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Categotry Archives: Infringement

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How Amazon’s Twitch.tv Cheats Music Creators

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Categories: Articles, Copyright, Infringement, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Performance, Record Labels, Royalties, Streaming, Videos, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.

Music creators (songwriters and performing artists) and rights’ owners (music publishers and record labels) are not collecting a new and substantial source of income – and most of them are not aware they are not collecting it. Enter Twitch, the website exploiting creators and owners without paying for a single cent of music usage.

What is Twitch

Twitch, a subsidiary of Amazon, is a live-streaming video platform that has “over two million broadcasters and 15 million daily active users.” Anyone can become a Twitch “broadcaster,” meaning users set up their own channels and live-stream various content, which includes, but is not limited to, video-game play, card games, pranks, craft tutorials and more.

The broadcasts start out as live streams and are saved on the channel for re-broadcasts and on-demand watching. Watching videos and channels on Twitch is free and publicly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Anyone can become a Twitch broadcaster for free and earn money directly from viewers. Broadcasters that contract with Twitch to become a partner or affiliate will earn money from Twitch directly, as well as from viewers. All revenue streams are described in the next two sections.

Income Earned by Twitch and Twitch Partners/Affiliates

  1. Ad Revenue: Twitch serves ads on all video content, which includes video-on-demand and pre-rolls, and collects ad revenue from showing these ads.
  2. Subscriptions: Viewers can subscribe to a particular broadcaster’s channel at pricing tiers of $4.99, $9.99, and $24.99, with these charges recurring monthly.These subscriptions allow viewers to support broadcasters and use special emotes (chat icons like emojis) that are accessible only to subscribers of a particular broadcaster’s channel.
  3. Bits: Viewers can contribute “bits” to a broadcaster during a stream. Bits are a digital currency within Twitch bought by users for real money, and contributing these bits to a broadcaster is basically like adding money to that broadcaster’s tip jar.
  4. Amazon Prime: Because Twitch is owned by Amazon, Prime members can use “tokens” from their Prime membership to subscribe to broadcaster channels on Twitch. Tokens renew every month, so a Prime member can re-subscribe to a broadcaster’s channel on a monthly basis using Prime tokens.

Twitch and the broadcaster split all income from subscriptions, bits, and Prime tokens, usually on at least a 50/50 basis.

Income Earned Directly by Broadcasters

  1. Donations:Viewers can contribute money directly to a broadcaster through third party services like StreamLabs, Muxy or StreamElements without buying bits.
  2. Media Share: Viewers can make “media share requests” through StreamLabsand StreamElements, meaning viewers can request a broadcaster to play a certain song, YouTube video, or other media within a live stream (hereinafter “Media Share(s)”). Prices for Media Shares are set by the broadcaster, and some broadcasters will start their pricing at $5 per request.

A Twitch Broadcaster’s Earnings

Twitch’s most popular broadcaster is 26-year old Tyler Blevins, known on Twitch as “Ninja.” Ninja reportedly earns over $500,000 per month on Twitch revenue alone, not counting his recent sponsorship deals by Red Bull and Uber. A recent Forbes article reported Ninja’s earnings calculation: “160,000 subscribers at a higher $3.50 rate per sub means he’s pulling in $560,000 a month from that revenue stream alone. Not counting Twitch bits. Not counting donations. Not counting 4 million YouTube subscribers.”

Ninja and most other broadcasters also use music in their streams. None of this music is licensed and none of this money is going to the music creators or rights’ owners.

Music Licenses Required

Platforms with user-generated audiovisual content require performance licenses for the compositions from performance rights organizations ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR. Music users must obtain synchronization and master use licenses from the music publishers and record labels, respectively, along with paying negotiated fees to “synchronize” the audio with the visual elements. Also, rights’ owners may share in ad revenue in addition to or in lieu of those fees.

It should also be considered whether a broadcaster who repeatedly uses a particular song as a theme song or channel staple (like when Ninja does a victory dance at every game win to the song, “Pon Pon Pon”, performed by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) is implying an association with or (false) endorsement by an artist, similar to when political candidates use certain songs in their campaigns.

