1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The CopyKat - from Russia and Paris - with love

A songwriter called Guy Hobbs has failed in his plagiarism claim against Elton John and his co writer Bernie Taupin, after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judge's decision to dismiss his claim that Elton John had borrowed the lyrics for his 1985 hit "Nikita". Hobbs had claimed Sir Elton's song was copied from his song "Natasha" which Hobbs said he had submitted to Sir Elton's publishing company prior to Sir Elton writing his hit. Hobbs claimed his song was based on his short romance with a Russian woman he met while working as a cruise ship photographer. The court helpfully fleshed out Hobb's claim (who said the long delay in bringing the action was because he had never seen Taupin's lyrics until 2001) and compared both songs noting that the alleged similarities extended to (1) A theme of impossible love between a Western man and a Communist woman during the Cold War; (2) References to events that never happened; (3) Descriptions of the beloved’s light eyes; (4) References to written correspondence to the beloved; (5) Repetition of the beloved’s name, the word “never,” the phrase “to hold you,” the phrase “I need  you,”    and some form of the phrase “you will never know;” and a (6) A title which is a one-word, phonetically-similar title consisting of a three-syllable female Russian name. The court then pointed out that unrequited love is a  common theme for songs, and the two songs tell different stories with “Natasha” telling the story of an actual, though brief, romantic encounter between a man from the United Kingdom and a woman from Ukraine which is severed because the woman must sail away whereas in in contrast, “Nikita” tells the tale of man who sees and loves a woman from afar. But that love can never find physical expression because the two are separated by “guns and gates" with Judge Daniel Manion saying for a three-judge appellate court "Even when the allegedly similar elements between the songs are considered in combination, the songs are not substantially similar." 

It seems that a battle between Rolan Feld, the son of deceased T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan, and music publisher Westminster Music Limited is heading for the US courts with Feld seeking to regain control and ownership of his father's songs - as well as $2 million in damages, using the provision in U.S. copyright law that gives the creators of works published before 1978 the opportunity to regain control after 28 years. Feld's filing also alleges that the publisher falsely attempted to renew copyright in the music "in an attempt to cover up their conduct and mislead the public as to the true owner of United States copyrights" in each of the compositions.

A federal judge in Mississippi has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that Woody Allen’s 2011 film “Midnight in Paris” improperly used one of William Faulkner’s most famous lines from Faulkner’s book, “Requiem for a Nun.” Faulkner Literary Rights LLC, who sued Sony Pictures Classics Inc. in October in U.S. District Court in Oxford alleged that the line in question - “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” becomes a line spoken by Owen Wilson in the movie who says “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. I met him too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”  U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills dismissed the lawsuit saying “At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement. In this case, it cannot”.

The US Fourth Circuit held for the first time that copyright interests can legally be transferred electronically, affirming an injunction against American Home Realty Network Inc. in a copyright dispute with a rival real estate listings website.

The Spotify royalty row rumbles on: After Thom Yorke's comments (see our previous blog) abiout why he would not want his album on streaming service Spotify, Will Page, the former PRS for Music economist and now Spotify’s Director of Economics,  published a new research paper 'Adventures In The Netherlands' looking at the streaming service's three year operation in the Dutch market, the accompanying fall in piracy and growth in recorded music income in the region in that period, and whether there are links between these facts - and with certain riders Will found that  there is no indication that artists who had concurrent download and streaming releases suffered in terms of record sales because of their presence on streaming services. Next, the Music Managers Forum, which is chaired by Radiohead manager Brian Message, issued a statement in support of the streaming service saying "The Music Managers Forum embraces streaming as a technological development that adds to the ways that consumers can pay to access music. Any music creation is now potentially ubiquitous, for free, as soon as it is made available digitally. Streaming is in its infancy but growing fast and providing meaningful rewards for many. Income from radio, compact discs, downloads and even resurgent cassettes grows as the fruits of artists labour are discovered and become more popular. That popularity is a measure of the success of the artist fan relationship which is at the core of the modern music ecosystem" adding "A new music business is being built that encompasses publishers, labels, technology, financiers, producers etc, but that has the artist and fan firmly at the centre. Everyone, including artists and fans, in the new business needs to adapt to the new world" and finally, the statement concludes: "Streaming is not a download. Nor is it radio. It is streaming. It's different and a part of the future". This in turn was followed by a statement from the Musicians Union, the 30,000 strong association, demanding that the music streaming service draw up a new minimum pay deal for artists. The MU said it was pushing for a collective pay agreement modelled on the royalties paid by BBC and commercial radio stations. Comment from Robert Levine here.

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