UNIVERSAL SETTLES WITH FBT PRODUCTIONS OVER DIGITAL ROYALTIES
As much previously reported, the FBT case centred on digital royalties, and how pre-iTunes record contracts that make no specific reference to download sales should be interpreted. It was common in conventional record contracts to pay artists a much higher cut of 'licensing revenue' than 'record sales income', because the latter was traditionally so much greater than the former.
In contracts where downloads are not specifically mentioned, major labels have treated revenue from iTunes et al as if it is record sales income, paying the smaller royalty. But many heritage artists argue that download income is licensing revenue - because the upfront costs and risks to the label are minimal compared to releasing CDs, and income is generated by one-off licensing deals with each download store - and therefore the higher royalty should be paid.
The first artists to really sue on this issue were Cheap Trick and The Allman Brothers, though their litigation ran aground amidst legal technicalities. Then FBT, aka the Bass Brothers, producers on the early Eminem catalogue who are due a royalty on those recordings from Universal's Interscope division, sued the mega-major. At first instance the major won, but on appeal the courts ruled in favour of FBT. The American Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear the case.
Universal insists that the ruling in the FBT case is unique to its agreements with the producers, but many artists, managers and music lawyers disagree. All the majors now face lawsuits on the issue, with the likes of Rob Zombie, Chuck D, Toto, Kenny Rogers, Sister Sledge, The Temptations, James Taylor and the Rick James estate all suing. And some of those cases have been declared class actions, meaning, if they are successful, any artists with similar deals could claim a higher royalty.
As common royalty percentages for record sales and licensing revenue were 15% and 40% respectively, if the majors were forced to pay the latter rate across the board to all artists with pre-iTunes contracts, the impact would be huge on the big music companies.
Sony, the defendant in the Cheap Trick and The Allman Brothers case, has proposed a more modest increase in digital royalties in a bid to circumvent a more costly court-enforced deal, though that proposal is still to be a approved by the judge overseeing the second round of Cheap Trick/Allman Brothers litigation, and then would have to be put to each affected artist individually, many of whom would likely rather wait and see what happens with the newer class actions being fought on this issue.
While officially the majors generally say the FBT ruling does not set an industry wide precedent, it's thought deals are being done on this issue by the record companies with their key artists, including the aforementioned Cheap Trick and Allman Brothers. Whether, ultimately, such deals can stop the plethora of digital royalty cases getting an airing in court remains to be seen.
When FBT won their case against Universal on appeal in 2010, disagreements remained regarding how much money the Eminem producers were due. That argument was expected to be heard in court this year, though more recently an April 2013 date was mooted. That discussion would have been of great interest to those lawyers pursuing digital royalty lawsuits on behalf of other artists, though the terms of the FBT/Universal settlement will now remain confidential.
As previously reported, FBT also planned to raise how Universal deals with international revenues, and the tendency for portions of those monies to stay with local Universal divisions, so that the mega-major only has to pay the artist a share of the 29% of total revenue that ends up with the US division to which Eminem and FBT have their direct deal. Again the producers planned to argue that this was unfair in the digital age, where the cost to the record company of making music available in multiple territories is so much less once CDs are taken out of the equation. That issue will now not get a public hearing from this case.
So, the end of an important chapter in a very interesting story. All eyes will now be on whichever of the newer digital royalties lawsuits gets to court first.
ITUNES 11 OFFICIALLY DELAYED
As previously reported, when Apple previewed its super-enhanced iTunes software and store at a press briefing last month, the company said the revamped service would go live in October. Many expected it to happen at a more recent press event, but last week, in an investor briefing, execs from the IT giant were somewhat vague about a launch date for the updated software.
And yesterday a spokesman confirmed iTunes 11 would not be online by midnight today, saying it was taking longer than expected to get the new software just right. Apple's Tom Neumayr: "The new iTunes is taking longer than expected and we wanted to take a little extra time to get it right. We look forward to releasing this new version of iTunes with its dramatically simpler and cleaner interface and seamless integration with iCloud before the end of November".
