Clara Shepherd Warrick and Jimmy Lee Weary, members of the 70’s gospel group Crowns of Glory, are suing Rick Ross, Dr. Dre, Jay Z, Jake One, and Universal Music Group for inappropriate use of their song “I’m So Grateful.” The sample was allegedly used to produce defendants’ song “3 Kings” which is featured on the Grammy nominated album “God Forgives, I Don’t.” The album lists Weary as
one of the songwriters, but he says that he would have never condoned such vulgar use of a song that was written solely “to glorify God.” The defendants attempted to present a writers’ agreement in their defense, but the signature was signed James Weary, a name that Jimmy Lee Weary says he would have never put on a formal document.
Winamp, a music and video player that has gained popularity along with the file sharing movement over the past 15 years, announced on November 20th that it would be discontinuing it’s service after December 20th, 2013. Winamp is the self proclaimed “Ultimate Media Player for Android” according to its website, and, if successfully discontinued, will be notably missed among Android and PC users alike. The player was created by a developer called Nullsoft, and was transferred along with Nullsoft to AOL for $80 million in 1999. AOL has received much friction from the fans of Winamp that are requesting its continuation or its transformation to open source. Microsoft expressed interest in buying Winamp from AOL along with the Shoutcast streaming service within 48 hours of the cancelation announcement. This would be an excellent PR move for Microsoft, considering that its customers are the people that use Winamp the most.
Goldiebox, a toy company who sells “toys for future inventors”, just released their latest commercial online. Set to the tune of the Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” the video has gone viral, and the band is not happy about it. According to Pitchfork, the band is threatening the toy company with copyright infringement, as late member Adam Youch’s will prohibited the use of Beastie Boys’ songs in advertisements. We have yet to see whether the band will pursue this threat.
The full Pitchfork article can be found here: http://pitchfork.com/news/53113-beastie-boys-threaten-copyright-infringement-over-toy-commercial-featuring-girls/
It’s safe to say that many hip-hop artists aren’t new to copyright infringement, as there are so many lawsuits today claiming that an artist or producer unfairly borrowed music. Traditionally, the original owner sues for royalties and money owed, but this example seems to be less about money and more about the faith tied to the sample.
According to a recent Music Times article, a gospel group called Crowns of Glory are suing Rick Ross, Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Jake One and Universal Music for a sample used in Ross’s single “God Forgive, I Don’t.” The plaintiffs claim that using a clip from the 1976 song “I’m So Grateful (Keep in Touch) will “destroy the commercial value of the song in gospel circles” and harm the “overall integrity and longevity.” The group is also alleging copyright infringement, unfair competition and breach of fiduciary duty.
To demonstrate the song’s vulgarity, the plaintiffs provided examples, a few of which are in the passage below:
"Defendants hijacked music and lyrics that were written by Plaintiffs to be performed only as spiritually uplifting gospel music and have laced Plaintiffs’ gospel work with unsavory language such as "[i]f you real motherf——r scream cheers," "[i]f the b—-h bad I got her in red bottoms," "I only love her when that a— fat," "[c]ome and suck a d—k for a millionaire," "N—-as couldn’t f—k with my daughter’s room," "I whip the coke, let the lawyer beat the case," and "spray these n—-as baby just like daddy taught ya."
While it is still in its early stages, this case’s unusual subject matter is sure to draw in a big buzz.
According to an article published in The Tennessean, the music industry has recently been taking aim at Google for their aid in music piracy. In early 2012, industry-backed legislation to enable the takedown of sites posting copyright-protected material without permission worked its way through Congress. Last year the federal legislation, including the Stop Online Piracy Act, failed after Google, Wikipedia and other popular websites criticized it as censoring free speech, but it seems that it could be addressed again.
The article, titled “ Piracy persists on music, video websites” and written by Nate Rau, argues that the music industry needs the services Google offers, “from its search engine to its new music store, to YouTube. But while music industry leaders agree that Google and YouTube can benefit artists… they also say the company’s search engine function makes pirated music readily available.”
