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PRS campaign puts the spotlight back on safe harbours in wake of GEMA ruling
Yes, Google, and more specifically YouTube, is back at the top of the music industry's gripe list, with the so called safe harbours that the video sharing site exploits at the heart of a new campaign by the UK music publishing sector's collecting society PRS For Music, which goes by the name Streamfair.
True, the campaign also includes commitments to simpler and faster licensing of legit digital services, while promoting the value of musical creators and some basic copyright education, but the key objective of the initiative is expressed thus: "clarity is needed on who can benefit from 'safe harbour' provisions".
Noting that PRS income from streaming services exceeded download monies last year, and that its research shows 90% of UK consumers have now accessed some kind of streaming content platform, the rights group says: "Some online content providers, such as user generated content services, relying on what are known as 'safe harbour' provisions to avoid obtaining a licence or paying proper licence fees, are threatening the long-term sustainability and growth of the online music market".
By "some online content providers", they really mean Google's YouTube.
The launch of PRS's Streamfair campaign comes hot on the heels of a mixed-bag ruling in the German courts this week in the long running dispute between YouTube and the PRS of Germany, GEMA, which unlike its counterparts elsewhere in Europe, has been a long-term vocal critic of the video sharing site. This week's judgement in Hamburg responded to appeals made by both Google and GEMA in response to an earlier ruling back in 2012.
At the time of the 2012 ruling, GEMA claimed a victory in this legal battle, because the court said that once YouTube had been made aware that a song controlled by the collecting society had been uploaded without permission the video site had a responsibility to ensure that work did not then reappear.
YouTube, of course, argues it is already doing just that with its Content ID system, which attempts to automatically spot copyright infringing material as it's reuploaded and block it. But GEMA argues that Content ID requires too much effort on the part of the rights owner, who has nothing to gain if they choose to block rather than monetise any tracked content.
It was this part of the 2012 ruling that YouTube appealed, but the appeals court this week reaffirmed the video site's responsibilities. Though it still remains unclear what the court thinks YouTube should be doing beyond the current Content ID system to be fulfilling their responsibilities under German law. A more detailed written court ruling due to be published later this month may offer more guidance.
But neither the 2012 ruling nor this week's appeal were a complete win for GEMA, because the basic principle of the 'safe harbour' was upheld. As much previously reported, this is the principle that says (amongst other things) that online services that allow users to upload content cannot be held liable if said users choose to upload copyright infringing material, providing the service has a system in place via which rights owners can have infringing files removed.
YouTube generally operates using the safe harbours provided by American law, though similar provisions in European law means it can get away with that system over here too. The other strand of GEMA's long running litigation tested this point.
The society argued that YouTube should not just be reactive in removing infringing content, rather, to avoid liability for infringement, it needed to be proactive too, actively looking out for infringement on its networks itself. But on that point the German courts have sided with YouTube.
It means that while the video site may have to step up its Content ID system - the court said that in seven out of twelve examples raised by GEMA the video site had not removed infringing content fast enough - nevertheless the basic principle of the safe harbours outlined above still stands.
However, copyright law is under review in Europe, and it's been clear since the start of this year that the music rights sector wants the safe harbours in European law revised, so that while internet service providers and server-hosting companies still get protection, sites that allow users to upload content but which then re-aggregate that content and monetise it, should not.
Labels and publishers hope that putting more obligations on YouTube would strengthen their hand at the negotiating table, forcing the Google site to pay better royalties to rights owners, artists and creators.
Record industry trade groups like IMPALA and IFPI have already been vocal on this issue, and the songwriters and publishers have been joining in of late too.
And in its Streamfair campaign, PRS says a lack of clarity in European law over what kind of services should benefit from the safe harbours "has deprived creators of the ability to consent to the use of their works. This has resulted in a transfer of value from the creative industries to the technology platforms, to the detriment of consumers and the UK economy".
Or, in the words of PRS boss Robert Ashcroft: "It is unacceptable that some online content providers use 'safe harbour' provisions either to make token payments or avoid the need to pay a licence altogether by insisting that they are not liable for content even though their business models are predicated on monetising the creative works they carry".