How Music Rights are Being Violated

First, there is no evidence that Twitch has valid performance licenses in place from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or GMR (although they may be working on it). Therefore, Twitch is not paying for the repeated performances of music to audiences of millions.

Second, it is not known that any broadcaster using music on Twitch obtains synchronization or master use licenses, or pays any fees for the use of music. Also, neither Twitch nor the broadcasters are sharing ad revenue with rights’ owners.

Third, Twitch does not have its own content ID system like YouTube to track and claim uses of music. Twitch leverages Audible Magic to track audio uses after a live stream is over and will mute infringing content in the on-demand re-broadcasts, but not all content is recognized and removed. Also, there is no system to flag these infringing uses or mute them during a live stream.

All of the money earned by Twitch and its partner/affiliate broadcasters for subscriptions, bits, and Prime membership is retained entirely by Twitch and its partners/affiliates, and money earned from donations and Media Share song requests is kept entirely by the broadcasters. None of these funds are allocated to music creators and rights’ owners whose music is being used in these broadcasts.

Current State of Affairs

On June 22, 2018, the Twitch community received a shock when a group of its most popular broadcasters were banned from Twitch for playing a leaked version of a new song by rapper Juice Wrld that was initiated via Media Share song requests. Interscope Records issued DMCA takedown notices, and per Twitch policy, each infringer was banned for 24-hours.

This incident has shed a light on the use of uncleared music by Twitch broadcasters, but many have either continued with playing uncleared content or will not include certain music in the broadcasts. Ninja has turned off music content so he can then repost videos to YouTube in order to avoid YouTube claims by rights’ owners and keep his YouTube ad revenue. Ninja has publicly stated, “I’ve already reached out about getting rights to music … you can still get screwed over for playing music that doesn’t belong to you. … It’s such a nightmare, that it’s just not worth it.”

Interscope later supposedly stated the DMCA takedowns were an accident and Juice Wrld apologized to the Twitch broadcasters, saying “I will do what I can to prevent it from happening again.”

The National Music Publisher’s Association (NMPA) is rumored to be in negotiations with Twitch for licensing, but has not confirmed or commented as to the details.

Furthermore, Twitch isn’t the only site on the market. There are other, similar sites such as Mixer (owned by Microsoft), Facebook Gaming, YouTube Gaming, and Caffeine. There are also other music-centric sites, like Smule, using music in audiovisual content purportedly without permission or payment. More of these websites, as well as phone apps, with user-generated content, continue to emerge and the rate at which more new platforms are introduced is unlikely to slow due to the prevalence of streaming.

The Real Problems

First, rights’ owners are not enforcing their rights and making sure they receive payment for uses of their content. As stated at the beginning of this article, many creators and rights’ owners do not even know about these infringements. Those rights owners’ that are aware, like Interscope, have allowed the rumors of “accidental” takedowns to be the last word on the subject instead of taking a stand to protect their rights.

Second, Juice Wrld is an example of at least one artist condoning the Twitch broadcasters’ unauthorized use of his work instead of getting paid. Artists and songwriters can and should benefit from these uses, and condoning the infringing behavior allows for more of it, as well as a further loss of income to the creators and rights’ owners.

Third, streamers are often ignorant of how to obtain permission. Noah Downs, a video game lawyer at McDonald, Sutton & DuVal in Richmond, VA observes, “Some broadcasters reach out to artists directly, thinking that if the artist tweets ‘Sure, use my music!’ then it must be okay to use. It does not matter if a broadcaster has that kind of permission from the artist – generally the decision is up to the label.”

Fourth, many streamers feel entitled to play music without permission under the belief they are actually helping artists by giving them exposure. Famous artists and songs do not need free promotion from Twitch broadcasters – they are already famous. While exposure might be helpful for new artists to gain fans, it still doesn’t need to be for free.  For example, music service Pretzel Rocks and music company Monstercat have agreements with artists allowing music to be played legally on Twitch broadcasts with compensation being paid to the artists and songwriters.