Some have already speculated whether the delay is linked to the sudden axing this week of Apple exec Scott Forstall, who ran software development for the iPad and iPhone. Gossipers say Forstall's exit is mainly linked to executive tensions at the top of the Apple company, that have worsened since the departure of the firm's late founder and CEO Steve Jobs, who was able to better manage clashing executive egos.
Forstall's departure may have been hastened by the Apple Maps debacle, with some insiders at the firm reckoning Forstall rather than current CEO Tim Cook should have fronted the public apology for the bungled mapping app on the iOS6 operating system. Forstall instead insisted that criticism of the new app was exaggerated (arguably a more Apple-like response).
That said, Forstall had no responsibility for the new iTunes, so his departure is probably not relevant there - except that, given the Maps embarrassment, Apple is presumably extra-sensitive about getting things right when it comes to new software launches.
Others have wondered whether the much mooted Apple streaming service will, in fact, be part of the new look iTunes, and that delays are linked to agreeing licensing terms with the majors on that element. Though label insiders in the US say that talks regarding iStream are not far enough advanced to allow a November launch of that service, as has now been promised for iTunes 11.
NEW ZEALAND POLICE INVESTIGATING SECURITY BUREAU OVER MEGAUPLOAD SNOOPING
As the US authorities swooped on the Mega enterprise to take it offline, New Zealand police arrested four of the firm's execs, including founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz. But last month New Zealand Prime Minister John Key admitted that the country's GCSB "acted unlawfully" in the way it gathered communications between former MegaUpload execs ahead of the arrest and raid.
While Key ordered an inquiry into the GCSB's actions, the country's Green Party made a complaint to the police under the New Zealand Crimes Act, and the party's co-leader Russel Norman has now told reporters that a police investigation is under way.
Norman said: "I am very pleased that senior police investigators have started inquiries and expect to make an initial report by 15 Nov. It is reassuring to know that police intend to interview key witnesses to get to the bottom of how a New Zealand resident was illegally spied upon".
He added: "I hope they will interview senior police and government ministers, including Prime Minister John Key and his deputy Bill English, about their involvement. Spies must be held to the same standards as other New Zealanders. They are subject to the laws of this land and must be held accountable by the police and the courts when they violate those laws".
The news will be welcomed by Dotcom and his Mega team, who have been critical of the authorities in both the US and New Zealand ever since the criminal case against them was launched. The New Zealand police have also been criticised themselves after it was revealed that they had the wrong warrant when raiding Dotcom's mansion, and that they broke rules by allowing US investigators to take items seized during that raid back to America.
Elsewhere in Mega news, the Motion Picture Association Of America has again expressed concern about former users of the now defunct file-transfer platform being given temporary access to the old MegaUpload servers to regain files that they were cut off from back in January. As much previously reported, while a lot of people used MegaUpload to share and access unlicensed music and movie content, some customers used it to store their own files, and they lost access to that data when Mega was shut down. One former customer, Kyle Goodwin, has been fighting through the courts to regain access to his lost files.
The MPAA has no problems with Goodwin et al being reconnected with their own data, but the Hollywood trade body says that any reopening of the MegaUpload servers must be managed so that unlicensed material is first removed. The problem is that that makes what could be a relatively simple process much more complicated. Team Mega say they would gladly manage that process if they are given access to some of their frozen funds to pay for it, but both the MPAA and US prosecutors are nervous about that solution.
With Goodwin's legal bid to reclaim his lost files still rumbling through the courts, the MPAA this week requested to be part of any future hearings on the issue because of "the overwhelming amount of infringement of the MPAA members' copyrighted work on MegaUpload", adding that if users are reconnected to that content, even for a short time, it would "compound the massive infringing conduct already at issue in this criminal litigation".
