Both EMI and MP3tunes are claiming victory in a court case brought on by the former against the latter over claims that MP3tunes ran afoul of copyright law by failing to remove illegally obtained songs from its storage lockers. A federal judge in New York partially agreed with EMI and found MP3tunes liable for infringing on roughly 350 songs, which is 99 percent less than EMI claimed the service was responsible for, but there's another reason why MP3tunes came out ahead.
What's good for the goose is good for the record labels, who have been ordered to pay Canadian artists $45 million for illegally using copyrighted tracks on compilation CDs, TorrentFreak reports. TorrentFreak says this sort of thing happens more frequently than you think.
"Over the years the labels have made a habit of using songs from a wide variety of artists for compilation CDs without securing the rights," TorrentFreak writes. "They simply use the recording and make note of it on a 'pending list' so they can deal with it later."
It's been going on since the 1980s, TorrentFreak says, with the list of unpaid tracks surpassing 300,000 just in Canada. That didn't sit well with a group of artists and composers waiting to get paid, so they filed a class action suit in 2008. The original suit sought $6 billion in damages from Warner Music, Sony BMG Music, EMI Music, and Universal Music.
In the end, both sides settled on $45 million, which represents "a compromise of disputed claims and is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by the record labels."
"Suck it up, buttercup, you're going to have to defend your actions." The Supreme Court didn't word things that it way, but it might as well have when it refused to review a ruling that reinstated an antitrust lawsuit accusing major record labels of conspiring to fix song prices, Reuters reports.
The lawsuit, filed by a group of music buyers, alleges that several record companies (including EMI Group, Sony, Universal Music Group, and Warner) agreed to set a wholesale price floor of around 70 cents per song when competitors started to sell music online for lower prices.
In addition, the suit claims shenanigans on MusicNet and Pressplay, a pair of services the record labels started way back in 2001 to sell songs online.
"All defendants signed distribution agreements with MusicNet or Pressplay," the lawsuit contends. It goes on to say that the labels "sold music directly to consumers over the Internet through these joint ventures. Both the joint ventures and the (RIAA) provided a forum and means through which defendants could communicate about pricing, terms, and use restrictions. To obtain Internet Music from all major record labels, a consumer initially would have had to subscribe to both MusicNet and Pressplay at a cost of approximately $240 per year."
The case was dismissed in 2008, but an appeals court ruled that the federal judge involved erred in doing so, a decision upheld by Supreme Court justices refusing to review the case.
The underlying issue is a relatively simple one: Pink Floyd’s contract with its record company, EMI, gives the band the right to say yeah or nay to the sale of individual tracks from its albums. Pink Floyd’s intent is to preserve what it says is the artistic integrity of its work. While the contract was signed pre-digital, the band believes it applies to the digital world as well.
Pink Floyd isn’t looking to prevent its music from being available digitally. Instead it wants to control the way that music is made available. For Pink Floyd this would be the whole album or nothing at all. And for such works as The Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall, this seems to make sense. Other artists, such as Garth Brooks and AC/DC hold a similar view.
Record companies, on the other hand, find selling individual tracks easier, and hence more profitable, than selling whole albums. A position borne out by the fact that a lot of albums are little more than a fistful of songs crammed together under a title--with little or no thought to musical integrity. Consumers, for some strange reason, object to having to buy nine crappy songs just to get one good one, so tend to disfavor the idea of album integrity.
For artists there is a money issue as well. Whole albums produce more royalties for artists than do single tracks. Being able to control presentation would give artists additional leverage with record companies, giving this ruling greater significance.
The ruling doesn’t put an end to Pink Floyd in digital form. As far as EMI sees things, the court didn’t prohibit it from single track sales, so it’s single track business as usual, even for Pink Floyd, until EMI is told otherwise.
Unfortunately for OK Go, there's little to no chance that any of their music videos are going to go viral again and get 50 million hits, because as lead singer Damian Kulash puts it, "you can't embed diddlycrap." In an open letter to fans, Kulash offers up a lengthy explanation as to why the decision was made, why it sucks, and why it's a good thing (for some). Oh, and there's an apology thrown in there as well.
"We've been flooded with complaints recently because our YouTube videos can't be embedded in websites, and in certain countries can't be seen at all," Kulash starts off. "And we want you to know: we hear you, and we're sorry. We wish there was something we could do. Believe us, we want you to pass our videos around more than you do, but, crazy as it may seem, it's now far harder for bands to make videos accessible online than it was four years ago."
Kulash goes on to describe record labels as a sort of necessary evil which front all the money to distribute and promote albums, press CDs, make videos, and everything else that "adds up to a great deal more than we have in our bank account." So it's the labels' right to cash in everywhere they can. After all, "they need new shoes, just like everybody else."
That doesn't mean OK Go agrees with EMI's decision, and on the contrary, Kulash says, "It's a decision that bums us out. We've argued with them a lot about it," to no avail, obviously. So "in the meantime, the only thing OK Go can do is to upload our videos to sites that allow for embedding, like MySpace and Vimeo. We do that already, but it stings a little. Not only does it cannibalize our own numbers (it tends do do our business more good to get 40 million hits on one site than 1 million hits on 40 sites), but, as you can imagine, we feel a lot of allegiance to the fine people at YouTube."
Grooveshark is quite a predatory name for a music streaming service constantly under threat from record labels. The new year has gotten off to a woeful start for the music service, based entirely on user-uploaded content, with Universal Music Group dragging it to court over the presence of unauthorized copies of its content on Grooveshark. The fresh lawsuit comes barely three months after it resolved its legal dispute with EMI by agreeing to a licensing deal. In a filing with a New York State Court, UMG alleged that Grooveshark hosts unlicensed content from its pre-1972 catalog. The label also slammed Grooveshark for its refusal to deploy copyright filtering software, alleging that it has based its business solely on copyright infringement.
The major music labels hope Vevo will do for music videos what Hulu has done for movies and TV shows. In other words, become wildly popular.
Vevo will be a website for music videos and has the backing of co-owners Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment (Abu Dhabi Media Company also owns a stake). On Monday, Vevo announced it had signed up EMI as a video provider, which leaves Warner Music as the only holdout among the four biggest music labels.
"It will be a higher-quality experience around music and videos than anything else that's currently out there," Rio Caraeff, Vevo's chief executive, said in an interview.
Caraeff went on to say that Vevo would host 30,000 music videos by the end of the year, which will include original programs by artists for their fans.
On the technical side, videos will be hosted and streamed by YouTube. Vevo also plans to syndicate videos to a bunch of other sites, a la Hulu.
The entertainment industry hasn’t met with much success during its battle against illegal fire sharing. It is foolish to believe that industry insiders, including some of the most ardent of anti-p2p zealots, are not cognizant of the futility of their anti-p2p campaign. They are just reluctant to concede that their approach has proved to be ineffective.
Johansen told Dagbladet, a Swedish magazine, that the ongoing fight against file sharing is useless. He believes that as copyright violations continue unabated, a fresh approach is needed - one that is more practical. "No one has ever won a battle when fighting against new technology," Johansen warned.
Sony Music Entertainment became the first of the four largest recording companies to renew their music licensing deal with YouTube.
The renewal has ensured that Sony artists will remain on the video-sharing site exclusively. Deals such as this allow YouTube users to not only view the artist’s music videos, but to also use the label’s songs in their clips.
It’s been reported that Universal Music Group is close to breaking a deal with YouTube, and if they signed it would leave only EMI and Warner Music Group. Though, talk between EMI and YouTube ran into some trouble last month, and since then their content has been removed from the site.