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Archive for the ‘Digital Downloads’ Category

U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut  Justice Janet Bond Arterton, handed down a very pointed and decisive opinion hammering the RIAAR.I.A.A. for its boilerplate style of pleading in the nationwide wide campaign against illegal file sharing.   Justice Arterton was appointed by President Clinton in 1995.  The full decision is here:  Decision.  At several key junctures in the opinion, Justice Arterton based her opinion on the fact that the Plaintiff’s complaint was based on “information and belief” rather than direct evidence.

The two areas of concern in the opinion, one is whether to grant a default judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) and the second is whether the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b).

Default Judgment Analysis under Rule 55(b)(2)

The granting of default judgment is generally almost a “rubber stamp” kind of process.  If the defendant is properly served and fails to respond to the complaint, a default judgment is almost always automatic.  If the complaint demands an exact amount as judgment, the default judgment can even be entered by the court’s clerk under Rule 55(b)(1).  If not, then the court holds a hearing to determine the amount of damages under Rule 55(b)(2).  In this instance, however, the court stepped in and took it upon herself to examine the validity of the claims.

Reasoning from a 2nd Circuit case, Au Bon Pain Corp.v. Artect, Inc., 653 F.2d 61 (2d Cir. 1981), the court found that the default judgment process is not, in fact, automatic, but that “a district court has discretion . . . to require proof of necessary facts and need not agree that the alleged facts constitute a valid cause of action.”  Artect, at 65, citing Wright & Miller, a well known legal treatise on procedure. 

Looking a another legal treatise, Moore’s Federal Practice, Justice Arterton reasoned that the analysis should combine elements from Rule 55(c), the rule allowing the setting aside of a default judgment, and Rule 60(b), a more generic rule allowing  a court to set aside judgments.  Finding support for this analysis in 2nd Circuit case law, the court held that three factors arose in determining whether to set aside a judgment under either of the two rules:  (1) “the willfulness of default”; (2) “the existence of a meritorious defense”; and (3) “the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiffs should the default judgment be vacated.”

In weighing these factors, the judge determined that the latter two factors shifted in favor of the defendant, i.e., there were abundant meritorious defenses raised in similar cases filed by the RIAA across the country, and the Plaintiff would not be prejudiced by being required to produce more specific evidence.  In both instances, the court again mentioned the language that the Plaintiff’s complaint was based on “information and belief.”

Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted under Rule 12(b)(6)

The more telling section of the opinion is the court’s ostensibly sua sponte (i.e., of its own accord) analysis of whether the Plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  This rule generally givesscales5 the defendant a right to raise this defense in a response to a complaint.   Ostensibly, the court raised this issue in the context of possible meritorious defenses.

Justice Arterton cites the recent Supreme Court opinion that a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, [but] a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions.”  Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964–65 (2007).  She then observed that Plaintiff’s complaint in this case was almost identical to the one filed in Interscope Records v. Rodriguez, where the court held:

Plaintiff here must present at least some facts to show the plausibility of their allegations of copyright infringement against the Defendant. However, other than the bare conclusory statement that on “information and belief” Defendant has downloaded, distributed and/or made available for distribution to the public copyrighted works, Plaintiffs have presented no facts that would indicate that this allegation is anything more than speculation. The complaint is simply a boilerplate listing of the elements of copyright infringement without any facts pertaining specifically to the instant Defendant. The Court therefore finds that the complaint fails to sufficiently state a claim upon which relief can be granted and entry of default judgment is not warranted.

Rodriguez, No. 06-2485, 2007 WL 2408484, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2007).  Citing the Second Circuit case Greyhound Exhibit Group, Inc. v. E.L.U.L. Realty
Corp., 973 F.2d 155, 158 (2d Cir. 1992), which held that the entry of default “constitute[s] a concession of all well pleaded allegations of liability,” Justice Arterton ruled that Plaintiff’s complaint was “speculative” and “inadequate.”

Eric Bangeman, of Ars Technica reports that the RIAA plans to file a brief, probably accompanying a motion for reconsideration, and possible an amended complaint, as they did in Interscope v. Rodriguez.  The amended complaint provided additional details about dates, times, and IP addresses.  Whether the additional details of that amendment will alter the application of Rule 12(b)(6) is still unknown, as the judge in that case has since retired.

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On Monday, January 28th, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) began what will be four weeks of hearings.  The CRB will hear testimony from interested parties on both sides of issues which will ultimately determine the statutory mechanical rates for songwriters and music publishers. The CRB sets these rates periodically, but these particular hearings are more critical than usual because, in addition to setting rates for physical products, rates will be set for the first time ever for digital products such as digital downloads, subscription services and ringtones.

On one side of the issue is the Recording Industry Association of America (the “RIAA”), which represents the major record labels’ interest,  is proposing that the current rate of 9.1 cents per mechanical copy produced be reduced to 6 cents!  That reduction would roll back the rates to, well, let’s just say to well before the birth date of most of the college students the RIAA is prosecuting across the country for downloading.  For digital reproductions, the RIAA is proposing an even lower rate of 5 to 5.5 cents per track.

On the other side of the issue, representing the publishers and songwriters, is the National Music Publishers Association, the NMPA.  In contrast, the NMPA proposes increasing the statutory rate to 15 cents, and for digital reproductions, a rate of the greater of 12.5% of revenue, 27.5% of content costs, or a micro-penny calculation based on usage.

This are important issues, and I’ll try to keep you posted here on Law on the Row as developments happen.

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The Recording Industry v. the People, an anti-RIAA blog operatRIAA ed by New York attorney, Ray Beckerman, is cooperating with the Boston-based non-profit, The Free Software Foundation, to establish “a fund to help provide computer expert witnesses to combat RIAA’s ongoing lawsuits, and to defend against the RIAA’s attempt to redefine copyright law.”