As previously noted, whatever their concerns, the problem for the MPAA is that, by throwing a spanner into the works with regards to reconnecting Goodwin with his files, the movie studios are basically saying that their copyrights must be protected at all costs, while the average man's copyrights just don't matter, and that's not a good message to be sending out as an industry that desperately needs to convince the world at large (rather than just friendly politicians and judges) that copyright is something that should be respected by all.
CARLY RAE JEPSEN AND OWL CITY ACCUSED OF SONG THEFT
Burnett's lawsuit says that 'Good Time' copies the "unique vocal motif" and hook of her song, which appeared on her album 'The Takeover'. As well as claiming copyright infringement, the lawsuit also claims that Burnett has suffered reputation, emotional and psychological damage because fans may believe she ripped off Jepson and Young, even though her song is older, because 'Good Time' was a big hit.
Jepsen isn't actually listed as a songwriter on 'Good Time', but is seemingly still listed as a defendant on the lawsuit, as are the songs other two co-writers Brian Lee and Matt Thiessen, plus Universal Music, Songs Music Publishing, Schoolboy Records and collecting societies ASCAP, SESAC and BMI. None of the defendants have, as yet, commented.
FINNISH SUPREME COURT ALLOWS WEB-BLOCK TO STAY IN PLACE
Following injunctions forcing net firms to block The Pirate Bay in the UK, Netherlands and Italy, the controversial file-sharing website will now be blocked in Finland, after the Finnish Supreme Court rejected a case by the ISP Elisa, which tried to have a Bay-blocking injunction overturned.
While ISPs across Europe have generally resisted and criticised efforts to make them police piracy online (unlike in the US, where a voluntary three-strikes-style system is in the works), few ISPs have actually fought web-block injunctions once they have been passed by a court. But Elisa hoped it could force a rethink after a Finnish copyright group, supported by the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry, requested a Bay-block in the country's courts.
Of course web-blocks on copyright grounds remain controversial even as they become more common, with critics arguing that such blocks constitute censorship, and that, anyway, they are always circumventable by anyone who knows what they are doing.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Virgin Media's blocks against The Pirate Bay and file-sharing community Newzbin temporarily fell down last weekend, according to Torrentfreak, when users could suddenly reconnect to the controversial websites, presumably because of a technical error.
ARTROCKER ANNOUNCES SECOND AWARDS SHOW
Artrocker Editor Marc Sallis told CMU: "The second annual Artrocker Awards will follow on from where the last one finished - at the bar. The Artrocker Awards are about the music, the bands and giving the industry and the public a great event with a line-up that will recall the heady days of The Brats and inject some much needed drunken fun and rock n roll back into the industry. It's rock n roll in its simplest and rawest form".
And the nominees are...
Band Of The Year: Django Django, Arctic Monkeys, Toy, The Black Keys, The Maccabees
International Band Of The Year: Liars, A Place To Bury Strangers, Japandroids, Atari Teenage Riot, Tame Impala
Best New Band:Dark Horses, Spectres, Savages, Tall Ships, Towns, Citizens!, Howler, Fear Of Men, Dog is Dead, 2:54
Heavy Band Of The Year: Pulled Apart By Horses, Black Moth, Gallows, Turbowolf, DZ Deathrays
Album Of The Year: Toy - Toy, Children - Apnea, The Futureheads - Rant, Django Django - Django Django, Tim Burgess - Oh No I Love You
Reissue Of The Year: My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything' & 'Loveless (Re-mastered), Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists (20th Anniversary Edition), Royal Trux - Accelorator, Blur - 21: The Box, Dr Feelgood - All Through The City (1974-1977)
Vote yourself silly here.