In an ironic twist, Twitch viewers and broadcasters frequently use and repurpose clips of other Twitch broadcasters’ content without permission. The broadcasters complain about this practice and will submit content claims when their content is used without permission, but they fail to realize that they are doing the same thing to music creators and rights’ owners. Downs agrees, stating, “In many ways, broadcasters and musical artists are the same, and both deserve to be paid fairly.”

The bottom line is that allcreators and rights’ owners need to be properly compensated for uses of their work. Rather than ignoring or condoning infringing behavior, creators and rights’ owners need to keep up with new uses of music and take a stand to protect the value of their music and their livelihoods.

It’s time creators stopped feeling entitled to steal from and deprive each other of the fruits of their labor. It’s time people realized that using music without permission or payment not only cheats the creator or performer, but also impacts everyone that works for them or with them. It’s time the culture of all creators shifts to one of respecting one’s own work enough to get paid for it and respecting the work of others enough to get the proper permissions and pay the proper compensation. It’s time that everyone gets serious about valuing music.

 

*This article does not constitute legal advice.

Click here to contact Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. if she can assist you in your career with this issue or other music industry issues. (Ms. Jacobson does not shop, litigate, or accept unsolicited material.)

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Spotify May Have To Pay Songwriters $345 Million

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Categories: Articles, Business, Infringement, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Royalties, Streaming, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was previously published on Forbes.com.

When you stream music on Spotify, are you aware that as you are enjoying your favorite song, Spotify might not be paying the person who wrote that song?

Spotify has been sued for upwards of $345 million by Bob Gaudio and Bluewater Music Services Corporation for failure to pay mechanical licenses when their compositions are streamed on Spotify. Gaudio, a former member of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, wrote and publishes some of the group’s biggest hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Walk Like a Man,” as well as Valli’s solo hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” Bluewater administers the publishing for compositions like Player’s “Baby Come Back,” Miranda Lambert’s “White Liar,” and Guns ‘N Roses’ “Yesterdays.”

Streaming requires several licenses –sound recording licenses from the record labels; performance licenses for the compositions from performance rights organizations such as ASCAP and BMI; and mechanical licenses for the reproduction of the compositions. While Spotify has deals with the major labels, and blanket licenses with ASCAP and BMI, Spotify has not complied with the requirements for mechanical licenses and payments for all compositions streamed on its platform. Obtaining a mechanical license in the United States is compulsory, meaning that a person or company wishing to reproduce a composition must follow the guidelines in Section 115 of the United States Copyright Act to serve a “Notice of Intent” on the copyright owner and pay said owner the compulsory license fee. Spotify has followed this procedure for compositions affiliated with the Harry Fox Agency (the closest body the United States has to a mechanical rights society), but there are many compositions not affiliated with the Harry Fox Agency that Spotify would need to contact and pay directly – and Spotify largely has not done so.

This is not the first time Spotify has come under fire for its inadequate licensing practices. In 2016, Spotify reached a $30 million dollar settlement with the National Music Publisher’s Association (NMPA) for unpaid mechanical royalties, and Spotify just settled another class action suit for $43.4 million dollars. While maximum statutory damages rates are $150,000 per infringed composition, Bluewater claims that Spotify will only have to pay songwriters $4 per infringed composition after litigation fees are paid. Per the previous settlements, Spotify must also implement a better system to properly track and pay mechanical royalties, and Bluewater asserts this has not yet happened.

The attorney for both Gaudio and Bluewater is Richard S. Busch, most recently in the news for his representation of Marvin Gaye’s estate in the “Blurred Lines” case. Echoing my previous sentiments, a press release citing Busch’s complaint sums up the issue in a single sentence: “Songwriters and publishers should not have to work this hard to get paid or have their life’s work properly licensed, and companies should not be allowed to build businesses—much less billion-dollar businesses—on the concept of ‘infringe now and ask questions later.’”

*This article does not constitute legal advice.

