1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Friday, 30 May 2014

CopyKat - to the scratching post - and beyond

The CopyKat does love an extra terrestrial copyright conundrum. And indeed whilst man may not have reached Mars quite yet, that has never prevented lawyers at the major record labels from extending their tentacles to reach outside the exosphere - initially by inserting clauses claiming ownership of their artiste's catalogues across the solar system  - then the Galaxy - and now the Universe. Who says the law doesn't keep up with technology? Here it's the other way around!  Now Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development has proposed a new legislative move to protect photographs taken from space - protection by copyright law: “The data from Earth Remote Sensing (ERS) and derivative materials are widely used. They are usually bought for a fee, but there is no clear legal regulation for ERS,” a ministry representative told newspapers. Reports says that Article 1225 of the Civil Code, Protected Results of Intellectual Activity and Means of Identification would be amended to include a new clause protecting “materials and/or data acquired through earth remote sensing.” NASA takes a very different approach saying this "NASA still images; audio files; video; and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format, generally are not copyrighted. You may use NASA imagery, video, audio, and data files used for the rendition of 3-dimensional models for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages". To that end the illustration I have used is of the Russian MIR Space station - but from a NASA satellite.

In completely unrelated news - but still with the extra-terrestrial theme, singing astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield's recording of David Bowie's classic Major Tom, made on the International Space Station, has been removed from YouTube as his agreed (earthbound) term of use from Bowie has now expired with Hadfield saying:  "It has been a year since my son and I created and released the Space Oddity video. We have been amazed and delighted that so many people enjoyed it—and maybe saw what spaceflight can really be like. It helped show that humans have left Earth, and that the Space Station is a new stage, for not just science and exploration, but for our art and music too. With exploration comes insight—with perspective comes self-realization.We had permission from David Bowie’s people to post the video on YouTube for a year, and that year is up. We are working on renewing the license for it, but as there are no guarantees when it comes to videos shot in space, we thought you might want to have one last look before we take it down. Thanks for everything. You’ve all been incredible throughout.". More here

The UK's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has had infamous sharing website Torrentz.eu's internet domain suspendedTorrentz.eu was already one of 21 websites blocked by UK ISPs last October after a court order directed them to put up a "virtual wall".

In the US, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) has released its first report on the Copyright Alert System (CAS), the voluntary collaboration between entertainment and technology companies aimed at reducing copyright infringement. For the first time since the system's launch, specific information about the size of the program has been made available: Specifically, the report showed that 1.3 million Alerts were sent out in the initial 10 months of the program, most in the initial educational phases. 265 people challenged the Alerts under an arbitration system and 18 percent of those (47 people) were successful, mostly by showing that someone else had used their account - with no findings of false positives in which the content owner had misidentified the account.  Only three percent, or 37,456 of the accounts, reached level 6, which results in reduced internet speed. 
CCI also noted that the CAS is expected to double in size in the second year of operation, and CCI will begin an online awareness campaign to increase public awareness of the system. Jill Lesser, Executive Director of CCI, said : "We are encouraged by the initial data from the Copyright Alert System's first 10 months suggesting that the program has the potential to move the needle in deterring copyright infringement. Our initial research into consumer attitudes – along with what we have seen in our own data – shows that consumers do respond to this kind of educational system that alerts them to infringing activity on their account and helps them find the content they want easily and legally."  The majority of peer-to-peer copyright infringement is fuelled by a small group of younger, predominately male digital consumers”. More on Digital Journal

And there seems ti be LOTS of lobbying going on in the U.S. music industry right now.  A new group  formed from the Nashville music industry hopes to be able to influence ongoing debate on the future role and reform of copyright law. The group, called Interested Parties Advancing Copyright (IPAC), consists of about 50 independent publishers, administrators, business managers and entertainment attorneys.

Elsewhere in the USA, A2IM, the organisation that represents indie record labels have criticised Sony and Universal Music Group in "the fight over digital dollars". The American Association of Independent Music, whose artists include Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift and Adele, argues that Universal and Sony are in effect a de facto “duopoly”— and use their dominance to grab a disproportionate share of streaming music royalties. Streaming services just have to deal with Sony and UMG, who control well over 50% of the recorded music sector (and yes - EU and US regulators let that happen!). The group, which represents around 325 indie labels in the US, has been lobbying lawmakers to take a fresh look at music licensing and outlined its issues in a filing submitted to the federal Copyright Office: The New York Post say that A2IM contends that the streaming music business "is essentially a zero-sum game: The music majors use their distribution muscle to extract the lion’s share of dollars from services such as Spotify and Pandora, leaving the indie labels to settle for whatever is left".