NOEL GALLAGHER DISCUSSES SHELVING AMORPHOUS ANDROGYNOUS ALBUM
Speaking to AV Club, Gallagher said: "I don't think it will come out. I'm pleased with the songs. The songs that I did when I was in the studio - I'll probably re-record them. But the moment has passed, I think. Do you know what I mean? When you have records, there's a window before their moment passes. I've already moved on from that Amorphous Androgynous thing. I've written a bunch more songs since then, so I'm afraid, unfortunately, the success of this album killed that one. I wasn't planning on being on tour for fifteen months".
Noting how the Amorphous Androgynous project differed from his usual output, he continued: "It was a record that contains songs that weren't conventional songs. It wasn't verse-chorus-verse-chorus. They're a bit trippy and a bit floaty. My songs, in general, they don't really rely on the mix. They're all written on acoustic guitar. They're as good with me just singing them into the microphone in the style of Bob Dylan as they are with a full band. The High Flying Birds album didn't rely on the mixes. The songs were there. But this was a record that absolutely, 100% relied on the mixes, because they weren't songs, so to speak. They were grooves and, you know, there weren't many chords in them. And the mixes weren't fucking right. And unfortunately, I didn't have time to go back in and remix it. And now I'm too fucked. I'm fucked. I've been on the road for fifteen months. I am fucked".
Still, he's never saying never, adding: "If I got in the studio next time and somebody says, 'What about that track you did with those fucking hippies?' I might go and listen to it and think, 'Hmm. Well, okay'. I don't know, but I don't think so".
MUMFORD & SONS PREVIEW CONCERT DVD, NAME NEW SINGLE
The film charts the Marcus Mumford et al's two sold-out concerts at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre this past summer, and presumably, the road-trip thereto. Hurrah! The band have also just made it known that the next official single to be released from 'Babel' will be 'Lover Of The Light'. It's out on 3 Dec, but meanwhile here's that trailer I was just talking about.
RIHANNA HAS PUT SOME STUFF IN A BOX, DO YOU WANT IT?
Many people have questioned what Rihanna is unapologetic about since she announced that title, seemingly it's that she's not worried about asking fans to pay £154.50 plus delivery and customs charges for a box of stuff they'll probably stick under their bed or lose within a week of receiving it. Or maybe I'm wrong, let's have a look at all the things you get in Rihanna's magic box:
Item 1: "A Rihanna 'Unapologetic' 2GB credit card-style USB flash memory drive with plentiful room for high-definition photos, graphic-intensive documents, videos, spreadsheets, presentations, term papers and music that can be stored and retrieved in a flash".
Well that's a couple of quid covered. What next?
Item 2: "A unisex shirt featuring a stunning Michael Muller photo of Rihanna taken during her 'Unapologetic' album photo shoots spanning several weeks. Printed on a black 100% soft cotton shirt".
Or, to cut a long story short, a t-shirt.
Item 3: "Seven art print 12x15 lithographs featuring Michael Muller photography, a Magnus Voll Mathiassen illustration and exclusive never-before released Rihanna 'Unapologetic' images, bound together with her iconic handwritten R logo band".
Item 4: "Three device adhesives featuring Rihanna's 'Unapologetic' cover, logo and image, compatible with iPhone, Blackberry and all other smartphone devices".
There are some misleading words in this one, mainly 'device' and 'compatible'. Rihanna should have said (because she definitely writes these product descriptions herself) "Some smartphone stickers".
Item 5: "Seven laptop stickers featuring artwork by Mario Hugo, 'Unapologetic' album and 'Diamonds' single artwork, and other Rihanna surprises".
Item 6: "11x17 Rihanna handwritten personal note to her Navy".
In the picture of all this stuff, the "handwritten personal note to her Navy" is a sheet of paper with some wavy lines on it and Rihanna's signature at the bottom. Maybe she and her 'Navy' have a secret code. Also, as her 'Navy' is her entire fanbase, presumably she will be delivering this to all of them, regardless of whether or not they buy this box of stuff. Or maybe those who do buy it will have to devote some time to taking it around to other fans' houses for them to have a look. The description isn't clear on this.
