Call NowEmail Now

Tag Archives: music lawyer la

by

The Secret to Licensing Your Music

No comments yet

Categories: Uncategorized, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By: Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was previously published on Synchtank.com.

Licensing music is one of the more lucrative areas of the music business and I often get asked how one can encourage productions to license one’s music. 

There are many factors that go into choosing a piece of music to license.  For example, some creative factors include the song itself, the genre, the artist who recorded the particular song, the time period from which the music is from, the nature of the scene or commercial that is using the music, the product, the mood that the producers want to evoke, and other factors.  From a legal perspective, factors that can influence whether a piece of music is licensed include the territory in which the music is available to be licensed, the length of time the music will be used, in which media the music will be used, whether promotional uses are allowed and what type, and more.

However, there is one factor that when all other things remain equal could win the license for one piece of music over another.

Without further ado, the secret to getting music licensed is…

Make the music easy to license!

Note that just because one’s music is easy to license does not guarantee someone will license it.  However, what it does mean is that if a production is interested in licensing a particular piece of music that proves difficult and time-consuming to license, the production will very often abandon efforts to try to license the difficult piece of music and re-direct its efforts to another piece of music that is easier to license.  This means that the owner of the piece of music that is difficult to license will lose that license and the income generated from it, and another rights’ owner now has an opportunity to get that license, and the income from it.

Here are some examples I’ve encountered where the music was not easy to license:

In one example, a new artist wanted a synchronization license for his cover version of a particular song.  There were two writers of the composition, and two publishers from whom to seek a license.  One publisher (“Publisher 1”), a major publisher, was responsive and regularly communicated in regard to approval status.  The other publisher (“Publisher 2”), a lesser-known indie publisher who actually has a catalogue of some substantial songs, was completely non-responsive.  This publisher ignored multiple emails and voicemails with the license request, including ignoring communication from Publisher 1, its co-publisher. 

I am a big fan of publishers in general, and especially those that do their job well.  However, in this case, Publisher 2 was actually losing a license for its writer by completely ignoring the license requests.  It stands to reason that if Publisher 2 ignored the request in this example, it is very likely that Publisher 2 has ignored other requests as well.  This means that Publisher 2 is actively losing money for its writer, and also creating a reputation whereby potential licensees will purposely avoid using songs administered by Publisher 2 because of Publisher 2’s difficulty.  This, in turn, will lose even more future licenses and money for both Publisher 2 and its writer. 

In another example, a successful podcast wanted to license a particular song for its intro and outro music.  The publisher responded quickly with a reasonable quote.  The master owner was in Europe and I contacted the office in the appropriate country.  That office advised me to contact and obtain the license through a particular society.  This procedure didn’t sound correct to me, but I contacted the society per the label’s request.  After several attempts at obtaining a response from this particular society, the society informed me that the society only licenses for its particular country, and only for a podcaster’s own website, not for the major podcast distribution channels like iTunes.  As this confirmed my appraisal of the situation, I contacted the label again with this information.  As of the date of this writing, the label has not responded.

A third example involves clearing music for a video game on a past project.  One particular composition was identified as being owned by a particular company.  After contacting the company several times and the company initially confirming it could issue the license, the company then said it could not issue a worldwide license, as it turns out it was only the sub-publisher for a particular territory.  Our team then asked this company to direct us to the company that could issue the worldwide license.  The sub-publisher’s response was “we don’t know.”  A sub-publisher is responsible for accounting to the rights’ owner that is the main publisher, who in this case would be the company able to issue the worldwide license.  The sub-publisher seemingly did not know who they were representing or to which company they were accounting!  Thankfully, there was a happy ending as we independently found the worldwide licensor and licensed the song.

