Last month, singer-songwriter James Taylor joined the long line of legacy acts that have sued their former record labels for withholding royalty payments, among other financial oversights. According to a 2007 audit, Warner Bros. Records underpaid Taylor by nearly $1,700,000 between the years of 2004 and 2007.
This kind of financial dispute is hardly new. The Temptations and Sister Sledge filed similar complaints (against Warner and Universal Music Group, respectively) earlier this year. The debate about whether artists should receive compensation as a “sale” or “license” for digital downloads has also garnered attention as a result of Eminem’s audit of his former label, Aftermath Records, wherein he argued that he should have been paid his licensing royalty rate of 50 percent — instead of his sales royalty rate of 12 percent — for digital downloads in the early days of iTunes.
The musicians that I represent aren’t being offered multi-million dollar record deals that land them on the cover of Rolling Stone or in a mansion atop the Hollywood hills. Quite frankly, I’m not sure those deals exist other than in an idealized memory of what the record industry looked like in its days of excessive hedonism. So where does that leave work-a-day musicians – the ones that actually make music for a living? read more
Big news for anyone who’s been following the termination of transfer issue: a California judge has ruled in favor of Victor Willis, original singer of the Village People, in his battle with the publishing companies that administer rights for the Village People’s catalog. Last year, Willis had filed to terminate rights to his share of “YMCA” and thirty-two other songs that he co-wrote, and publishers responded by claiming he lacked legal standing to do so without having his co-authors on board. Judge Barry Ted Moskovitz disagreed, writing: read more
Next year, a time bomb embedded in the Copyright Act of 1976 starts to detonate, as valuable copyrights fall back into the hands of artists who decide that they would prefer to own their songs, rather than allowing their label and publisher to keep selling them… read more
Let's get out our time machine and set the coordinates for 2013. Why that date? Because that's when a lot of creators will see copyrights that they signed away in 1978 revert back to them.
This is a big deal for musicians and songwriters who decades ago assigned their rights to a label or a publisher. With their songs back under their control, artists could license them directly to TV and movies, re-release albums on their own imprints, or even re-transfer their stuff to a label or publisher in a more lucrative deal. read more
Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling provides a comprehensive, interdisiplinary look at the issues at the intersection of culture, creativity, compensation and technology. Co-authored by Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola, with contributions by Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson, the book includes interviews with over one hundred stakeholders in the sampling culture — from samplers, to attorneys, to license clearance experts, managers and record label owners. It examines the analog history of sampling, bringing an informed economic and legal analysis of the sample license clearance process in line with how the system works. In the final chapters, the authors examine a handful of proposals that would streamline the licensing process, but each “solution” has its own costs. Is it possible for society to achieve a balance that allows creativity to flourish but also fairly compensates original creators?
Creative License will be published by Duke University Press in 2011.