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TufAmerica Brings Infringement Suit Against Jay-Z..Again

by

Nick Guarino, Arther Law’s Industry Insider Blog

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TufAmerica has once again come forth against a major hip hop mogul, this time alleging copyright infringement for the unlicensed use of their track “Hook & Sling Part 1.”

The lawsuit was brought against Jay-Z, Warner Bros. Music and Roc-A-Fella Records for illegally using the song in Jay-Z’s song “Run This Town.” The song, also featuring Kanye West and Rihanna, was a major hit single in the United States. Read More…

Blurred Copyright for Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up”

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Wednesday, Marvin Gaye’s family formally accused Robin Thicke of borrowing key elements of his hit song, “Blurred Lines”, from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up”.  The accusations don’t stop there, Gaye’s family also accuses Thicke of borrowing from some of Gaye’s other songs including “After the Dance” for Thicke’s Love and War. The Gaye family is also suing additional parties including song collaborators Pharrell Williams and T.I., Universal Music group and EMI.

“To write and record the song ‘Blurred Lines,’ the … writers intentionally and unlawfully copied and assembled a constellation of distinctive and important elements from [Gaye’s song],” the filing said. “’Blurred Lines is so substantially similar … that ordinary observers all over the world have remarked that the two songs sound the same, which they do.”

Robin Thicke has filed his own declaratory judgment on grounds that Gaye’s family threatened to file suit for “Blurred Lines”.  It is no secret that Thicke has patterned himself after his beloved inspiration Marvin Gaye.  He has openly mentioned that “Blurred Lines” was created with “Got to Give it Up” in mind.  In an interview with GQ and Billboard before litigation Thicke is quoted as saying:

“Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’ I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.’ Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it.”

Counsel for Thicke said the songs share the same genre, but the notes are different, therefore, the fact that Thicke and his collaborators are fans of Gaye makes no difference because there is no infringement.

Thicke and his collaborators assert in their own claim that the Gaye family is attempting to claim “ownership of an entire genre, rather than a specific work.”  “There are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements,” Thicke’s complaint said. “Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.”

Nona and Frankie Gaye also filed claims against EMI, The label has connections to both parties.  EMI is the co-publisher of producing superstar Williams and is said to co-own and control “Blurred Lines.” However, the label also controls the recording right to Gaye’s song through assignment, and as a result Gaye’s family claims EMI violated its fiduciary duty to the Gaye family by not pursuing the infringement and by “attempting to interfere with and thwart the Gaye family’s pursuit of these claims”.  The Gaye family feels the punishment for EMI should be for it to lose all profits on “Blurred Lines” as well as rights to administer the song catalog of Gaye, known as the “Prince of Soul.”

Links for “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give it Up” are posted below.

Radio Royalties Bill Envisions Bold Music-Licensing Changes

Most countries require both traditional radio stations and digital stations like Pandora to pay for recorded music and the underlying compositions, but traditional American stations are only legally required to pay for the compositions. However, a newly proposed bill, if passed, would change this by eliminating compulsory licensing for both digital and over-the-air stations altogether.

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Sirus XM Sued Over Pre-1972 Recordings

With respect to federal law there were no copyright protections until 1972. The Supreme Court has ruled that state laws govern for pre-1972 recordings. Most states like California and New York extend exclusive ownership rights to pre-1972.

 

Sirus’ legal troubles began with a class action lawsuit from the founding members of the Turtles suing under California state law to recover for use of their pre-1972 songs by Sirus XM. California state law gives the artists the exclusive rights until 2047.

 

Now Sirus is facing even more charges from big labels. Capitol Records LLC, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings Inc. and Warner Music Group Corp. have all now sued Sirus in California state court to recover for intellectual property right violations. The complaint alleges that Sirus refused to obtain the licenses for the songs that it distributes to millions of listeners.

 

Sirus has also been sued by SoundExchange, a nonprofit performance rights organization appointed by the federal government to manage copyright and trademark royalty terms, for $50 million in underpayments of digital royalties. SoundExchange alleges that Sirus illegally deducted the pre-1972 recordings from their digital royalties.

All this litigation against Sirus XM also affects radio stations, television networks, and others who play pre-1972 recordings. Typically these songs are played under blanket licenses that cover the musical compositions, but not the sound recordings. This opens these entities up to possible state law intellectual property charges.

Getting Tuf’: Label Sues Legendary Rap Act for Copyright Infringement

By Nicholas Guarino, Arther Law’s Industry Insider

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On May 3rd, the day before Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch lost his battle with cancer, R&B label TufAmerica brought suit against the band for copyright infringement of tracks sampled on the Beastie Boys’ albums License to Ill and Paul’s Boutique. TufAmerica owns the rights to musical tracks by the band Trouble Funk, and alleged that the songs, “Hold It Now Hit It” and “The New Style,” both sampled Trouble Funk’s “Drop the Bomb,” while the song “Shadrack” sampled bits of Trouble Funk’s “Say What.”

In a recent ruling, District Court Judge Alison Nathan allowed further testing of “Drop the Bomb” and “Say What” and dismissed claims made by TufAmerica on four other songs. Read More…

What AEG’s Sigh of Relief Means to the Industry

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On Wednesday, October 2, 2013, a unanimous jury rejected the suit brought by Michael Jackson’s mother to hold AEG, the promotion company for her son’s “This Is It” tour, financially responsible for negligently hiring Dr. Conrad Murray as her son’s physician while on tour. Murray ‘s conviction of manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson occurred on November 7, 2011.

The defense argued against Murray being an employee of AEG because the agreement between the two was “never fully executed”.  Money never changed hands between the two, and the defense pointed out that even if it had, Jackson chose Murray himself, and had it not been for Jackson, AEG would likely have never been acquainted with Murray.

In the music industry promotion companies typically hire multiple personnel on behalf of the artists, and large promoters such as LiveNation and AEG pay all the expenses, employ everyone, and split the profits with the artists.  Had the jury decided in the other direction, this would have prompted a huge change in the industry.  The fact that the suit alone happened still could produce some alterations in the way business occurs.

The line between who is employed by whom on tours has been blurry throughout history, but the question of liability of a promoter for a tour employee’s actions being raised in court undoubtedly will affect this line moving forward.  Promoters and Producers will be more cautious about hiring personnel for tours.  However, it is worth noting that most artists would not require around the clock care from a doctor, so Michael Jackson’s situation is an outlier, but nevertheless will still effect the industry in the future.

iTunes Radio Enters the Streaming Radio Scene

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“iTunes Radio is free streaming radio with the best selection of music.  It builds and brings together stations you’ll love from day one. And the more you listen, the more personalized your stations become. It’s radio re-imagined.” boasts Apple in its description of iTunes Radio.

iTunes Radio gives you the ability to use the radio on iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC,  and Apple TV.  The more you use iTunes and iTunes Radio, the more the radio adapts to your personal preferences. Obviously, the unique tailoring is in place with hopes that users will be more apt and loyal to iTunes radio rather than other streaming sites.

The hurdle iTunes Radio will have to conquer is that it presently does not have all the preferences of the users, while Pandora already has this. Will users be willing to start a brand new bond with a new streaming radio site?  Read More…

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