Erin M. Jacobson is a music attorney whose clients include Grammy and Emmy Award winners, legacy clients and catalogs, songwriters, music publishers, record labels, and independent artists and companies. She is based in Los Angeles where she handles a wide variety of music agreements and negotiations, in addition to owning and overseeing all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection. Ms. Jacobson also serves on the boards of the California Copyright Conference (CCC) and Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP).

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Music Industry Cases to Watch in 2017

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Categories: Articles, Copyright, Infringement, Law, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Performance, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was previously published on Forbes.com.

Following are the top music legal cases to watch in 2017, what to expect, and how they could affect the industry as a whole.

Global Music Rights v. The Radio Music Licensing Commission (and The Radio Music Licensing Commission v. Global Music Rights)

Background: As explained here, The Radio Music Licensing Commission (“”RMLC”) sued performance rights organization Global Music Rights (“GMR”) on anti-trust grounds for creating an artificial monopoly over and charging “exorbitant” licensing fees for works in its repertoire. In a separate and non-retaliatory suit (and explained here), GMR sued the RMLC claiming that the RMLC’s committee of radio stations seeks to discourage competition amongst these stations with the common goal of keeping payments to songwriters and music publishers artificially low and using its collective power to do so.

What you might expect: The parties will probably settle, as the implementation of judicial rate supervision would significantly curb GMR’s objectives in negotiating higher rates for its writers. If GMR had to submit to judicial rate setting proceedings, it is probable Irving Azoff would find a way around the regulations to command higher compensation for GMR writers.

How it could affect the industry: If radio does not want to pay GMR’s rates, then radio stations can refuse to play works in the GMR repertoire. As a result, these artists would lose the promotion and performance income provided by radio airplay. It could also affect writers belonging to other performance rights organizations that have co-written songs with GMR writers or covered songs by GMR writers.  The band Anthrax has already issued an open letter to Irving Azoff seeking to have its name disassociated with GMR, as the band is not a GMR client but is listed in the GMR repertoire because Anthrax covered “Phantom Lord” by Metallica (a GMR client) early in Anthrax’s career. Anthrax is afraid this association could stop radio stations from playing all Anthrax songs.

However, the radio stations themselves would also suffer because it would harm stations’ popularity with listeners if stations cannot play the music their listeners want to hear, resulting in a significant loss of advertising revenue.

The Turtles v. SiriusXM

Background: Flo & Eddie of The Turtles sued SiriusXM for playing their sound recordings without paying royalties. In the United States, all sound recordings made after February 15, 1972 are protected by federal copyright law. Prior to that date, sound recordings only had protection under state laws. In 1995, sound recordings were granted a digital performance right to earn royalties when played on digital media like satellite radio or streamed online. This case raised the question as to whether all sound recordings were entitled to the performance right or only those recorded post-1972. Flo & Eddie have been successful in several states to champion the right to royalties for owners of older recordings, but a New York appeals court just ruled against themsaying that the pre-1972 recordings are only entitled to protection provided by state laws.

What you might expect:  The outcome could go either way here, but its definitely one to watch. A settlement might also be possible for those involved in the lawsuit, however, a settlement would not dictate the future of royalties for other pre-1972 recordings not included in this class action suit.

How it could affect the industry: If it is found that pre-1972 sound recordings are entitled to a digital performance royalty, then owners of these recordings and the artists who recorded them would be entitled to an income stream much needed for older catalogues that do not currently make much money in terms of sales or other uses. Satellite radio and other Internet services would have to pay an appropriate amount of royalties, which seems doable for a company like SiriusXM worth billions of dollars, but potentially less so for smaller providers. If the appeal is upheld, then satellite radio and Internet services would continue to play these early recordings without paying royalties to the owners and artists of these recordings and would further the financial hardships for older artists without current hits.

“Blurred Lines” v. “Got To Give It Up”

Background: Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke wrote and recorded a song (“Blurred Lines”) that they, as stated in interviews, wanted to sound like Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” The Estate of Marvin Gaye sued Thicke and Williams for copyright infringement and the closely followed trial yielded a jury verdict in favor of the Gaye family, with a judgment ultimately set at $5.3 million plus future royalties. The verdict inspired a string of similar lawsuits, including one challenging the originality of “Stairway to Heaven.”