He goes on: "Furthermore, it's not right that legitimate, fully licensed digital service providers have to endure the resulting unfair competition, which is stifling their growth and potential profitability. Unfair competition with free services is a problem that will not fix itself and requires intervention from the legislator... that's why Streamfair is a timely and crucial campaign".
Expect much more of this from the music industry over the summer. Though word has it that top twonks at Google remain confident that, through Content ID, they are fully compliant with both the word and the spirit of the law as it's currently written, and that even a tightening up of the wording around safe harbours in Europe wouldn't impact on their operations.
And presumably the web giant's mighty lobbying machine is already rumbling away with the aim of influencing any re-writing that does indeed occur. Cunts.
So there you go. Bad Google. And just in case there was any doubt in the Apple v Google debate, well, look at this, PRS has confirmed a licensing deal is now in place between the collecting society and Apple Music, and that the tech giant will remunerate publishers and songwriters from the off, even during that big three month free trial. Swift Payments as we now call all such royalties.
Says PRS's Head Of Online Ben McEwen: "We're excited about Apple Music. Streaming is fast becoming the dominant means of music discovery - and for our members to earn royalties for their work online. Every new licensed streaming service gives a boost to both the tech and creative industries and underlines just how vital collaboration is to ensure there is a healthy, thriving market for digital services, music makers and music lovers alike".
Yay Apple! They're still cunts though. And why has no one sent me any apple pie yet?
BMG takes control of the Buddy Holly catalogue
The deal covers the publishing rights in nearly every song Holly wrote, including classics like 'Peggy Sue' and 'That'll Be The Day', plus BMG will also rep royalties due on the musician's recordings, and rights in his name, image and likeness.
Confirming the deal, Holly told reporters: "For almost 60 years Buddy's loving fans and I have worked to bring his creativity to successive generations of fans and I have been looking for a steward to lead those efforts into the future. I am very happy to announce that I have entrusted Buddy's legacy to BMG".
Meanwhile Holly's legal rep Stephen Easley, who is also counsel to the aforementioned Foundation, added: "We are particularly pleased that BMG will join with Maria Elena and The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation to further Buddy's legacy, and Buddy and Maria Elena's dream to promote musical education for all young people, regardless of creed, income or ethnicity".
BMG US's President Creative & Marketing Laurent Hubert will join the board of the Foundation as part of the deal, and he said of the alliance: "Buddy Holly is truly one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. What is all the more extraordinary is that he completed this tremendous body of work by the time he was 22. Maria Elena and the music community can be assured that BMG takes its responsibility to preserve and develop the Buddy Holly legacy extremely seriously".
Taylor Swift label Big Machine not for sale, revisits alliance with Universal
Scott Borchetta has spent much of the last year considering selling his increasingly high profile independent record company Big Machine, a prolific mainly country music focused outfit now best known for being the hub of the Taylor Swift phenomenon.
It's thought Borchetta was initially approached by a possible buyer, and on the back of that interest sounded out a number of other possible bidders from the music, media and tech sectors, including both Warner and Sony Music, the latter having been linked to a possible Big Machine bid a few years back too.
iHeartMedia, Snapchat and private equity were also said to be amongst those approached, while even Apple was, at one point, rumoured to be interested in buying the music firm, though that never seemed likely, however much everyone wants the tech giant to "become a record company".
Billboard muses that Borchetta may have been pushing for a higher asking price for his label than most potential buyers would be willing to spend, while sources say a condition of selling to a major would have been him taking a very senior role within his future parent company. But his decision not to sell may have been a simple change of heart.
The Big Machine man has, though, revisited his company's alliance with Universal Music, which saw the major providing distribution services to the indie and collaborating in the JV Republic Nashville. It's thought that Borchetta has now secured a better rate on distribution and will take complete ownership of the Republic Nashville business.
Agency Group expands dance roster through Autonomous hook up
Confirming the deal, Richards told reporters: "The Agency Group's 360 vision for its artists falls in line with the approach and vision I have had while growing Autonomous Music. Joining my roster with theirs at this time is part of the natural progression for my clients' careers, and will bring many new and exciting business and branding opportunities for us all".
