Author: Sylvanna Le

Royalty rate ruling strikes a rare harmony

After a complex legal decision gets issued, if none of the affected parties can be seen, jubilant and dancing in the court aisles, maybe the judges got it just right? That seems to be the online consensus reaction to a recent decision by three federal judges, who in an arcane bit of copyright law that also affects the Librarian of Congress, set the royalty rates that artists get paid for outlets that play their music. The judges, acting as the Copyright Royalty Board, recently issued new rates for streaming services, which took effect Jan. 1 and will hold sway until 2020. The rates require online radio and streaming companies to pay 17 cents per 100 plays of songs and 22 cents per 100 listens by paying subscribers to any ad-free radio offering. Under the ruling, the musicians, who had been screaming about getting ripped off, will get a little more money; over the air, broadcast radio outlets will pay a little less. And streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify, will fork over more. How does this absence of acrimonious reaction and rare harmony about the rates’ decision affect the music industry and its supposed dash away from old-fashioned technologies like on-air radio stations and toward Internet-based service providers, such as online radio and streaming services? The sky hasn’t fallen since the new royalty rates were issued in December. Based on...

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An appellate dasvidaniya to infringment claim

There’s more than one way to croon in a love song about an impossible romance with a Russian muse, a Chicago appeals court says.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s decision dismissing a copyright infringement claim against Sir Elton John and writing partner Bernie Taupin, finding their song Nikita differed from the tune Natasha by songwriter Guy Hobbs. Hobbs says he based his 1982 composition on a brief love affair he had with a Russian waitress while working on a cruise ship.  He sought to get the song published by submitting it to several music publishers, including Big Pig Music Ltd.  He was unsuccessful. But in 2001 he heard John perform Nikita, which was registered for copyright by Big Pig and Hobbs saw infringement on his copyrighted Natasha. He first sought compensation from John and Taupin, listed on their song’s copyright application, then sued, asking for a constructive trust and an accounting. Hobbs identified elements found in both songs that he claimed were substantially similar, including: 1) a theme of impossible love between a Western man and a Communist woman during the Cold War; 2) repetition of the beloved’s name, the word “never,” and the phrases “to hold you,” and “I need you,” and some form of  “you will never know”; and 3.)  A title of one word, phonetically similar title, consisting...

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The Biederman Blog is now ranked NUMBER ONE on Feedspot's Top 20 Entertainment Law blogs (May 2018). It is very exciting to top this list. We are extra proud of number six - Entertainment Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark. Mr. Firemark graduated from Southwestern in 1992, and is a top entertainment blogger and webinar presenter in addition to being a world class entertainment attorney!

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