A major issue within the trial was whether to consider only the lead sheet (musical notes) deposited with the Copyright Office (protocol at the time “Got to Give It Up” was registered) and not the recording of the song. Insiders of the music community debate the finding of infringement when many of the actual notes were not an exact match in both compositions versus looking at patterns and other music elements that were similar and repeated within both songs.

The case is now up for appeal. Thicke and Williams’ attorney claims that the trial court’s verdict will “chill” creativity. The attorney for the Gaye family argues in his appellate brief that the copyright for “Got to Give It Up” is not “thin,” and states a reminder that the
test for infringement is substantial
similarity and not virtual identity.

What you might expect: This case will once again be closely followed, but the verdict cannot be predicted at this time. A settlement is doubtful because the stakes have become too high for both sides.  This case has become much bigger than just the two songs involved.

How it could affect the industry: The impact of this decision could set an important precedent. If Thicke and Williams win, it would open the door to frequent usage of elements from older songs with little recourse for the copyright owners of the original songs. If the Gaye family wins, it would probably inspire even more lawsuits for infringement. Regardless of whichever party wins, this case may influence all future copyright infringement lawsuits involving music, as it may dictate which sources (lead sheets, recordings, etc.) can be considered in a copyright infringement suit and based on what is included in those sources, which elements of a composition can be protected and/or infringed.

The Department of Justice v. ASCAP and BMI

Background: Performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI asked the Department of Justice (which oversees the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI) to reform the decrees based on today’s digital age. Music publishers asked for the ability to negotiate directly with companies licensing music for digital uses. The Department of Justice ruled against all that was asked for by the music community and decided to implement a model of 100% licensing, which mandates that a performance rights organization can only license rights to perform a work if the organization controls 100% of that work.

BMI appealed the decision and got an immediate verdict in BMI’s favor allowing the industry practice of fractional licensing to continue. The Department of Justice has appealed BMI’s victory and that appeal is currently pending.

What you might expect: This is going to be an ongoing fight to the bitter end.

How it could affect the industry: As explained in more detail here, a ruling in favor of the Department of Justice would force the entire music industry to completely change the way it does business, render hundreds of thousands of works to be unlicensable by ASCAP and BMI, place incredible burdens on composition owners to track performances, potentially require hundreds of thousands of contracts to be amended, and would also affect the music industry throughout the world due to the reciprocal agreements ASCAP and BMI have with performance rights societies in other countries.

*This article does not constitute legal advice.

Erin M. Jacobson is a music attorney whose clients include Grammy and Emmy Award winners, legacy clients and catalogues, songwriters, music publishers, record labels, and independent artists and companies. She is based in Los Angeles where she handles a wide variety of music agreements and negotiations, in addition to owning and overseeing all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection.

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June Music Legal and Business Roundup

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Categories: Copyright, Infringement, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

cowgirl, lasso, roundup

Image via freeimages.com

Here’s a recap of my article’s this month:

 

The most talked-about topic in the music legal world this month was certainly the copyright infringement case where band Spirit is sued Led Zeppelin over allegations that “Stairway to Heaven” infringed on Spirit’s song “Taurus.”  The good news is that Led Zeppelin Wins ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Jury Trial!

Here’s a recap of the week’s trial coverage:

What was also exciting is the recent push by artists to urge online content providers like YouTube to #valuemusic.  This call to action also involves the request to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which allows safe harbor provisions for YouTube and other online content providers.

In other news, those on the other side of the spectrum are filing lawsuits to force certain musical compositions into the public domain so that they don’t have to pay the license fees for them.  This is one of a few lawsuits to follow the “Happy Birthday” case.  This is certainly not a way to #valuemusic.

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Why Posting a Cover Song on YouTube is Copyright Infringement

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Categories: Articles, Copyright, Infringement, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Royalties, Social Media, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

Erin Jacobson music attorney music industry lawyer youtube cover song copyright infringement

New artists trying to get discovered will frequently cover famous songs and upload videos of them performing these songs on YouTube. Many artists do not realize that without securing the proper permissions, posting a cover song on YouTube is actually copyright infringement.