In September, the Motion Picture Association of America released a severely agressive report showing that search engines influenced 20 percent of the sessions in which consumers accessed stolen or copyrighted television or film content over a three-year period. Shortly after this statement, Google released its own report called “How Google Fights Piracy,” which detailed its efforts to remove pirated material. According to its pages, in 2012, copyright owners and agents submitted over 57 million web pages for removal. The company claims to have three principles for combating piracy: “creating better legitimate alternatives to pirated music, rooting out rogue sites from Google’s online ad payment services and fine tuning the copyright removal process.”
Recording Industry Association of America, a nonprofit trade organization that represents record labels across the nation, claimed that Google’s efforts to clear rogue sites from displaying in a search result for particular artists have fallen short. The RIAA wants Google to follow through on its 2012 statement to change its ways so that legitimate music sites can thrive and the ones with pirated materials can fall away.
RIAA is backing this statement with action, having sent more than 35 million notices for Google to take down sites that post pirated music in 2013 alone and arguing that the current takedown system is not working.
Along with Rau, many feel that Google should be applauded for its efforts to fight piracy, but that it remains a serious problem, “one that may still need a legislative solution.”
No matter your opinion on Google’s involvement in piracy, it seems that we still have a ways to go until the problem is solved.
The National Music Publishers Association on Monday began targeting lyric sites that it believes have not obtained licenses to publish those lyrics, including the biggest site Rap Genius, a New York startup that even landed a $15 million dollar investment last year. The NMPA has sent take-down notices to 50 sites identified in an October report by University of Georgia researcher David Lowery as likely not having proper licenses to publish lyrics. The notices demand that the sites either obtain licenses or remove the copyrighted lyrics from their sites.
Rap Genius Co-Founder Ilan Zechory, in a Rolling Stone article written by Kory Grow, stated, “Rap Genius is so much more than a lyrics site! The lyrics sites the NMPA refers to simply display song lyrics, while Rap Genius has crowdsourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics line by line, and tens of thousands of verified annotations directly from writers and performers. These layers of context and meaning transform a static, flat lyric page into an interactive, vibrant art experience created by a community of volunteer scholars. Furthermore, music is only a small part of what we do. Rap Genius is an interactive encyclopedia for annotation of all texts - anyone can upload and annotate texts relating to music, news, literature, religion, science, their personal lives, or anything else they want.”
The article also claims that “more than five million searches for ‘lyrics’ occur each day on Google, and that over 50% of all lyric page views are on unlicensed lyric sites.” David Israelite, NMPA President and CEO, said that the take-down notices are a precursor to filing copyright infringement lawsuits against sites that continue to publish song lyrics that they don’t have the licenses to.
As a result, just today Rap Genius signed its first licensing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, according to a Billboard report. In a statement, Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s Chairman and CEO, Martin Bandier, called Rap Genius “a new and exciting way” for songwriters and music fans to connect.” According to this article, Rap Genius co-founder Tom Lehman thinks that other licensing deals will likely follow, which he hopes will allow the site’s relationship with artists to improve even more.
Although Sony/ATV is possibly the largest music publisher in the world, Rap Genius still does not have the licenses to the majority of their songs because of the multiple publishers of each track. Luckily for the site, David Israelite recently said they hope to facilitate similar deals rather than just shut down all of the unlicensed sites mentioned on their “Undesirable” list.
Recently the gaming industry has reached a crossroads: each gaming platform has serviced just as much, if not more, traditional entertainment than it has games. Consoles now offer a plethora of movies, TV shows and music, and in weeks Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One will launch, both likely to expand on these offerings. Gaming companies are now focusing on building audiences, and broad content offerings have become crucial to expansion.
According to Billboard’s article Game On: Consoles Are Changing How We Think About Entertainment (From the Magazine), written by Alex Pham, gamers are thoroughly embracing these offerings. The article claims, ”while gamers don’t have to connect their consoles to the Internet, about 76% of Xbox 360 owners and 82% of PlayStation 3 owners do.”
