our campaign to make UK copyright law fit for a digital age".
That latter viewpoint - about the wider implications the existence of a links licence could have on more general internet usage - is contentious. Many in the tech community share Ingham's concerns, with some suggesting anyone sharing links to newspaper and magazine websites, or even just accessing such content, as part of their professional work, could be subject to licence fees, if the legal principles behind the NLA's licence are interpreted in a wide way. Some have even suggested it could limit the freedom of any search engine, media, blogger or even simple web user, to share links to newspaper content.
The NLA disputes these claims strongly, though, and it is true that such doom and gloom is based, in the main, on the 'thin end of the wedge' logic that is often employed when objecting to unpopular new - or newly confirmed - copyright rules.
The NLA argues that it is only interested in licensing commercial media monitoring services, ie companies who directly profit from distributing article extracts compiled to the brief of a specific client, and not just anyone passing on links to newspaper and magazine content. It adds that its members - the newspaper and magazine publishers - have no interest in limiting the non-commercial, non-fee-based distribution of links to their respective content, given that drives a lot of the traffic their online services enjoy. Opponents, though, would presumably argue that, while this may be the case for now, they worry about how increasingly desperate media owners might further exploit this copyright in the future.
Either way, the NLA said it welcomed this week's Copyright Tribunal interim ruling on the links licence, despite the PRCA and Meltwater getting their concessions (which, the NLA argues, are not as dramatic as its opponents suggest). The agency's MD, David Pugh, told reporters: "We welcome today's decision which follows two court cases confirming the legality of licensing. We are pleased that the Copyright Tribunal has upheld the principle and structure of our online licensing scheme, and confirmed that Meltwater is subject to the same requirements as media monitoring organisations. The judgment provides a measured, equitable regime that will ensure stability for both publishers and end-users alike: our customers will benefit from a transparent licensing structure and newspapers can be sure of a fair reward for their content".
NEW EDITOR FOR GIGWISE
Confirming his appointment, Bagg told reporters: "I'm thrilled to be joining Gigwise as Editor and to be working on one of the UK's most established and respected music websites. I look forward to helping steering the site to the forefront of online music content in the UK, developing the excellent written and video content that the site already produces and embracing social networking to reach a new generation of Gigwise readers".
The site's publisher Andrew Day added: "We had a lot of very high calibre applicants for this position. Michael impressed us greatly with his vast array of experience in online content management, superb journalism and possessed all the key traits essential for the Gigwise Editor position".
ADELE NOT TAKING FIVE YEARS OFF
Following last weekend's mega-Grammy haul for the British singer, many media picked up on something she'd told the US edition of Vogue in a recent interview, where she seemed to announce a long break from music to spend more time with boyfriend Simon Konecki. She told the mag: "I am fucking off for four or five years. If I am constantly working, my relationships fail. So at least now I can have enough time to write a happy record. And be in love and be happy. And then I don't know what I'll do. Get married. Have some kids. Plant a nice vegetable patch".
But no such five year hiatus is really planned. A press rep said the remark was "off the cuff" and not intended to be serious, while Adele herself wrote on her blog: ''I've a few days off now, and then it's the BRIT Awards here at home and then I'm straight into the studio. BOYYAHH! Five years? More like five days". So there you go, it's official, never trust anything Adele says. I have deep suspicions she's actually going to take seven days off, just to throw everyone off the scent.
Anyway, also on that blog, Adkins has been recalling her big night at America's big awards show, and her six Grammy haul. Says the singer: ''In between laughing my head off, welling up, needing to sit down and trying to maintain an open fire (which is pretty much impossible huh?!), I keep having flashbacks to Sunday night. The most incredible night of my life. Thank you to you all, I am so overwhelmed, it's the strangest feeling. I have constant butterflies and goosebumps, it's wearing me out but I love it. I've been sleeping a lot but the minute I wake up I burst out laughing and it starts all over again".