Item 7: "A collectible coloured vinyl featuring 'Diamonds' remixes".
When I was two or three years old I apparently had a collection of broken lolly sticks. My point being that anything is collectible. Still, I guess, "a record most of you won't have the equipment with which to discover that these remixes aren't actually very good" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
Item 8: "A Rihanna 3D experience available exclusively in this boxset. Collect this exclusive custom-made white View-Master with silver detail including a collectible vintage reel of never-before-released 3D images depicting Rihanna's iconic style transformation".
That's right, a View-Master. A Rihanna View-Master to be exact. That is a thing they're putting in this box. An exclusive thing.
Item 9: "A 40 page custom Rihanna notebook with handwritten notes and lyrics".
A notebook that someone has already used.
Item 10: "'Unapologetic' deluxe CD version with a 28 page photo and art booklet featuring Michael Muller and Melissa T Forde photography and a 20 minute DVD featuring never-before-released footage, a first look from Rihanna's sold out 'Loud' tour performance live from London's O2 Arena".
Hey! They're even throwing in a copy of the album! And a DVD that apparently isn't worth mentioning as a separate item.
Item 11: "Exclusive fan mosaic poster featuring members of Rihanna's Navy and a breathtaking 'Unapologetic' image".
I'm not really sure what this is, but I reckon it's probably the first thing in the box that will give most people the inkling that they might have wasted their money. You might say the View-Master, but I reckon there's a good hour of mild enjoyment to be had from that. And you can't put a value on that sort of enjoyment. Oh wait, yes you can, it's £154.50 plus sundry charges.
If you want that sort of enjoyment, you should go and wave your credit card in this direction. Good luck to you if you do, because you'll be missing out on the alternative 'Diamonds Deluxe Edition Box', which, while it doesn't feature as many items, is over £100 cheaper and includes "a limited edition genuine, conflict-free diamond bracelet in celebration of 'Diamonds' ... hand-chosen by Rihanna for her Navy". An actual diamond bracelet and some other stuff for £50! I'm buying seven, that's gotta be worth way more than that. I'm gonna be rich!
RZA TO DIRECT GENGHIS KHAN MOVIE
Anyway, whatever, he's going to direct a biopic about Genghis Khan called 'No Man's Land', according to The Hollywood Reporter. The musician takes over directing duties on the project from writer and producer John Milius, who's decided he can't be bothered, or something.
STONE ROSES SET THREE 2013 DATES
Tickets go on sale as of 9.30am this Friday via www.thestoneroses.org
AUSTRA TO PLAY IN VICTORIAN VAULTS
In the meantime, the Canadian band are apparently in the studio recording a sequel to last year's 'Feel It Break'. Hear a sample of what they've been doing - as may or may not feature as part of the new LP - in the shape of this performance of 'Painful Like', which dates back to an August Scion Session.
So that's about it, apart from this link to buy tickets to the London date.
PANDR EYEZ ADD LONDON SHOW
If you can't wait for that, they're also billed to play Moshi Moshi Records' Halloween party tonight at the Dalston Victoria. Advance tickets for the latter are available here, whilst those for the Shacklewell show are here.
And finally, presenting 'Physical Education'.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
EUROSONIC NORDERSLAAG, Groningen, The Netherlands, 9-12 Jan 2013: Adrian Crowley, Agent Side Grinder, Baby Guru, Broken Twin, Chvrches, Compuphonic, Concrete Knives, Daily Bread, Fenster, Jupiter, Kadavar, Kraantje Pappie, Leslie Clio, Lukas Graham, MØ, Oscar And The Wolf, Palma Violets, Pascal Pinon, Public Service Broadcasting, Sarah Ferri, Shaka Ponk, Talbot, Tangarine, The Royal Concept, We Butter The Bread With Butter. eurosonic-noorderslag.nl/en/
OPTIMUS ALIVE, Lisbon, Portugal, 12-14 Jul 2013: Kings Of Leon. www.optimusalive.com
LIVE NATION COO COMMENTS ON HYDE PARK DECISION
As previously reported, Live Nation, which has staged concerts and festivals in the London park for over ten years, has decided not to re-bid for the rights to stage events there, claiming that rules enforced by the Royal Parks and Westminster Council in recent years have made staging events in Hyde Park more or less impossible. They also had problems with elements of the Royal Parks' rebid process.