User-generated cover song videos require permission to use the composition and permission to synchronize the audio elements with the video.*

To cover a composition, one needs to get a mechanical license. A mechanical license allows someone to record a song that has already been recorded and distributed by another artist. A mechanical license is most often obtained through the Harry Fox Agency. The related royalty stream is called a “mechanical royalty” which is a royalty payable to a composition owner for the privilege of being allowed to record that composition. This is the 9.1 cent royalty often mentioned in the music business.

However, the mechanical license only covers audio recordings of the original composition. It does not cover the synchronization of the audio with the video portion, for which one needs to obtain a synchronization or “sync” license. This is where most people get tripped up because they don’t get a synchronization license from the composition owner (usually the music publisher).

An artist who does not get permission from the owner of the song he is covering to synchronize his cover version with the accompanying video is infringing the copyright of the original composition.  [tweetthis display_mode=”button_link”]Failure to get a sync license for your YouTube cover song video is copyright infringement.[/tweetthis]

The consequences of posting a cover song without the proper synchronization license vary. In some instances, the copyright owners of the original composition don’t know about the cover on YouTube or they choose to do nothing about it. In other cases, the copyright owners will send a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube and have the video taken down. Further still, someone who posts an unauthorized cover might get a cease-and-desist letter or the threat of legal action, and might actually get sued, leading to liability for a lot of money in copyright infringement damages.

Do you have more questions or need a license for your project?  Contact Erin now to get your questions answered.

* In the case of a cover song, the original master recording is not used because someone else is making his or her own recording of the song and therefore no label permission is necessary. If one plans to use the original master recording in a video, that person would have to go to the master owner (usually the record label) and get a master use license to be able to pair the master recording with the video. I won’t discuss the performance right here since YouTube and similar websites have blanket licenses from the performance rights organizations. However, if an artist is uploading these videos to his or her personal website, that artist is also liable for the payment of performance royalties.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or mattersThis article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user and Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. is not acting as your attorney or providing you with legal advice.   The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on,act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

 

 

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How Do You Prove That Someone Stole Your Song?

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Categories: Articles, Copyright, Infringement, Law, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Image via hivesociety.com

A lot of musicians email me claiming they have great cases for copyright infringement. Copyright infringement does happen, but there are more people who think they have a case than those who actually do. (Please note that I am not a litigator and the below explanation is only a general overview of the basic principles in a copyright infringement suit. Actual cases may include nuances not discussed in this article.)

In order to sue for copyright infringement, you must have your work’s copyright registered with the United States Copyright Office. You can register your works yourself (the online registration fee is about $35), but I recommend an attorney like me or a service like Indie Artist Resource to file the registration for you, as some of the questions and principles covered in the application can be confusing.

Keep in mind that under copyright law, two similar works can be created independently of each other without infringement. For example, two independent musicians on opposite sides of the country could create original and copyrightable songs that sound very similar to each other, without knowing each other or ever hearing each other’s music. After all, there are only so many notes and chords that can be played.

However, if you do feel someone has actually infringed your music, you will have to prove that you have a valid copyright and your work was sufficiently original to warrant the validity of that copyright. Next, you will have to show that the alleged infringer copied your work. The analysis for infringement involves examining these three areas:

1. Direct copying
Here, you would have to show that the accused infringer directly copied the first work when creating his subsequent work. There is often no way to show direct copying, so the courts will instead look at the next two areas described below.

2. Access
When direct copying cannot be proven, courts will often infer that copying occurred if it is shown that the accused infringer had access to the allegedly infringed composition. This can be proven by showing that someone had direct access to your work, such as if you gave a copy of the song directly to the alleged infringer, or gave it to someone who had access to that person, like a producer or label executive.