TAG's CEO of US Operations, Natalia Nastaskin, added: "Chris's ability to identify talent, booking experience, and eclectic roster will significantly contribute to The Agency Group's ongoing efforts to expand its electronic music footprint globally".
Freehold on Newcastle Academy up for sale
No not really. It's not the venue business that's up for sale, but rather the property itself, which is currently owned by the "cash-strapped" (according to local paper The Journal) Newcastle City Council. The local authority is selling the freehold on the site as part of a number of property sales to bring in some quick speedy loot to, and I quote the council, "boost the city's economy and help it emerge strongly from recession". Good times.
But none of this should affect the popular music venue run by the Live Nation allied Academy Music Group, a spokesman for which told The Journal: "As is extremely common with many buildings, Newcastle City Council is selling off a number of its property assets and freeholds. Please be assured that this does not in any way affect Academy Music Group and the trading of O2 Academy Newcastle; it is very much business as usual".
PRS For Music Foundation collaborates on new fund for creative producers
The term 'producer' isn't so widely used in music as it is in other cultural sectors, to avoid confusion with record producers (or the legal definition of sound recording copyright owners), but this scheme aims to support people who conceive and deliver innovative live music events or initiatives which in turn provide a platform for new music talent. Said producers may work alongside other creators on their projects, or lead on all aspects of their ventures, but will likely have a combined commercial and creative role.
Under the new fellowship scheme, experts working in any musical genre will be encouraged to nominate potential recipients of the funding, which can be used to help the successful producer to realise his or her projects and plans, and take a wage while doing so. £1000 grants will also be provided to those who are shortlisted but not chosen overall.
Launching the new funding scheme, PRS For Music Foundation chief Vanessa Reed told reporters: "People often say that the best creative producers in live music are invisible - they work behind the scenes, with artists, promoters and venues to find the most imaginative way to present new music in its many different forms. PRS For Music Foundation is supporting this award to raise awareness of these important practitioners whilst giving one winner time and resources to further develop their unique talent. I'm sure that the shortlist for this award will be very strong".
More info at www.prsformusicfoundation.com
Michael Robertson adds FreeBeats1 to his 6 Seconds app
You might remember that Michael Robertson, founder of the original MP3.com and the sued-out-of-existence digital locker and link sharing platform MP3tunes, recently launched a new app called 6 seconds, which taps into the online radio domain to offer something nearing an on-demand music service.
It basically tries to find a radio station currently playing a track or artist that a user requests, and links you to said station's online stream within six seconds. Once you've heard that track you can stay with the station or quickly skip to another somewhere else on the net playing something different.
Robertson has just launched a new version of the app and in it you will find a thing called FreeBeats1, which tracks what music is being played on the Apple Music station, and then lets people listen to that list of songs by jumping around from station to station, but without ever having to hear Zane Lowe, or any of his colleagues or ads.
Writes Robertson in a recent blog post: "FreeBeats1 monitors Apple's Beats1 station and plays the same tunes but without the disruptive DJ banter. Unlike Beats1, it does not require an iOS device or registering with an AppleID to listen. Any Android or iOS user can listen and no registration is required".
So there you go. As with any Robertson-led music venture, this throws up plenty of copyright questions, not least whether there is copyright in playlists (an old favourite, of course), and whether turning thousands of radio streams into an on-demand streaming service requires any sort of licence from rights owners over and above the licences the radio firms already have. Fun fun.
Libertines confirm new 'Anthems', Pledge selling big fat box set
Called 'Anthems For Doomed Youth', doomed youth everywhere will be pleased to hear that their anthems include tracks like 'Gunga Din', as performed at recent Libertine live shows. Lucky doomed youth.
With the album on pre-order from all good pre-ordering locations (and you can already buy the aforementioned 'Din'), PledgeMusic has announced that it is exclusively offering pre-orderers in the UK a special deluxe box set that includes bonus demo tracks, a signed art-print and a DVD film. Here you go boxset-desiring pre-orderers.
Is Pledge thrilled to be involved? You bet. Says Pledge President Malcolm Dunbar: "I'm thrilled and delighted that one of the biggest albums of the year, by one of the most important UK bands of the last decade, involves PledgeMusic and is further evidence of how the direct-to-fan model can make an important contribution in the whole new release process".