The new and improved consoles are changing the calculation of royalties. Historically, music delivered through Internet-based services has generated higher royalties in aggregate than music delivered by cable and satellite TV companies. Should listening to Internet music on TVs in a home environment become as popular as mobile, rights holders have room to earn a higher profit.
Another opportunity for the music business lies in the games themselves, a lucrative vehicle for licensing and distribution. This year and in the future, many new titles titles will incorporate music as a central feature in the game, including Ubisoft Entertainment’s anticipated game, “Just Dance 2014.” As with movies, games are requiring increasingly sophisticated soundtracks. This is particularly important, as Pham states, “for console titles that heavily emphasize cinematic environments and character development.”
He continues to say that the best source of licensing revenue this year will come from “Grand Theft Auto V,” which licensed 240 tracks and commissioned original songs from big name artists such as A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator, among others. The game has generated over $1.3 billion in retail revenue since its September 17 release, also “features 15 in-game radio stations hosted by well-known DJs, including Bootsy Collins.” With the future of gaming incorporating more and more artists, publishers and licensing companies only stand to gain.
Sony Music has filed suit against United Airlines over the use of their in-flight music catalog, claiming that it is infringing its copyrights because it has not obtained permission to offer music from artists ranging from Carrie Underwood and Britney Spears to Bruce Springsteen. The company also filed against Inflight Productions and Rightscom in a New York federal court, claiming that United has been offering the recordings, as well as music videos, in its on-demand in-flight service and its pre-programmed service. Sony is seeking an injunction and damages, possibly pursuing profits made by United from the music, or statutory damages of $150,000 for each work.
Sony said it learned about the music through Rightscom, specializing in rights management, which told the record company that Inflight would be negotiating deals with the various Sony labels to get their music onto United planes. The company also said that they have been in communication with the defendants to clear up authorization, but that United has continued to offer “unlicensed access” to the music to passengers on their flights.
The outcome of this case, whatever it be, has the potential to change the business practices of one or both of these companies. It could also lead to stricter control over licensed music on airlines and rights management for airline companies.
Track Sales have hit a remarkably new low, and there are four factors that billboard.com thinks may be the reason:
The first is the incredible increase in streaming. If this is accurate, digital sales aren’t necessarily decreasing, but more shifting to another outlet. The second is the quality, or lack thereof, of new releases. The songs of 2013 are lacking in the commercial popularity that the hits before them had, and total top 40 sales, down 11.9% from last year, are lagging because of it. The third theoretical factor is the switch from iOS to Android. Warner Music Group’s Chief Operating Officer suggested this via Twitter. This explanation could be accurate, assuming that iOS users are more likely to buy singles than Android owners. The last possible reason is the life cycle of the download. Innovation of musical formats is no stranger to the industry, and sales could simply be a sign that it is the download’s time to go. If this is the case, the big question is which format is going to be the next dominator of the music industry?
The recent launch of iTunes radio has created a substantial amount of competition in the Internet streaming business, but Pandora CFO, Mike Herring, is not afraid of what’s to come. During an interview conducted by Cnet News, Herring discusses the obstacles that Pandora has faced, the future of the company, and why Pandora does Internet radio “better than anyone else.”
One major difference between the business models of Pandora and iTunes radio is their royalty policy; an issue that artists have been very vocal about when talking about Pandora. iTunes radio has created direct deals with record labels while Pandora pays the minimum established my government statute. Herring explains why the royalty rates are so low, and why Pandora is fighting to get them lower: “We write a big royalty check every year to performers; last year we wrote one for $250 million in performance royalties. That’s one fourth of all royalties paid to performers globally by radio. But we have only about 7 percent of the US radio market.” It would seem that getting a small check from Pandora is much more rewarding than getting no check at all from millions of listeners who pirate music. Herring also mentions that iTunes has joined the market to boost sales of phones and computers, not to provide a great service to its customers.
Herring believes that if artists and the public would become more educated about the licensing process of music, it would eventually lead to public more willing to pay, artists less likely to complain, and a scenario where “everyone wins.”