Access can also be shown if the prior work is widely disseminated, such as a famous hit played on the radio and well known by the public. Here’s an example of how access was surprisingly proven in a real case: In Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd.,[1] George Harrison’s song “My Sweet Lord” was deemed to infringe on the song “He’s So Fine” recorded by The Chiffons in 1962.[2] The court didn’t require actual proof that Harrison had heard “He’s So Fine” before; it relied on the fact that “He’s So Fine” had the top position on the Billboard charts in the U.S. for five weeks and hit No. 12 in England in 1963[3] – coincidentally at the same time The Beatles were becoming famous.[4]

The court concluded that Harrison unconsciously plagiarized “He’s So Fine” when he composed “My Sweet Lord” because “his subconscious knew [the musical combination of notes] had worked in a song his conscious mind did not remember.”[5] The court went on to further conclude that it did not believe Harrison deliberately copied the song,[6] but ruled against him anyway because access to “He’s So Fine” was assumed due to its fame and the two songs had enough similarities to satisfy the court.[7]

Therefore, if you have written a song, but it is not well known by others and you have not given it to someone where you can show a direct connection to the person who supposedly copied your song, you don’t have a case. It’s not enough to write and record a song that only a small number of people have heard, and then try to file a lawsuit when something shows up on the radio that you think sounds similar, when in reality you have no proof to show the other person even knew of your song.

3. Substantial similarity
The third analysis looks at the similarities, if any, between the two songs. If the degree of access to the first song is high, the amount of proof required to show similarity between the two songs will be lower than if there was not easy access to the first song.

Here, a court will look objectively at which parts of the first song were allegedly copied, such as the melody, lyrics, etc. A court will also look at the subjective opinion of lay listeners, which is basically whether the average person would think the two songs sounded the same or similar enough when listening to them both.

This point in the analysis is where many people argue that it is supposedly acceptable to copy three notes of an existing composition or sample three seconds or less of an existing recording without infringing copyright. In fact, there are no such rules allowing this practice. Infringement is infringement.

If you have looked at the facts and can truly show that someone has either directly copied your song or has had access to your song, and their song is very similar to yours, then you will need to contact an entertainment/copyright litigator to discuss the potential merits of your case. Keep in mind that these lawyers do expect to get paid for their services, although there are a few who may be willing to take important cases on a contingency. Check with the lawyer on his or her practices.

Footnotes:
[1] Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd., 420 F. Supp. 177 (1976).
[2] Id.
[3] Id. at 179.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 180.
[6] Id. at 181.
[7] Id.

This post was originally published at Sonicbids.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. This article does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

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How to Protect Your Music and Avoid Legal Pitfalls

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Categories: Business, Copyright, Infringement, Law, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Record Labels, Royalties, Trademark, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed for My Music Masterclass about how musicians can protect their music, avoid some common legal pitfalls, and more.  The video is available for a temporary stream or permanent download HERE.

My Music Masterclass is a fantastic website where users can view exclusive masterclass sessions with the top touring musicians and industry professionals.  (Registration required and there is a small fee for the streams and downloads.)

You can view a preview of the full video below.  This video is packed with a lot of information and I hope it helps artists to further understand and take control of their careers.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me so I can help you to protect your music and grow your career.

Stream or download the full video here!

This preview video is also available on YouTube – please like, comment, and share it!  (Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.)

The information contained in this video and any linked resource is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice by Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. or My Music Masterclass. The content is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. This video is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you should not act or rely on any information in this video without seeking the advice of an attorney.   YOUR USE OF THIS INFORMATION IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. YOU ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY AND RISK OF LOSS RESULTING FROM THE USE OF THIS INFORMATION. ERIN M. JACOBSON, ESQ. AND/OR MY MUSIC MASTERCLASS WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER RELATING TO THE USE OF THIS INFORMATION.

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Hangover II will be released on schedule

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Categories: Copyright, Film, Infringement, Legal Disputes, Tags: , , , , , ,

The judge in the Hangover II dispute has ruled that the movie will be released in theatres as scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.

While the injunction to block the film’s release was denied, the film’s DVD release could still be stopped at a later date.  The copyright infringement suit is also allowed to proceed.  Judge Perry who is presiding over the case has commented that Whitmill has a good chance of succeeding on the merits of the copyright case.

