Podcasts? Here are 3 on entertainment law

If you’re looking for a way to stay up to date in easy, convenient fashion with key developments in entertainment and media law, why not try a novel, different technology: Podcasts, which hit big in the early 2000s then seemed to fade a decade or so later, have reemerged to become all the rage again. We’re talking Serial, This American Life, Fresh Air, and the many offerings available through National Public Radio and Apple.

There also are at least a trio of Entertainment Law podcasts worth considering for some reasons described below: It’s a subjective call, and there may be options to add.

But in the upcoming downtime connected to the holidays, it may be worth devoting some moments to: the Entertainment Law Update Podcast, Laws of Entertainment with Lisa Bonner, and the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal Podcast. Here’s why, for those with long commutes or the need for informative diversion, to listen up! (more…)

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Royalty rate ruling strikes a rare harmony

crb-logo-owlAfter a complex legal decision gets issued, if none of the affected parties can be seen, jubilant and dancing in the court aisles, maybe the judges got it just right? That seems to be the online consensus reaction to a recent decision by three federal judges, who in an arcane bit of copyright law that also affects the Librarian of Congress, set the royalty rates that artists get paid for outlets that play their music.

The judges, acting as the Copyright Royalty Board, recently issued new rates for streaming services, which took effect Jan. 1 and will hold sway until 2020. The rates require online radio and streaming companies to pay 17 cents per 100 plays of songs and 22 cents per 100 listens by paying subscribers to any ad-free radio offering.

Under the ruling, the musicians, who had been screaming about getting ripped off, will get a little more money; over the air, broadcast radio outlets will pay a little less. And streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify, will fork over more. How does this absence of acrimonious reaction and rare harmony about the rates’ decision affect the music industry and its supposed dash away from old-fashioned technologies like on-air radio stations and toward Internet-based service providers, such as online radio and streaming services?

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ICYMI: Jay-Z, Beyonce, and a songwriter’s family win; for $90 million, Pandora settles pre-’72 rights-licensing dispute

jzbIt’s not true that the dog chewed up the homework or that a gremlin got into the server. Although a technical snafu or two may have kept the blog dark for a short period, let’s catch up with an ICYMI post that covers, courtesy of members of Southewestern’s Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 class members (as noted):

  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town and how a music publishing giant lost rights to a holiday standard. (Mary P. Ray)
  • Pandora’s decision to settle with artists over pre-1972 recordings. (Aris Shatteen)
  • Jay-Z’s win in a long-running copyright battle with the heir of an Egyptian composer over the song Big Pimpin — on the same day that his wife, Beyonce, triumphs in an unrelated suit against her over the tune XO. (Ravyn O’Neal) (more…)

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Sirius catches sunshine in fight with ex-Turtles

siriusA federal court in Florida has provided a ray of legal sunshine for Sirius XM , in a way that its counterparts in California and New York haven’t: The satellite music company finally has won a legal battle in the public performance war that Flo & Eddie have waged with Sirius over their pre-1972 sound recordings with The Turtles. As this blog has recounted since this case’s outset, musicians and composers have turned to a state by state campaign to protect their rights to classic tunes, finding a gap in federal copyright coverage.

The courts holding sway over America’s two Entertainment capitals have viewed the creatives’ cause favorably but the Sunshine State, a judge in Miami has said, has no common law basis for a similar sunny view. What’s this cloudy Dixieland difference? (more…)

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Pandora wins royalty rate appeal, radio license

pandoraascapIn the 1980s, video killed the radio star, and today, it’s streaming music services that are causing great pain for music creatives: Pandora has just won a big decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, beating down the American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP).

The appellate judges affirmed a lower court’s 2013 ruling, setting a 1.85 percent rate for public performance of songs in the ASCAP catalog for Pandora and other Internet radio services. The higher court also nixed an ASCAP move effectively to let music publishers negotiate directly with online services like Pandora for performance royalties, potentially increasing the difficulty and cost.

This controversial case has been closely watched and will please those favoring technology’s advance in providing music and other forms of entertainment in new ways, while leaving creative artists and sizable swaths of the music industry angry and glum. For Pandora, in particular, it was a second bit of promising news, as the company also has just won approval of its bid to acquire a South Dakota radio station, giving it a toe-hold into yet another way to secure lower royalty rates for music.

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Will Turtles’ win be a rights game-changer?

Who says the old guys can’t rock still? The not always so happy Flo & Eddie have sent a tremor rolling through digital radio land recently, winning on summary judgment against Sirius XM Radio for broadcasting and streaming their music without permission. Flo & Eddie is a corporation owned by the two founding members of the music group The Turtles, best known for once crooning about the pleasure of their shared company (see above).

Flo & Eddie sued Sirius for the unauthorized (1) public performances and (2) reproduction of its sound records by broadcasting and streaming content to end consumers and operating its satellite and Internet radio services. After considering both arguments, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted Flo & Eddie’s motion for summary judgment for all claims pertaining to Sirius XM’s public performance, but not the reproduction claims.

This is an important case because it shows how the courts will treat copyright claims pertaining to pre-1972 works as their copyright protection periods expire, and the work falls into the public domain. The court ruling will likely bring more litigation from performers like The Turtles. Moreover, similar rulings may encourage SiriusXM, Pandora, and other similar companies to lobby Congress for new copyright laws covering pre-1972 music.

Though this is a decision in just one case, analysts have pointed out that the Turtles’ judgment provides important insight as to how courts might resolve unanswered questions about the pre-1972 copyrights and whether federal or state law holds sway, and there’s another closely watched case in the dockets involving similar arguments involving Capital Records and Pandora. It’s also unclear whether the judge’s ruling could be viewed as broad enough to affect not just digital radio but also good old AM-FM.

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