In order to avoid making the same mistakes as the rights’ owners described above, here are a few tips to make music easy (or easier) to license:

  1. Make sure the registration data is correct in all places where someone would seek information for the licensing contact.
  2. Have a one-stop license, if possible.   A one-stop availability means a person or company owns or has the right to license both the composition and master.  This is not always possible, especially with major releases, so in that case, see #3.
  3. Know who the proper licensing parties are (including co-owners) and be able to assist in the process, if needed.
  4. Respond to license requests!

While the four steps outlined above cannot ensure a particular piece of music will be chosen from a creative standpoint, they will assist in the licensing process when the creative interest is already present.  Licensing is a very active area and it is possible to stay in and win at the licensing game if you play it correctly.

Note: This article does not constitute legal advice.

by

2019 LEGAL ROUND-UP – AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IN 2020

No comments yet

Categories: Articles, Business, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.   This article was originally published on Synchtank’s Synchblog.   It’s been an interesting year in the music legal field. Some outcomes were positive steps forward for the music industry, and some, well, not so much. Here’s a recap of some of the most talked-about legal happenings of 2019, and what they could mean for 2020.

Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” Infringement Lawsuit

Background: Christian rapper Marcus Gray, professionally known as “Flame”, sued Katy Perry and her collaborators stating that Perry’s song “Dark Horse” infringed on his song, “Joyful Noise”. Perry and her team testified that they had never heard “Joyful Noise” and therefore could not have copied a song of which they had no knowledge. The actual musical evidence was lacking in similarity as well.  However, the jury decided against Perry and her team because (1) the songs have a similar sound repeated in them, (2) “Joyful Noise” had been nominated for a Grammy in the Christian music category, and (3) Katy Perry had once been a Christian artist before she hit pop superstardom. Perry has appealed the lawsuit and the appeal is currently pending. What it Means: Copyright infringement lawsuits require two elements to be proved, substantial similarity and access. The two works must show enough similarity that one could attest one creator had copied the other, and the infringing party must have had access to, i.e. heard, the allegedly infringed song. Access is often proven by performance of the infringed song on the radio, a producer who worked with the both artists or their team sharing music with the infringing artist, or other similar manner of delivery. Perry and her team were found guilty of infringement despite a lack of compelling evidence for both elements. Copyright law also allows for independent creation, meaning that two people can write songs that sound similar, despite never having heard each other’s songs. However, it seems this tenant has been forgotten in this and many other recent infringement cases. What to Look for in 2020: While there are definitely legitimate cases of infringement, verdicts like this will encourage the filing of more frivolous cases. Many artists are already afraid that anything they create will be taken advantage of by opportunistic people looking to boost their own fame by capitalizing on the publicity of someone else’s creation. Hopefully, we will see this verdict overturned on appeal.  

Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” Copyright Lawsuit

Background: The trustee for Randy California, the late lead singer of the band Spirit, sued Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, saying “Stairway to Heaven” infringed on Spirit’s composition, “Taurus”. Despite the fact both of these songs are decades old, the case went to trial.  In this case, there was access (Spirit had toured with Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s) and some similarity, but no infringement was found. The lawyer for California’s estate appealed, and the new decision is currently pending. What It Means: Those in the music industry agree this verdict was correct. While California could have sued during his lifetime, he chose not to do so, and the evidence here was not compelling enough to prove the infringement claim. What to Look for in 2020: Hopefully, the original decision will be upheld. The industry needs some precedent for correct rulings in copyright infringement cases.  