Whitmill asked Warner Bros. for a $30 million settlement (finally, some settlement talks!), but it is predicted that number will decrease substantially now that the injunction has been denied.

More details here.  It will definitely be interesting to see how this case progresses.

© 2011 Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. All Rights Reserved. If you like this article and want to share it, you may provide a link to www.erinmjacobsonesq.com or a direct link to the post for others to read it. You may not reprint this article without written permission from Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This site is not intended or offered as legal advice. These materials have been prepared for educational and information purposes only. They are not legal advice or legal opinions on any specific matters. If they are considered advertisements, they are general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between this site, Erin M. Jacobson, Esq., and you or any other user. The content is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. The law may vary based on the facts of particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking professional counsel. No person should act or fail to act on any legal matter based on the contents of this site. Unless expressly stated otherwise, no document herein should be assumed to be produced by an attorney licensed in your state. For more information, please click on the “Disclaimer” section in the top menu of this site.

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Hangover II Dispute Continues…

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Categories: Copyright, Film, Infringement, Legal Disputes, Tags: , , , , , ,

Warner Bros. has asked the judge presiding over the Hangover II case not to enjoin (stop) the release of the movie.  (Article here.)  Warner Bros. claims Whitmill, the tattoo artist, would not win on the merits of the case because (amongst other reasons) he did not dispute the tattoo appearing in the first movie and it’s use in the sequel is a parody falling under the fair use defense.  While applying the tattoo on Ed Helm’s face for comedic value in the sequel may be a parody, is it really enough to be considered transformative?  In the 2 Live Crew case regarding Roy Orbison’s song “Pretty Woman,” the court ruled new value was added to “Pretty Woman” by updating the material with a more modern attitude.  Here, the tattoo has been given more comedic value, but it is unclear whether a court would view that as enough to be transformative.   It is also unclear as to what effect the film will have on the market value of the tattoo.  Are people going to flock to tattoo parlors to have their own facial version of this tattoo?  In addition, the entire tattoo was used in the film, which is being released for commercial (i.e. money-making) purposes.  Both of those weigh against a finding of fair use, so it will be interesting to see how the court will rule on fair use grounds.

There is also some discussion about copyrighting tattoos — the artwork is copyrightable, but that doesn’t mean the artist can have control over the tattoo-wearer’s body.  As previously posted, Whitmill has an agreement with Tyson in which Whitmill retains all ownership in the tattoo’s artwork.  I have not seen that document, so my question is — did that document also grant Tyson the right to reproduce, distribute, display and adapt the tattoo; allowing Tyson to use the tattoo in any way he saw fit since, after all, it is on his face? It would be hard for Tyson to not automatically do these things since he is filmed and photographed on a regular basis and the tattoo is freely visible at most times.

This suit is a great way for Whitmill to get some publicity, but why stop the release of a movie that will yield millions of dollars?  If Whitmill’s goal is increased publicity, being the man who stopped the release of a highly-anticipated film would not be the kind of publicity I would want.  Getting a settlement payment with points on the backend would be much more profitable.

Hangover II is set to open next weekend, so a decision should be forthcoming shortly.  Do you think the film’s release will be stopped?   Please let me know your thoughts in the comment thread.

© 2011 Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. All Rights Reserved. If you like this article and want to share it, you may provide a link to www.erinmjacobsonesq.com or a direct link to the post for others to read it. You may not reprint this article without written permission from Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This site is not intended or offered as legal advice. These materials have been prepared for educational and information purposes only. They are not legal advice or legal opinions on any specific matters. If they are considered advertisements, they are general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between this site, Erin M. Jacobson, Esq., and you or any other user. The content is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. The law may vary based on the facts of particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking professional counsel. No person should act or fail to act on any legal matter based on the contents of this site. Unless expressly stated otherwise, no document herein should be assumed to be produced by an attorney licensed in your state. For more information, please click on the “Disclaimer” section in the top menu of this site.
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