!K7 celebrates DJ Kicks landmark with DJ top trumps game
But to promote the 50th edition landmark, the label has also put out a new set of DJ top trump cards, with 20 of the deejays and producers who have mixed a 'DJ Kicks' record over the years featured. The cards list the DJs' all important stats like longest track length and social media count.
As Resident Advisor has noted, !K7 did something very similar in 1995, with the likes of Sven Väth, Derrick May and Richie Hawtin included that time round. Though no social media stats, obviously. Not even Geocity residents.
The new cards are currently being distributed with every purchase from !K7's online store.
CMU Beef Of The Week 260: Photographers v Pop
Leading the fire was freelance photographer Jason Sheldon, who said that while it was great Swift was sticking up for the musical creator community, her own people were doing little for grassroots photographers, by insisting they sign draconian contracts before being allowed to take pictures at any of her concerts.
The agreements, Sheldon said, said photographers could only use any pictures once - and only with the publication that had commissioned the concert shots - but Swift would have the right to use the photos whenever she wanted in the future.
Sheldon noted that photographers often rely on the fees that can be made from the repeat use of their photos to make a living, not least because the newspaper or magazine behind the original commission might chose not to use the photo, and would therefore pay the photographer nothing.
Wrote Sheldon: "You say in your letter to Apple that 'three months is a long time to go unpaid'. But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity".
Swift's people quickly countered that the photo agreement had been misrepresented and, anyway, terms were always up for negotiation. But plenty of photographers, most speaking off the record amidst fears of being blacklisted by the pop PR machine, said that while Swift wasn't by any means the only artist making these unreasonable demands, the implication was very much that either you agreed to these terms or you'd be denied a photo pass.
But perhaps, perversely, Swift's Apple Music intervention, because of Sheldon's resulting blog post, might allow the photographers to start fighting back. While the Apple Music debacle itself has very much died down now, the photographer spat it instigated isn't going anywhere. Not least because this week a photo editor, rather than a freelancer snapper, entered the debate.
The Irish Times declared that it wouldn't be publishing any photos from Swift's recent shows in Dublin because of the photographer terms. The paper's Deputy Picture Editor Brenda Fitzsimons said: "The terms and conditions of the contract are exceedingly restrictive and just not feasible for a working newspaper and website. The photographs may be used on a one-time only basis and by signing her contract we grant Swift perpetual, worldwide right to use the published photographs in any way she sees fit".
Fitzsimons added that she felt the terms Swift's people were demanding were particularly problematic, despite such agreements being increasingly the norm in music. Though don't worry Swift fans, she's not standing on her lonesome in the bad guy corner of this beef. No, the lovable Foo Fighters have been pulled into the squabble too. Yes, with Dave Grohl on crutches and everything.
Following the Irish Times' lead, the Washington City Paper has hit out at a contract it was sent by the Foo Fighter's people ahead of the band's gig in the American capital this weekend. Publishing the contract in full, the newspaper says: "If we signed it, we would have agreed to: the band approving the photos which run in the City Paper; only running the photos once and with only one article; and all copyrights would transfer to the band".
They go on: "Then, here's the fun part, the band would have 'the right to exploit all or a part of the photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations' without any approval or payment or consideration for the photographer".
It muses: "That is exploitation of photographers, pure and simple. If a streaming music service tried to use the band's music for free, they'd have none of it. That's what the Taylor Swift-Apple blow up was about. But by signing that contract, the band could then use the creative work of our photographer in their future marketing materials or resell them through their site. And beyond that, we at the City Paper would be signing over editorial control to the band and their management company. And unless we get to pick the set list, that's never going to happen".
So take that pop stars. Though the City Paper adds that, while some musicians insist these contracts are now "standard", that's not actually the case. "The Rolling Stones, to name one huge act, aren't demanding newspapers sign over their pictures and the Stones are in the middle of selling out half of the stadiums in North America".
So well done Mick Jagger et al, you're excluded from this week's beef. Can I come and take your photo and use it on this article? And every article. For ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever, amen.
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