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US ATTORNEY DOESN'T WANT TO HELP "INNOCENT" MEGA USERS
As much previously reported, when the US authorities took the Mega websites offline amidst allegations of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering, while the majority of the files removed from public access was probably unlicensed music, movie and TV content, some of the digital firm's customers will have been using the cloud-lockers they rented from the company to store legitimate content that they had created and/or owned, and when the plug was pulled access to that data was cut off too.
Mega's servers were actually owned by two other hosting companies, and in particular Carpathia Hosting, and bosses there have been agonising over what to do with all the bits of hardware now sitting in their building unused, given the Mega company, with its assets frozen, is no longer able to pay rental fees. Prosecutors say they have all they need from the Mega servers and are happy for all remaining data to be wiped, and the servers put to use elsewhere. But the Mega defence team, legal reps for the Motion Picture Association Of America and various former Mega customers have all requested access to the old servers, either to use as evidence in court, or in the case of former customers to retrieve lost data.
Various proposals to make that happen have been put forward - including letting Mega buy the servers itself and then having its lawyers oversee the return of legitimate data to former customers, though, as assumed, that would require the US authorities freeing up about a million of the digital company's frozen assets, which said authorities have said they won't do. The MPAA, which opposed that particular proposal anyway, instead advocated that the federal government in the US take ownership of Carpathia's hardware, and oversee the data return process, ensuring access to the unlicensed movie content sitting on the Mega platform is first blocked.
Carpathia is open to all options, though really just wants a speedy resolution, because while those servers sit unused it is losing money. The speediest solution would be to just delete all the data sitting on the former Mega servers, though Carpathia is concerned doing so might open it up to civil litigation from any former customers of the file-storage company who lose their files as a result. To that end, amongst various filings made to the courts on this matter, Carpathia requested a protective order to protect it from any such lawsuits.
But MacBride is basically of the opinion that all that inaccessible Mega data is not his or the court's problem, and Carpathia should just get on with deleting it all, like he said the company could back in January. In his court filing, MacBride was dismissive of Carpathia's claims regards the extent of its financial burden in holding onto the Mega data, adding that anyway it was doing so if its own accord, and not at the US government's request. This was a criminal matter, he added, and civil litigation was not a matter for him or the court.
On other matters, MacBride said that he shared the MPAA's concerns that any move to restore access for former Mega customers to their data might result in further distribution of all the unlicensed movie files stored on the servers, though having washed his hands of that data he didn't propose any solutions as to how legitimate and unlicensed content could be distinguished. Though he did add that there had been allegations that some pictures of child abuse may have been stored on the Mega platform somewhere, and if those allegations were true, the authorities would take a new interest in the data, albeit in a way that would probably further complicate the reconnection of former users with their files.
As previously reported, one former Mega customer who has lost access to his data (his local copy of which was also lost when a hard disk packed up), has filed papers with the courts - backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation - calling on judges to intervene to ensure "innocent users" are not negatively impacted by the criminal case against MegaUpload and its bosses. But that hasn't affected MacBride's resolve on this issue. While admitting the case, involving Kyle Goodwin, was "unfortunate", the US Attorney says MegaUpload's own terms and conditions said users should still keep local back ups of uploaded content, and that if Mega was to cease operations it would not be liable for any lost data.
According to C-Net, MacBride writes: "The 'innocent user' concerns articulated by Carpathia - and expanded upon in the supporting brief of Kyle Goodwin - appear to be undermined by MegaUpload.com's own terms of service. [Users were cautioned] not to keep the sole copy of any document on MegaUpload.com, and stated that MegaUpload.com's duty to preserve data ends when, at its sole discretion and without any required notice, Megaupload.com ceases operations. While Mr Goodwin's situation is unfortunate, it is not a matter to be resolved as part of the criminal case".
Of course MacBride is almost certainly right on all the points he raises legally speaking, though as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has pointed out, we are in uncharted waters here, and any court rulings on this matter could set important precedents, which could impact on both the cloud-locker sector and the copyright industries.
The former because - whatever the small print says - cloud lockers are sold on the idea that as a customer your content is always safe and readily available wherever you are. The more cloud lockers go offline overnight without warning, for whatever reason, the less compelling renting virtual locker space becomes.
