The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.
Time for the music industry to wise up quickly on artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to impact the music industry. Several artists are using the fast-developing technology to support and speed up the creative process, with more likely to follow suit. However, the use of recorded-music catalogs to “train” AI models to generate new songs—all without licensing such tracks—throws up serious copyright issues. To date, these issues have barely been addressed, either by intellectual property (IP) owners, regulators, or lawmakers. This situation needs to change to support the creative use of AI and the rights of artists, songwriters, and record companies.
Class action lawsuit shines a light on UMG’s equity holding in Spotify
UMG is facing a class action lawsuit over claims that the music company failed to pay its artists a share of the equity it holds in Spotify, received as part of the initial licensing deal between the two. The lawsuit, which was filed at a New York district court by the two members of the hip-hop duo Black Sheep, accuses the music major of secretly agreeing to lower the royalty rates payable to artists in return for the equity stake. The members of Black Sheep claim UMG should be paying its artists 50% of net receipts from Spotify as per signed contracts. Moreover, the filing says UMG’s minority ownership of Spotify and lower royalty rates only came to light after Spotify had published documents relating to its IPO in 2018. The lawsuit claims that UMG has underpaid royalties to the tune of $750m.
YouTube wins partial summary judgment in Schneider copyright infringement case
The lawsuit filed at a California district court by jazz composer Maria Schneider against online video service YouTube and search giant Google is still in play despite YouTube/Google receiving partial summary judgments in some of the claims. The case centers on Schneider’s claim that smaller rights holders are denied access to the online video service’s Content ID system of copyright protection. Denying the use of Content ID means smaller rights holders are forced into trawling YouTube for unlicensed use of their content, and then sending individual takedown notices to the video service via a web form, email, or postal mail for each video their searches identify. After YouTube/Google was denied a motion to dismiss the complaint in August, a filing for summary judgment was lodged with the court. Following an October hearing, the court granted some of YouTube’s requests but decided that a number of outstanding issues warranted the case going before a jury.
South Africa country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed South Africa music industry report. South Africa is Africa’s biggest music market. Consumer spending on recorded-music and royalty collections is significantly higher in the country than in any other market in the region. Despite its geographic location, South Africa is more akin to a Western music market and has far more in common with countries in Europe and North America than it does with its neighbors. However, although this means South Africa has a more developed music market, per capita spending on recorded-music is still extremely low. Moreover, the same problems encountered in the developed world, in the shift from physical formats to digital and downloads to access, have been experienced in the country. However, even though the rise in high-speed internet access has exacerbated problems associated with the unauthorized distribution of music, higher digital sales, rising smartphone penetration, and the rollout of several international streaming services suggest the market has a bright future.
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