1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Monday, 9 February 2015

The CopyKat - The Grammy's Special

Sam Smith
Sam Smith, the big winner at the 57th Grammy Awards in the USA last night, has told CBS News that he had never even heard Tom Petty's 1989 I Won't Back Down, even though he and his co-writers Jimmy Napes and William Phillips settled a copyright dispute over similarities. He told CBS News host Ian Hanomansing that the similarities with his 2014 hit single Stay With Me and Petty's song were completely coincidental saying "It was a complete accident," adding "I am 22 years old ... I've never listened to that song". Petty posted a statement to Facebook saying he held no grudge towards the young singer saying "About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam .... All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam's people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement". Smith said Petty also wrote a letter directly to him, reiterating that he understood what had happened, which he thought was really kind. Smith's Stay with Me won both Record of The Year and Song of the Year at the Grammys.

Hot on the heels of the U.S. Copyright Office's study into licensing in music, Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who has been seen as a longtime friend to the entertainment industry, spoke at the annual Entertainment Law Initiative luncheon in the run up to the 57th Grammy Awardss, about challenges facing music interests in Washington. Referring to copyright law as a "broken record" that's out of touch with the current industry. "Despite the fact that Congress wrote the law, members [of Congress] today scratch their heads and struggle to make sense of it," he was encouraging, but had a stern message for the industry: get yourself on the same page if you want to accomplish anything - saying I implore you ..... When it comes to legislation, the issues are too important and the opposition too powerful for you to win as a divided community.” Nadler also commented that laws should be "technology-neutral"  adding that doing the right thing is complicated "when you can't predict what happens next — we risk getting a more fragmented system."  More comment on the Copyright Office's report here and More on Nadler's talk on Billboard here.

And Recording Academy president Neil Portnow used his speech during the 57th Grammy Awards (dominated by the above mentioned Brit soul singer Sam Smith who won 4 gongs) to announce a Creators Alliance designed to bring the nation's music professionals together to lobby for copyright reform saying "One of the missions of the Academy is advocacy" and "We're uniquely positioned to represent the interests of the creative community.The coalition is designed both to advise policymakers on establishing what it considers fair royalty rates and to educate artists and other creative professionals on how to advocate for their rights and needs.

And more .......  Marty Bandier, head of the world's biggest music publisher Sony/ATV, used his reciept of  President's Merit Award at the Recording Academy's annual Pre-Grammy Gala in LA this weekend to argue that songwriters and publishers have been given an unpalatably small portion of the digital music pie.  Pointing out that  "songwriters have never received the credit they deserve. This is particularly the case today when something like 95% of the songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart are written in whole or part by someone other than the performer. A songwriter doesn't share lucrative touring revenue and they don't do brand deals. Their entire livelihood is reliant on the income from the song and that proposition is now under threat in a way that it has never been before" he added "The music industry is changing in ways that I could never have imagined even just a decade ago; it is exciting for us that this has resulted in music lovers having new ways to listen to music as they move from CDs and digital downloads to streaming services. But it is also the case that songwriters are not being adequately compensated for their creations in today's digital world. Their songs are the very reason these services exist; their songs are why we are all here tonight. As the saying goes, it all starts with the song" (a view shared by BASCA).

And still Grammy related but only becaquse this item came out of yet another Grammy related shindig  .... a songwriter's view on cover versions. Impotrtant when that songwriter is none other than Bob Dylan. Whilst most countries have a 'statutory' licensing scheme that allows recording artistes to record any song they choose, without the direct permission of the songwroter(s), provided they pay the appropriate royalty for sales and uses, some are always not happy with that. Indeed the Eagle's Don Henley went public, explaining that to him his songs are personal and he disnt want anyone sampling them or even re-recording them without his permission. But Bob Dylan, giving a 20 minute speech for the Radio Academy, touched on how all music is derivative, and made it clear that much of his eaerly success was because other bands had covered his songs saying "I also have to mention some of the early artists who recorded my songs very, very early, without having to be asked. Just something they felt about them that was right for them. I've got to say thank you to Peter, Paul and Mary, who I knew all separately before they ever became a group. I didn't even think of myself as writing songs for others to sing but it was starting to happen and it couldn't have happened to, or with, a better group. They took a song of mine that had been recorded before that was buried on one of my records and turned it into a hit song. Not the way I would have done it — they straightened it out. But since then hundreds of people have recorded it and I don't think that would have happened if it wasn't for them. They definitely started something for me." And Henley's fellow Eagle Glenn Frey might be more in the Dylan camp: noting in a speech inducting Linda Ronstadt into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014: "we became friends, and in the spring of 1971, she hired me and a singing drummer from Linden, Texas, named Don Henley to play in her back-up band. From the first rehearsal, I felt we were working on a style of music none of us had ever heard before. Two years later, people called it “country-rock.” While touring with Linda that summer, Don and I told her that we wanted to start our own band, and she, more than anyone else, helped us put together the Eagles. That’s right. And later, she gave our careers a big shot in the arm by recording our song, ‘Desperado.’ "  More about inspiration here.

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