Author: Nicole Christman

‘Sugar Man’ search now a music rights battle

Decades after the fact, a famous musician is finding that he may not own rights to his songs — and a federal court in Michigan has just ruled that a legal effort to sort out who does will be more complex than the parties may have first believed. This latest court rumba rang out with the release of the 2012 Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man. The documentary featured Sixto Rodriguez’s music and career and the curious twist as to how the Michigan-born songwriter saw his flicker of fame wane before he became a huge star in South Africa late in his life. But the movie also led to a reexamination of ownership of the rights to some of Rodriguez’s tunes — and, oh, the music got complicated then. Harry Balk, who composed the songs with Rodriguez, had believed the musical rights were covered in an exclusive song-writing agreement between Rodriguez and Balk’s company, Gomba Music. On behalf of Gomba Music Inc., Balk sued Clarence Avant, a Motown big, and Interior Music Corp. in federal court in Detroit for copyright infringement, fraudulent concealment, tortious interference with copyright and fraud. Interior sued against Rodriguez alleging that he had entered into a deal with it in the 1970’s and that he had represented that he owned all rights free and clear to the songs. The suit continued, as Balk believed he had been defrauded; it...

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FCC rebuffed on bid for cable programming fees

Even as consumers have focused ever more on the prospects of “cord cutting” — ditching pricey monthly cable fees for a carousel of online, cheaper services — a hush had settled over a potential mega media merger, this all occurring since back in October when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) paused the unofficial 180-day clock on the review of the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. A federal appeals court, however, recently blocked the FCC from ordering the public disclosure of programming contracts. As part of the U.S. government’s review of the Comcast Corp. takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., the FCC claimed it needed the media companies to publicly release such information showing fees paid by cable providers to the media companies that provide programming. CBS Corp. and other media companies sued in Washington, and the FCC’s disclosure was put on hold pending court review. The court sided with the media companies that such making such information publicly available would put media companies at a disadvantage, stating that “the agency has access to the relevant documents at issue in this matter and can continue to evaluate the proposed merger during the stay.”  Meantime, the review of the Comcast-Time Warner merger...

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A legal move seeks to help video gamers play on

You paid a nice chunk of change and you do own that Entertainment-related intellectual property, right? It may sound familiar to fans of digital music who sought to resell their “used” collections through the online marketplace ReDigi,  but a new battle has erupted regarding some of the coolest video games — products that these days have become as big an Entertainment cash-register ringer as the movies. Many video game publishers increasingly require their customers-buyers to connect into  publishers’ servers to unlock a game for playing. But here’s the twist: publishers often take those servers offline as soon as they are no longer economical to run.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation says this leaves gamers unable to play the lawfully purchased video game. In response, the EFF has petitioned the Copyright office and Librarian of Congress seeking an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) anti-circumvention provision. This exemption would allow video gamers to circumvent the authentication checks and connections to the servers so that they could continue playing their games after they officially end. The DMCA circumvention rule is designed to restrict access to copyrighted works. However, the act was passed in 1998, when public use of the Internet was much different — yes, dinosaurs, dial-up rocked back then!  The act’s blanket restriction can restrict freedom of speech and fair use. To curtail those harms, the U.S. Copyright office...

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For courts and creatives, it’s a time to reconsider

It’s suddenly legal deja vu all over again: Another legal defeat for SiriusXM, a win for Flo & Eddie SiriusXM has received another adverse ruling for its unauthorized public performance and reproduction of The Turtles sound recordings, and specifically their ever-popular and hit song “Happy Together.” As mentioned in a previous post, the two artists of the Turtles, Flo & Eddie, sued Sirius in California and were grated summary judgment. Then, last week a federal judge in New York also denied Sirius XM’s motion for summary judgment in  a second lawsuit brought by Flo & Eddie, who are suing...

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A Swift rebuke reignites simmering controversy over subscription streaming services, royalties

What is an artist worth? Well everything, if one is trying to profit off her intellectual property, as Entertainment lawyers well know.  Taylor Swift has reminded the music industry of the artistic preminum by pulling her music off Spotify — a reported $6 million move. This sent a message to streaming services, some analysts contended, that songwriters have the right to do what they want with their intellectual property and the services must value their creations, not the other way around. Streaming services like Spotify and Pandora and Spotify are becoming increasingly popular, and have significantly curtailed illegal music downloading. Spotify says it pays “nearly 70 percent” of their revenue is paid back to the music community. However the artist or songwriter only receives approximately 10 percent of that revenue. Moreover, it is said that Pandora only pays approximately 50 percent of its revenue to the artists. Anyone who wants to profit in music industry should never forget that there is no product if artists don’t create the intellectual property. Swift is in a unique position to remind the moguls of the industry of this message since she is one of the highest paid artist in the world and her latest, 1989, has scorched the charts, selling more than 1 million copies in a week’s time. While some speculate that she hoped to drive up sales of her 1989...

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