Speaking to Access All Areas, Probyn said: "Royal Parks has ignored everything else and gone for the money and we're really good at walking away when something makes no sense. Hyde Park is the most expensive venue in the country and the stakeholders just don't want events in there. I've kept saying that it's a fantastic site, and in its heyday it was, but for the last four years it's been a nightmare. We have no desire to be involved with a loss-leading project, or to work with someone who doesn't understand what we're doing".
Probyn added that other venues had already approached his company about hosting the regular events Live Nation staged in Hyde Park, such as the Wireless and Hard Rock Calling festivals, and that while other promoters would probably be interested in taking over the Hyde Park stage, he felt that the investments that need to be made and the hassles tough licensing conditions cause, which make it increasingly difficult to persuade a-list acts to play there, would make the venture very challenging for any company that committed to it.
HMV MARKETING BOSS DEFENDS APPEARANCE POLICY
An internal memo outlining the new policy was widely covered in the press, and much criticised on the social networks, and word has it some HMV employees have been vocal on the issue internally too. The retail firm insists that its new policy has been misrepresented in the papers, and the company's marketing man Mark Hodgkinson has told Marketing Week that, while he stands by what the policy is trying to achieve, he concedes it could possibly have been communicated better.
Hodkingson: "It's been taken out of context and sensationalised and we've given a wrong impression of what we want to do. The [appearance policy] is part of something bigger within HMV about being really welcoming and inclusive to customers and encouraging more diversity of customers and making them feel comfortable, welcomed and embraced by our stores. We will continue to embrace diversity in our colleagues - we have one of the least stringent codes in retail and we'll continue to - we're just saying where it is too extreme, bear in mind we're trying to attract broader customers and it could be something that would deter some customers".
The marketing magazine also spoke to retail analyst Neil Saunders about the new HMV policy, who noted that, while part of a move to widen HMV's potential customer base as the chain's product range expands, if such new policies alienate core staff the retailer could lose its most valuable asset on the high street, employees who are knowledgeable and passionate about the entertainment products being sold.
Says Saunders: "HMV is a brand where people don't care much about appearance of staff. They've got to be careful not to end up creating something too sterile and taking away from the differentiation the brand has. Most people aren't that judgmental and would prefer friendly knowledgeable service from someone with tattoos and long hair than a neatly presented person who is offhand. If you look at the Apple store, you wouldn't say their staff are neat, they're 'hip and cool' and as a tech brand that works quite well".
REPUBLICAN STUDENTS APOLOGISE FOR USING NATIONAL TRACK
According to Spin, the Republicans said: "We apologise for offending The National and their fans by using a cover/remix of the band's melody for 'Fake Empire'. We were attempting to reinvigorate and unite the disgruntled fans wary of supporting the President as they did in 2008 with 'Signs Of Hope And Change', with a new movement of people who believe in real recovery and reform in supporting Mitt Romney".
Writing below the now removed YouTube video, Berninger had said: "Our music was used without our permission in this ad. The song you're using was written about the same backward, con game policies Romney is proposing. We encourage all students to educate themselves about the differences between the inclusive, pro-social, compassionate, forward-thinking policies of President Obama and the self-serving politics of the neo-conservative movement and Mitt Romney. Every single person involved in the creation of the music you're using is voting for President Obama".
Artists frequently get tetchy when politicians use their music as part of campaigns. If tracks are used at rallies and events, often the artist cannot stop their music being used because political parties are covered by blanket licences. However, if a track is synced into a video then musicians usually can act.