Spotify’s Appeal of the Mechanical Royalty Rate Increase

Background: Last year, the Copyright Royalty Board (“CRB”) judges decided that music publishers and songwriters will get an increase on their mechanical royalty rates. The timing of this proceeding happened to coincide with the efforts of the music industry to pass the Music Modernization Act (the “MMA”). The digital service providers (“DSPs”), including Spotify, Pandora, Google, Apple, etc. rallied in cooperation with the music industry to pass the MMA. After the MMA was passed, the DSPs (except Apple) appealed the CRB’s decision to increase mechanical royalties.  The appeal is pending. What It Means: The CRB decision provides for a 44% increase in mechanical royalties to songwriters and music publishers, with incremental raises from the current rates until the 44% is reached in 2022. The DSPs supported the passage of the MMA to gain immunity for being sued for copyright infringement for failure to license and pay for all of the music streamed on their services. Once achieving that immunity, they appealed the CRB decision to try to avoid paying fair rates to songwriters. What to Look for in 2020: CRB decisions are historically difficult to overturn, so hopefully the music industry will receive the new rates it was promised. Despite the goliath size and bank accounts of the DSPs, they need to realize they cannot push the music industry around and must pay fairly for the content on which many of the them have built their businesses.  

Passage of the Music Modernization Act

Background: The Music Modernization Act passed in October of 2018, which promised more streamlined licensing procedures for music on streaming services, a new, centralized registration database, and hopefully a better system for creators and rights owners to be paid streaming royalties. 2019 has been all about actually turning these promises into reality. The Music Licensing Collective board was elected to oversee the operations of this new structure, they negotiated the funding for the database with the DSPs, and choose a vendor to build the infrastructure and supply the data (recently revealed to be The Harry Fox Agency). What It Means: There will be a lot of changes in data practice, and a lot of work for creators and rights’ owners to learn a new system and register their works with the new database. What to Look for in 2020: The database is slated to roll out in beta-mode, with it planned to be fully operational by 2021.  2020 will involve a lot of data uploads.  

Taylor Swift’s Master Recordings Dispute

Background: Taylor Swift hit it big while signed to Big Machine Records, and then moved on to Universal Music Group.  Big Machine decided to sell its catalogue of masters to Scooter Braun, backed by some investment funds. Swift and Braun have a longstanding personal beef, and when the sale occurred, Swift took to social media to express her horror at her nemesis owning her masters. Swift stated she was not given the opportunity to buy her masters back. The parties engaged in a public back-and-forth. Taylor announced she will re-record all of her old masters in 2020 once her re-recording restriction from her Big Machine contract has expired. Later, Swift said Braun was blocking her from performing her older songs on the American Music Awards and using the older music in an upcoming Netflix documentary. Another public battle ensued, with Swift ultimately being able to perform as planned.  Now stories have emerged that Swift is denying all licensing requests for her music until she is able to re-record her masters in 2020 and then will resume licensing with masters she owns. What It Means: Regarding the American Music Awards performance, this is the first time that a record label has publicly argued that a recorded television performance violates a contractual re-recording restriction, when normally that restriction is limited to recording new audio masters. When Swift does re-record her masters, it could negatively impact Braun’s recoupment of his investment. This dispute has opened the eyes of many artists as to what they may give up when signing a record deal, and there is a growing trend toward artists seeking to retain master ownership. What to Look for in 2020: Swift will most likely continue with her plan to re-record her masters. More public mudslinging may ensue. Artists overall will increasingly seek opportunities that allow them to retain master ownership.   Overall, 2020 will see a lot of changes in the music industry. Hopefully, the results will be just as exciting as the anticipation for their arrival.    

by

Erin M. Jacobson interviewed on the BBC

No comments yet

Categories: Interview, Music Industry, Music Industry Interviews, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. was interviewed on the BBC World Service show, Business Daily.

The topic of the overall segment was corporate control over creative works, but Erin’s interview was focused on explaining the dispute over Taylor Swift’s master recordings, and begins at about 12:50.

You can listen to the interview here.

 

by

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. Quoted Again in US Weekly

No comments yet

Categories: Articles, Business, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Record Labels, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M. Jacobson has been quoted again in US Weekly magazine regarding further developments in the Taylor Swift masters dispute.

Click here to read the article.

by

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. Explains Taylor Swift’s Music Drama

No comments yet

Categories: Articles, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M. Jacobson is interviewed in US Weekly magazine to explain how Big Machine is blocking Taylor Swift from performing her old songs.

