Last week, beloved musical humorist “Weird Al” Yankovic dropped his new album Mandatory Fun. Propelled by a set of eight viral videos, it quickly rose to the top spot on the Billboard charts, his first ever #1, with over 104,000 album sales. Al recently told the New York Times, “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, I’m on the bleeding edge of marketing, this is going to be a business model that will change the world.” But as a longtime (possibly obssessive?) fan of Al, I’d suggest there’s still a few things we can learn from him. read more
by Communications Intern Griffin Davis and Communications Associate Kevin Erickson
Last week, the video-hosting site Vimeoannounced that it would be implementing a copyright identification system called Copyright Match, which is meant to prevent unauthorized copies of works from being uploaded and viewed on Vimeo. Though its benefits to artists may have been a consideration, it’s a safe bet that Copyright Match is also intended to protect Vimeo from lawsuits like the one they are currently involved in with the major labels, while avoiding the headache of processing DMCA takedown notices, which is a frustration for copyright owners as well as service providers.
Maybe it was in celebration of International Happiness Day, or maybe it was just coincidence, but this week saw three high-profile copyright cases all resolved through out-of-court settlements.
First, upstart toy company GoldieBloxsettled with Beastie Boys over the unauthorized use of a version of the Beasties song “Girls” with altered lyrics in an online ad video. As we reported in December, the case was framed initially as a question of whether the video qualified as fair use, but it also raised issues of trademark infringement, false endorsement, unfair competition, and misappropriation of publicity rights. In the end, the Beasties got what The Hollywood Reporteroriginally reported that they were after: a donation by Goldieblox to a charity of the Beasties’ choice, based on a percentage of revenue, and a more substantive apology:
It seems another rash of Bieber Fever is breaking out across the internet as a new “green paper” from the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force goes public. This report [PDF], published in July, takes the position that it should be a felony to stream copyrighted works, echoing a bill introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) back in 2011. Two years ago, passions were ignited with an online campaign to “Free Bieber” from prison, where he was supposedly sent for posting the cover songs on YouTube that launched his career. The too-cute-to-be-accurate campaign even inspired The Bieb himself to come out against Klobuchar’s Commercial Felony Streaming Act.
Well, don’t “belieb” the hype. It wasn’t true then and it’s even less true today. The Task Force is not recommending that cover artists—or even the fans streaming potentially infringing videos—be sent to jail. Rather, the report merely recognizes an anomaly in copyright enforcement in which the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works—such as illegal downloads—can be punished as a felony, but public performance—such as streaming—is currently a misdemeanor. In other words, the Task Force thinks it makes sense to harmonize digital and streaming standards. (This outlook is also shared by the Obama administration and the Copyright Office.) The reasoning, according to the report, is that “the lack of potential felony penalties for criminal acts of streaming disincentivizes prosecution and undermines deterrence.”
This post co-authored by Policy Intern Cody Duncan
Last week, TuneCore co-founders Jeff Price and Peter Wells announced the launch of Audiam — a new service designed to help artists make money off their music when it’s part of user-uploaded content on YouTube. As you probably are aware, there’s a lot of music on YouTube, and not all of it is licensed from the rightsholder. YouTube already has a system called Content ID in place that allows rightsholders to block or allow a user-uploaded video that contains copyrighted material when it is posted. Owners can choose between 1) refusing the use 2) allowing it and “tracking” views, demographics, referrals and engagement or 3) monetizing the use through revenue-sharing from ads. Major and independent labels as well as publishers have been utilizing Content ID for at least a couple of years; Audiam aims to make the system more accessible to unaffiliated and self-published musicians and songwriters.
Music publishing is perhaps the most complex and little understood sectors in the music business. Most folks grasp that record labels own so-called “master recordings,” but many don’t realize there’s a whole ‘nother copyright in music. read more
Over the years, the major labels have their fair share of critics; FMC has certainly been among them. You’ve probably heard the stories: artists arguing with their labels over issues of creative control, withheld royalty payments, shady accounting practices, payola, anticompetive activity and other shenanigans that rankle musicians and fans alike. These problems are well documented and still occur. This has resulted in a well-perpetuated meme that circles: that labels can do no right. And unfortunately, this narrative has become so fashionable that it’s frequently advanced at the expense of factual accuracy.
Take, for instance, the recent story about YouTube’s massive cuts to the view counts on both Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group’s channels. The majority of the press coverage following SocialBlade’s initial report on the 2 billion view count cut jumped to the conclusion that Sony and Universal had artificially inflated their numbers… because that’s what a good-for-nothing company would do, right?