The latter because if legitimate Mega users do lose their data here, they will blame the big movie studios, and probably by association the big records companies, who will be accused of using their power and influence to protect their own copyrights while gladly standing by as independent creators have their copyright works deleted by anonymous officials. While the number of people actually affected in that way might be minimal in the wider scheme of things, such an eventuality will further hinder the content industries in the public debate on copyright, which they are already woefully losing.
Because, while the big content owners may have scored some successes in the court rooms and legislative chambers of various countries around the world in recent years regards the protection of copyright online, in terms of public opinion the content industries are seen in the main as money-grabbing power-hungry monoliths, screwing over artists and blocking digital innovation in a bid to protect their dying business models. That's a grossly unfair depiction, but one nurtured by unwise litigation and DRM obsessions ten years ago, and a total failure to engage with the public at large on copyright issues to this day.
And public opinion does matter. Because copyrights are always hard to enforce at a micro level, and really rely on the public buying into the principles of copyright law and behaving responsibly. And because in the social media age, single issue campaigning groups can make powerful strikes, such as that which saw the years-in-development SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills in US Congress unceremoniously dropped after just 24 hours of public protest. Unfortunately for the big record companies, the actions of the US authorities and movie studios with regard to MegaUpload could further turn public opinion against them, which won't help when SOPA and PIPA v2 go before America's political decision makers.
EMI TERMINATES DEAL WITH GROOVESHARK
As much previously reported, Universal, Warner and Sony are all suing Grooveshark, claiming that, while the digital firm says all the music on its streaming platform is uploaded by users, actually the company employs people to upload unlicensed tracks itself. The Grooveshark company strongly denies those allegations.
Of course, the majors' real gripe is that, because it operates a takedown system, Grooveshark can claim protection under US copyright law even when its users upload unlicensed music files.
Many in the music business reckon the company operates a deliberately shoddy takedown system to ensure it has music from most artists available at all times (knowing users will quickly replace tracks even when it does remove them at the request of rights owners). Though takedown system obligations are a bit of a grey area in American law, and generally the courts haven't set the bar particularly high when considering such systems previously.
Therefore the majors reckon suing over allegations that Grooveshark staff upload infringing content themselves is a safer bet because, if that can be proved, technicalities around the Digital Millennium Copyright Act will not apply.
EMI, however, is not currently part of that lawsuit, it having sued Grooveshark for copyright infringement much earlier in 2009. That litigation was settled out of court, and resulted in EMI licensing the streaming platform. But in January EMI Music Publishing said it was suing the digital firm, which, it said, was in breach of their 2009 agreement, and then yesterday it emerged that the EMI recordings division was terminating its licensing agreement with the Groovesharkers. The music major has also seemingly applied for a summary judgement on its January lawsuit.
Speaking to Billboard, Grooveshark confirmed it had "parted ways" with its one major label partner, though whereas EMI's litigation claims unpaid fees, the digital firm says it was moving goal posts that brought the two company's partnership to an end. The streaming outfit told the US trade mag: "Grooveshark was recently forced to make the difficult decision to part ways with EMI due to EMI's currently unsustainable streaming rates and EMI's pending merger with Universal Music Group, which we consider monopolistic and in violation of anti-trust laws".
Billboard observes that EMI's streaming rates would presumably have been set in the 2009 agreement, and it's not clear why they have now been deemed "unsustainable", while noting that to bail on an agreement based on the as yet unconfirmed sale of EMI seems odd, given it's very much business as usual at the mini-major for the time being. And while it is true that if Universal and Sony do manage to acquire the two arms of EMI between them that would cause problems given their ongoing legal battle with Grooveshark, both of those deals are still to be approved by European and US regulators.
Some are speculating that the collapse of Grooveshark's relationship with EMI is basically financial, in that it can't keep up with previously agreed license fee obligations (which may or may not have been fairly priced), and the Universal/Sony/Warner lawsuit is make raising new finance tricky, even if that litigation is ultimately unsuccessful. Whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen, though fighting major label litigation will be expensive in itself, aside from any impact it has on a company's ability to raise investment, all of which could result in a perfect storm. Which, cynics and Grooveshark sympathisers might argue, is what the majors are hoping for.
Elsewhere, Grooveshark recently stepped up the advertising side of its operations, forcing freemium users to more overtly consume advertising before listening to music.
MUSIC PUBLISHER JONATHAN SIMON 1942-2012
Working in music publishing for over 40 years, Simon held positions at various branches of Chappell Music through the 70s and 80s, before becoming Director of The Really Useful Group's music division and then launching his own company, Moncur Street Music, in 1997.