Read the article here:  https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/taylor-swifts-music-drama-explained-can-big-machine-block-her/ 

by

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. on Top of Mind, Sirius XM channel 143

No comments yet

Categories: Interview, Music Catalogues, Music Industry, Music Licensing, Music Publishing, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

Erin was interviewed on the SiriusXM show, Top of Mind with Julie Rose regarding master ownership, re-recording, how artists are affected by this, and Taylor Swift.

You can stream here:

Or listen/download on iTunes Podcasts here.

by

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. on ABC’s Nightline

No comments yet

Categories: Catalogue Acquisitions, Interview, Music Catalogues, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Record Labels, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. appeared on the 7/1/19 episode of ABC’s Nightline to discuss the current news issue of Scooter Braun’s purchase of Big Machine Records (and Taylor Swift’s master recordings).  You can see Erin’s segments at 5:40 and 6:30.
Click here to watch!

by

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. named a 2019 Super Lawyers Rising Star

No comments yet

Categories: Honors and Awards, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. has once again been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star!  Thank you to Super Lawyers for this great honor!

by

Recent Press

No comments yet

Categories: Press, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin was recently interviewed in VoyageLA magazine about how she came to be #TheMusicIndustryLawyer and what she likes to do outside of helping my clients navigate the complex music industry.

Erin was also recently quoted in an article for The Fader:  “Here’s What You Need to Know About Sharing Lyrics Online”

 

by

Copyright Terminations: What Rights’ Owners Need to Know

No comments yet

Categories: Articles, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Terminations, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was originally posted on Synchtank.

The window is open for authors and heirs to recapture ownership of their copyrights.  Terminations create a lot of new movement for copyrights in the marketplace and rights’ owners need to be just as knowledgeable as authors and heirs in order to stay competitive.

Statutory Requirements

Statutory terminations come with many complexities, but the basics are as follows:

In the United States, termination of a grant can be effected during a five year period: (1)  Beginning 56 years after the original copyright date of the work for grants made before January 1, 1978; or (2) Beginning 35 years after the date of the grant for grants executed on or after January 1, 1978.*

Both of these categories of termination require that proper notice be sent anywhere between ten and two years before the effective date of termination and notices must also follow strict requirements.  Works for hire and grants by will are not terminable and terminations under U.S. copyright law only apply to U.S. rights.

Outside of the U.S., there are some other countries that have their own rules regarding terminations, most notably, the British Commonwealth countries.  British Reversionary Rights are generally uniform throughout the Commonwealth, but vary slightly per country and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Other countries do not have any termination rights included in their copyright laws.

Information on the recapture of music rights usually refers to composition rights only, as whether master recordings rights can be recaptured is the subject of an ongoing debate in the U.S. that will only be solved by litigation or a change in copyright law.

Information on the recapture of music rights usually refers to composition rights only, as whether master recordings rights can be recaptured is the subject of an ongoing debate in the U.S. that will only be solved by litigation or a change in copyright law. The issue here is that, as stated above, works for hire are not terminable, and most recording agreements state that the masters are works for hire for the record company.  However, U.S. law requires that for a work to truly be a work for hire, it must be either created by an employee within the scope of employment, or specially ordered or commissioned by the company, with an agreement in writing stating the work is a work for hire, and the type of work must fall within nine categories established in the law.  The problem here is that artists are not employees of record labels and master recordings are not one of the nine categories required for works to qualify as works for hire.  Until this point, labels have been successful in retaining the masters by arguing the masters qualify as collective works or compilations, and by giving artists a few additional royalty points.  However, at the time of this writing, there is a class action lawsuit pending in California to decide this very issue.

The Real Reason Why Authors and Heirs Want to Recapture Their Rights

Although the legal requirements for termination are imperative to navigating the copyright recapture landscape, most discussions on this topic fail to address why authors and heirs are so keen to exercise their termination rights in the first place.  The answer to this question is that authors and heirs are terminating because they are not happy with their current publisher or label.  This unhappiness normally is caused by the companies’ lack of attention paid to the catalogues, which results in significantly decreased earnings for those catalogues.

