jzbIt’s not true that the dog chewed up the homework or that a gremlin got into the server. Although a technical snafu or two may have kept the blog dark for a short period, let’s catch up with an ICYMI post that covers, courtesy of members of Southewestern’s Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 class members (as noted):

  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town and how a music publishing giant lost rights to a holiday standard. (Mary P. Ray)
  • Pandora’s decision to settle with artists over pre-1972 recordings. (Aris Shatteen)
  • Jay-Z’s win in a long-running copyright battle with the heir of an Egyptian composer over the song Big Pimpin — on the same day that his wife, Beyonce, triumphs in an unrelated suit against her over the tune XO. (Ravyn O’Neal)

It’s merry, merry for one songwriter’s family

The rights to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” once belonged to EMI Feist Catalog. But starting in 2016, the rights will revert back to the heirs of the songwriter J. Fred Coots, who co-wrote the tune with Haven Gillespie in 1934.

EMI had claimed it owned the rights until 2029 and had defeated the family in 2012 in a Manhattan federal court decision. But the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and upheld the family’s claims to the holiday standard.

Coot’s family’s attorney Thomas K. Landry, praising the appellate court’s efforts to parse out ownership of the song, stated that, “the case adds clarity to a particularly unsettled area of copyright law involving termination rights.” Gloria Coots Baldwin, who is 81-years-old and is the songwriter’s last surviving child, pursued the copyright case on behalf of herself and the Coots grandchildren, rejecting eight years ago a $2.75 million settlement offer from EMI.

pandoraPandora’s $90-million settlement over pre-1972 recordings

Pandora has agreed to pay $90 million to license the sound recordings of several record labels’ artists that were recorded prior to 1972. This article contains a funny and also cynical explanation of copyright law regarding sound recordings versus compositions, as well as what implications California state law has on this decision. Some facts:

  • The settlement was reached among Pandora and ABKCO Music & Records, Capitol Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and Warner Music Group.
  • Pandora pays between $300 million to$400 million a year for sound recordings
  • Pandora’s royalty payments make up more than 50 percent of SoundExchange’s total royalties
  • Copyright in sound recordings before Feb. 15, 1972 are not recognized by Federal law
  • California law includes artists’ rights to public performances of sound recordings

This is a win for labels representing artists with pre-1972 recordings, and although the settlement and payout numbers seem staggering, Pandora, the online streaming service, made $920.8 million in 2014.

Jay-Z prevails in long-running rap copyright case

Osama Fahmy, the nephew of Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi has pursued a case against  rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur Jay-Z for almost a decade. But after a week-long trial, with the plaintiff arguing that Jay-Z and rapper and record producer Timbaland had failed to secure needed permissions to sample a flute melody in a Hamdi love ballad, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder ruled that Egyptian Law did not apply and dismissed the case before it ever got before a jury. The Guardian reported that Jay Z and Timbaland testified that they paid $100,000 for the hook of the song through a 2001 licensing agreement with EMI Music Arabia. Fahmy had argued that the two Americans failed to secure needed permission from the families for the musical sampling. That was a needed step, the plaintiff’s lawyer asserted, because the rap duo’s tune would turn out to be “vulgar” and “risque” and a violation of Egyptian morals’ laws. But Snyder, in tossing the case, ruled that Fahmy lacked standing.

Coincidentally, Jay-Z’s Mrs., the megastar Beyonce, on the same day, won a ruling in a lawsuit filed against her by Ahmad Javan Lane, who claimed infringement of his song XOXO by hers, XO. But as TechDirt details, and as the football guys might say, these X’s and O’s never were going to line up, legally speaking, so Lane’s case had more than the faintest possibility of advancing.