Simon was also Director of the MPA from 1997 to 2006, later becoming Chairman of the board, and also served on the boards of PRS For Music, MCPS, the Australasian Performing Right Association, the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society and the Australasian Music Publishers Association.
He is survived by his children, Joel and Zoe.
The MPA has invited friends, family and colleagues of Simon to leave their memories of him on its website here: www.mpaonline.org.uk/mpa_news/jonathan-simon-1942-%E2%80%93-2012
SCOTLAND LAUNCHES MERCURY PRIZE RIVAL
Like the Mercury, the winner of the Scottish Album Of The Year Award will receive £20,000, while nine runners-up will take home a grand each too. There will also be no entry fee for the award, opening up the floodgates to any old shite. No, I mean it'll allow artists of any size to enter, regardless of their budget. Even really bad ones.
Creative Scotland's Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop told CMU: "The launch of the Scottish Album Of The Year award is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate Scottish music and musicians. In the 'Year Of Creative Scotland' this new award further cements our international reputation as a hugely talented and creative nation".
Stewart Henderson of SMIA added: "This award has the potential to be about so much more than just one winning album: it's about fostering a greater sense of solidarity within Scotland's music industry; it's about the album's enduring relevance as an art form and it's about reinforcing the importance of retail and the invaluable role Scotland's music fans play in sustaining the creativity of our artists".
For more information, and to see the full list of judges, go to: www.sayaward.com
THIRD OF ALBUMS SOLD IN UK NOW DIGITAL
Confirming that stat, BPI boss Geoff Taylor told CMU: "The release schedule for 2011 was front-loaded with stellar album releases from Adele, Jessie J, Bruno Mars and others. Fewer banner releases were scheduled in Q1 of this year, but it is encouraging that consumer confidence in digital albums continued to grow with the format now bagging a third of sales overall. Digital has been the dominant format on some key albums during the first quarter of 2012, and we expect that growth to continue".
AEG LIVE SIGNS SAINT SAVIOUR TO 360 DEAL
The independent artist, best known for her work with Groove Armada (though her outstanding cover of Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' should never be overlooked), will receive financial and marketing backing for her debut album from the live firm in return for a share in recording, publishing, merchandise, brand licensing, sponsorship and endorsement revenues, as well as a touring partnership.
Confirming the new deal, the President of AEG Live UK Rob Hallett told CMU: "We are really excited to make such a ground breaking deal with such an innovational [he means innovative] artist. This breaks the mould and provides a template for the future".
Saint Saviour's Manager Dan O'Neil added: "It feels right that we should be announcing such a groundbreaking partnership deal for Saint Saviour with a live touring company such as AEG Live UK. Stunning live performance has always been the 'beating heart' of what Saint Saviour is all about and, with this deal, AEG have demonstrated that they are truly backing, and directly investing in, new and exciting UK musical talent. This is a model of the future for young artists - no doubt".
The album is also receiving funding from fans via Pledge Music. Announcing news of the deal to her backers on the site, Saint Saviour wrote: "I'm [AEG Live's] first ever signing as an artist so in a way we have made history! This is proof that with your direct help, I've been able to make the music I wanted to and take it, finished, to the market. This is just the beginning, please keep behind it and help me push it all the way - it's probably going to be a very long road and we have to keep up the momentum".
The album, entitled 'Union', will be released on 25 Jun. You can stream and download a track from it, 'Fight', here: soundcloud.com/saintsaviour/05-fight-1/
DEFTONES TO RECORD NEW ALBUM THIS SUMMER
Moreno told Latcera (as translated by Digital Spy): "I know everybody says this, but I believe this is the best record we've [written]. I'm very enthusiastic, because it sounds futuristic in comparison to our last one, so it feels like a step forward. The songs are very different from each other, not heavier or slower, but more dynamic, going towards several directions; it's heavy, but beautiful".
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM
Of the new record, frontman Oliver Ackerman says: "This album ... is our vision of what our music should sound like in 2012, not someone else's interpretation. Every sound on the album is made by us and our tools; tools created by us, used on no other recordings, and purposefully built for this project. This is real. Some of it is the band being in complete control - bending, shaping and building the songs and the sounds. Other parts are the band relinquishing control and letting the songs and sounds take over and produce themselves. We are not trying to reinvent ourselves, but simply push ourselves further in all aspects of our music".