SoundExchange is making a push to change how pre-1972 recordings are treated is the U.S, The Washington D.C. based collection society for digital performance royalties has launched a multi-pronged campaign called Project72 - aimed at changing the federal law that excludes pre-1972 sound recordings from coverage under statutory licenses used by many digital music services. The campaign features a microsite and an advertisement -  a call to digital radio services to “pay for all the music they play” in the form of an open letter from over 70 artists including B.B. King, the Supremes, members of Steely Dan, the Beach Boys, Roseanne Cash, Martha Reeves, Cyndi Lauper and Al Green. the RESPECT Act was introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. George Holding (R-NC). The bill would place pre-1972 sound recordings under federal law. Conyers stated the bill would give "a fair shake" to legendary artists and their lesser-known backing musicians. SoundExchange President and CEO Mike Huppe told Billboard the issue with pre-1972 royalties amounted to "a real and urgent problem that's happening right now."

And the Recording Industry Association of America has responded to the US Copyright Office's call for comments on a "Music Licensing Study: Notice and Request for Public Comment," by explaining why terrestrial radio should pay more in royalty payments.
Setting the current US system in a historical context (in particular the fact that terrestrial radio stations are exempt from paying royalties for broadcasting sound recordings) the RIAA says "We propose to replace the current overlapping musical work licensing systems with a single, simple and efficient system that incorporates marketplace royalty payments. As described below, such a system would have many potential advantages, including: (1) market rates for publishers and songwriters; (2) more consumer choice through easier funding and development of innovative services; (3) more revenue for services and higher royalties for creators due to savings from simplified licensing procedures; (4) improved accuracy of payments and transparency for publishers and songwriters; and (5) viability for ASCAP and BMI, and the revenue streams they administer."

And on the matter of who gets paid what from any revenues from downloads ..... Universal have now responded to the multiple lawsuits it is facing from its own artists over its controversial policy of treating a download (or even streaming income) as a 'sale' rather than licensing income - attracting the far lower 'per unit' royalty from a sale. The Hollywood Reporter explains that the new motions to dismiss from UMG  "stems from a 2010 appellate ruling in F.B.T. Productions v. Aftermath that suggested that record labels should be treating digital download income off of venues like Apple's iTunes as "licenses" rather than "sales." The difference could mean a lot of money because under typical licensing or leasing provisions of artist-label contracts, about 50 percent of collected revenue gets handed over to artists. Under sales provisions, it's usually not more than 15 percent - if they are lucky." UMG says that the F.B.T precedent is wrong and that a sale on iTunes should be like any other sale of physical product - and that in fact when the this all started UMG were generous to artistes as it waived its 'packaging deduction' for download sales - and that many artists and their representative hailed the new royalties model - albeit one based on the old - as preferable to wholesale piracy. A few artist attorneys are said to have brought forward the argument that these downloads were "licenses," an interpretation which Universal Music rejected. Then came the F.B.T. decision, and subsequently "the firestorm of litigation" with Chuck D. of Public Enemy, Rick James (by way of trust), Dave Mason of Traffic, Whitesnake, Andres Titus of Black Sheep, Ron Tyson of The Temptations and Bo Donaldson all still ready to challenge Universal Music's accounting. UMG have put up numerous other arguments rejecting the claims:  that lawsuits alleging that consumers were hurt by royalty arrangements are invalid because consumers aren't aware of these dealings; that some of the artists suing under Californian law had contracts that were governed by New York law; that 1970s singer Bo Donaldson couldn't sue because of an agreement with his former bandmates that majority participation was required to litigate; and Ron Tyson of The Temptations wasn't party to the crucial contracts because he didn't join the group until 1983. The the article on the Hollywood Reporter is well worth the read

And finally, UK Music Industry think tank Music 4.5 is hosting a seminar to examine the future of Intellectual Property (IP) and music licensing in the growing digital marketplace. The event, from 14.00 - 18.00 on the 25th June 2014 will bring together thought leaders, including Raoul Chatterjee (7Digital), Will Page (Spotify), Peter Bradbury (Sky) and Kim Bayley (ERA), to discuss current IP issues facing the music and music technology industries. The seminar will be hosted against a backdrop of change for IP and music licensing, as the European Commission examines the wider EU copyright. More here.

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