Authors and heirs are terminating because they are not happy with their current publisher or label.  This unhappiness normally is caused by the companies’ lack of attention paid to the catalogues, which results in significantly decreased earnings for those catalogues.

Large companies, typically the “majors”, tend to focus their efforts on acquisitions and growth, which is not bad, but they fail to increase staff and training at the same rate as their growth.  This leaves many compositions lost at these large companies because they are not being actively exploited and, in many cases, the staff isn’t even aware of the compositions.  Further, when creators or heirs do try to get a company’s attention, their efforts are often ignored because the company does not want to spend time and resources on low-earning compositions.  To further exacerbate the situation, many of these companies are not even accounting properly to the creators or heirs, and again, won’t take the time to investigate or remedy the situation because their efforts are focused solely on the highest earning compositions and further growth.

On the master side, not only are the royalty rates from the labels paltry, but in many cases, the albums are out of print and not being sold, and therefore the creator or heirs really just want a chance to do something with the music again instead of accepting the music’s fate of being locked in a vault, with the original tapes rotting away, never to see the light of day again.

In my experience, independent publishers tend to receive fewer termination notices because they do a better job with attending to and exploiting their catalogues, and usually make fewer mistakes in collection and accounting.  I work with many independent publishers (both those I represent and those who work for my author/heir clients) who do a fabulous job making sure these works continue to stay relevant and earn income.

Handling Terminations

Some companies think they can prevent authors from terminating their rights by inserting provisions in their contracts whereby the authors waive their rights of termination. However, this practice is completely ineffective because the right to terminate cannot be waived via contract. Some companies also try to prevent terminations by making new, and equally unfair, deals with aging authors and heirs.  I’ve even seen major companies effectively force creators or heirs into a new deal by using the threat of litigation against them when these companies know full well that their opponents do not have the resources to fight to reclaim their rights.

The other tactic companies take is to ignore received notices of termination or wait until right before the effective date to raise objections in an effort to deprive the authors/heirs with ample time to respond.  It’s a common joke throughout the subset of attorneys dealing with terminations that the fastest way to be ignored by a company is to send them a termination notice (or tell them they owe you money).

When rights’ owners receive a termination notice, they should address it and engage good counsel who knows how to deal with the dynamics of these situations.  Typically, once companies can no longer ignore the notices, they then dispatch the same few lawyers to repeatedly make the same narrow deals.  When I represent music publishers, I work with them on specific strategies to address the catalogue at issue and craft a deal that benefits both parties in each situation, whereby the company can retain the work and continue to reap the financial benefits, but whereby the author or heirs also feel their needs are satisfied.

Music will always be the foundation of the music business, but the music business is not the same as it was 56 or 35 (or even 10) years ago. Music has a life and legacy of its own and how these copyrights are handled can either set them up to flourish or be forgotten.

Music has a life and legacy of its own and how these copyrights are handled can either set them up to flourish or be forgotten.

The changing times require changing ways and my practice focuses on this innovation to benefit both the rights’ owners and creators so that both can continue to benefit from these magnificent musical creations.

 

* Technically, section 203 of the U.S. Copyright Law says the window opens at the end of 35 years after the date of execution of the grant, or if the grant covers the right of publication, then at the end of 35 years after the date of publication or at the end of 40 years after the date the grant was executed, whichever is earlier.

Note:  This article does not constitute legal advice.

 Erin M. Jacobson, known as “The Music Industry Lawyer”, represents and protects independent, established, and legacy songwriters and artists (including their heirs and estates), distinguished legacy catalogues, independent music publishers, Grammy and Emmy Award winners, and other music professionals at her law practice based in Beverly Hills, CA.  For more information, visit www.themusicindustrylawyer.com.

 

1 2 3 4 5 6