So there you go. You can stream and download the first track to be released from the album, 'You Are The One', here: soundcloud.com/deadoceans/a-place-to-bury-strangers-you/s-IX81j
JULIA HOLTER DEBUT ALBUM TO GET WORLDWIDE CD RELEASE
You can find more information at www.night-school.org.uk, and the full tracklist is here, below which you'll find the video for opening track 'Try To Make Yourself A Work Of Art'.
Try To Make Yourself A Work Of Art
MARIBEL TO RELEASE REMIX EP
Is it any good? Well, why don't you stream the whole thing via the SoundCloud player underneath this tracklist:
Falling Down The Stairs (Snasen Remix)
TRIPPPLE NIPPPLES RETURN TO THE UK
Check out the dates here and then listen to their tack 'LSD':
7 May: London, The Macbeth
JAPANDROIDS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM AND UK TOUR
The band have also announced UK tour dates, which look like this:
17 May: Cardiff, Club Ifor Bach
MARY J BLIGE BURGER KING AD PULLED, BUT NOT BECAUSE OF CRITICS
Blige is one of a number of celebrities to appear in new commercials for Burger King in the US, which is seemingly having a big marketing push at the moment. Though it was the singer's involvement in the new ad campaign that seemed to garner the most criticism, with some in the black community saying the promo pandered to bad stereotypes, and website Madame Noire calling the ad "buffoonery".
But when the advert was pulled yesterday, Burger King insisted it was because of a licensing issue that it hoped to rectify shortly, so that the ad could return, and not because of any criticism about Blige's involvement in their latest marketing push.
Blige's PR reps declined to comment.
WARNER APPOINTS NEW CATALOGUE MAN
He will report to Warner's CEO of Global Catalogue & Licensing Kevin Gore, who told CMU: "In today's music landscape, there are more routes than ever before through which fans can discover the incredible albums and iconic artists that are part of Warner Music's heritage. Having worked with Tim at Sony, I'm looking forward to drawing on his formidable experience and unrivalled understanding of the catalogue business. He combines extremely strong operational skills with real creative vision and appetite for innovation, all of which will be utilised as we continue to grow and develop our catalogue assets at both a global and local level".
Fraser-Harding himself added: "I'm delighted to be joining Warner Music Group, where, thanks to Kevin and the teams in each market, catalogue is such a vital, dynamic and ever-evolving part of the business. To work with Warner Music's world-class catalogue repertoire and a global network committed to finding new and exciting ways to bring it to fans is a fantastic opportunity and one I look forward to embracing".
ABLETON AND SOUNDCLOUD ANNOUNCE ALLIANCE
To celebrate the alliance, next month the two companies will run a competition for aspiring producers, who will be invited to download samples and sounds curated by M83, Junior Boys and Nosaj Thing, and to then create an original piece of music within 24 hours of downloading the original elements. Users will be invited to vote on submitted tracks, with the top 25 being judged by the three participating artists. Winners will get a trip to Berlin, lifetime upgrades of the Ableton Suite and a five year pro subscription to SoundCloud.
GERI HALLIWELL TO STAR IN REALITY TV SHOW
A source told The Sun: "Geri is keen to do some TV as she's seen the other girls doing bits and bobs. Sky Living reckon she fits their female-skewed brand. Geri is really excited about the project, which is at the very early stages".
RIHANNA NOT CONTROVERSIAL FOR THE SAKE OF IT, WANTS TO PLAY WHITNEY
Speaking to the Radio Times, she said: "I never do anything to get banned, never do it for controversy. It's always just honest and at times I just go a little too far for some. When I make a music video, it's a piece of art. It's four minutes to make a visual, for people to understand the message in the song".
The singer is currently promoting a longer piece of visual 'art', her debut movie 'Battleship'. Asked what she brings to her role in the film, she said it was "my badass-ness and my buns". Not sure if that qualifies her to play Whitney Houston in a biopic, but that's what she'd like to do one day too.
Speaking to 4Music, she said: "My first song that I remember falling in love with was a Whitney Houston song, 'I Will Always Love You'. It was really inspiring, and it made me develop a passion for music, so really she's partly responsible for me being here in this industry. [Playing her in a film] would be something that I would have to give my entire life to do, because I would really want to pull it off. That's a huge, huge role and whoever does it has to do a good job".