The Free Software Foundation was established to promote the development and use of free software.  It manages several campaigns to achieve that goal, including one called “BadVista.org,” fighting the adoption of Microsoft Vista, and “DefectivebyDesign.org” which was established for the purpose of eliminating digital rights management in music and movies from “Big Media.”

As of the end of November, the fund had raised over $4,000.  The fund will be administered by Mr. Beckerman and will be disbursed to technical witnesses hired by RIAA litigation defense teams on a variety of criteria, including the basis of the importance of the case to critical legal issues.

To donate to the fund, click here.

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For almost a decade now, the major labels (at the beginning there wereRIO five of them, now only four, EMI, Sony BMG, Vivendi Universal and Warner) have declared that illegal downloading is ravaging their business by destroying the sales of physical product.  One may question this declaration, however, in few of the fact that ever since the RIAA filed its 1998 litigation again the manufacturer of the Diamond Rio MP3 player and extending to its most recent lawsuits against individuals across the country, the music industry has committed more public image faux pas than Dan Quayle and George W combined, making it one of the most hated industries among high school and college students.  It should be apparent to everyone now that it is not illegal downloads that is causing the downturn in music sales, as there are many other contributing factors.

This marred image of the industry is evident in the facts.  According to an article in Rolling Stone magaine entitled The Record Industry’s Decline:

About 2,700 record stores have closed across the country since 2003, according to the research group Almighty Institute of Music Retail. Last year the eighty-nine-store Tower Records chain, which represented 2.5 percent of overall retail sales, went out of business, and Musicland, which operated more than 800 stores under the Sam Goody brand, among others, filed for bankruptcy. Around sixty-five percent of all music sales now take place in big-box stores such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which carry fewer titles than specialty stores and put less effort behind promoting new artists.

Nonetheless, a new research study on the issue, commissioned by the Canadian government to explore issues related to copyright reform, was recently released.  The study is entitled The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study for Industry Canada, and was written by Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz, of the Department of Management at the University of London in England.  A PDF version of the study is published here.

The results of the new study affirm many of the conclusions found in an earlier study entitled, The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis.  This paper was published in the February 2007 issue of The Journal of Political Studies, and was written by Koleman Strumpf, professor of business economics at the University of Kansas Business School and Felix Oberholzer of the Harvard University Business School.  Both studies directly contradict the claims of the music industry that file sharing is related to revenue losses.

In fact, the new study supports an opposite assertion, i.e., that distribution of music files on P2P networks actually promotes the sale of physical product.  Andersen and Frenz found, among people who actually participate in P2P file sharing, downloading actually increases the sale of physical product by a ration of 2 to 1, in other words, on average when a P2P file sharer downloaded the equivalent of two CDs in files, he or she would purchase of one physical CD (Note:  I have extrapolated here, as the numbers set forth in the study actually say that for every 12 P2P songs downloaded, physical purchases increased by 0.44 CDs).  It is important to note that the study concluded that, when incorporating the Canadian population as a whole (i.e., including the group who participate in P2P file sharing along with those who do not), file sharing on P2P networks has neither a positive nor a negative impact on CD sales.

One fact in the report I found very intriguing is its conclusion that the owners of MP3 players are less likely to purchase physical product.  This is interesting, in my mind, because I believe it is connected to the popularity of the iPod and iTunes.  If a person purchases the iPod and uses iTunes, there is really no need to buy physical product, whereas when a person uses a different brand of MP3 player, he or she is, in my humble opinion, more likely to go out in search of alternative means of finding music, including purchasing CD’s.  I would like to see a study which compares iPod owners with owners of third party MP3 players.  It may turn out that the biggest culprit in the demise of the record industry is Apple!

One story I found really revealing is the Rolling Stones article on The Record Industry’s Decline.  In it, the author tells the story about how the major labels were unable to come to a settlement with Napster which would have given them immediate access to Napster’s 38 million users.  I don’t know the details of that meeting, but it seems to me that when the industry burst that bubble, those 38 million users disbursed into millions of subgroups on P2P networks so varied that it become virtually impossible to get the magic back.  Hindsight is, of course, always better than foresight, but this event certainly seems to me to one of the biggest turning points in our industry’s history.

Is the music industry going to survive.  Of course!  It will certainly not be in the form many traditionalists in the industry wish it to be.  CD’s eventually be ancient relics of the past, sought after by collectors much as jazz lovers currently seek out old vinyls and record players.  The radio industry will not have control over marketing and thus the role of radio consultants on the industry will be diminished.  Marketing efforst will shift to television outlets and Internet marketing.  Search engines and online communities will continue to surface new music and expose the long tail.  Major labels will no be the sole repository of the major talent, as independents will rise to fill the void, fueled by venture capital from investors.  Whatever happens, it going to be an interesting ride!

Some further reading:

The Freakonomics of Music

File Sharing:  Zero Effect on Downloads

The Record Industry’s Decline

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Section 106 of the Copyright Act gives the owner of a copyright a bundle of rights which includes the rights to 1) reproduce the work, 2) prepare derivative works, 3) distribute copies of the works, 4) publicly perform the work and 5) publicly display the work.  All of the music publisher’s income flows from this basic bundle of rights.  It should be noted that the right to perform the work is sometimes segmented into two descriptions, one called the grand rights, or dramatic and theatrical performances of the work, and small rights, or all public performances other than theatrical, including live performances of the work and radio broadcasts.  Here is New York attorney, Peter Shukat discussing grand rights:

To exercise control over these rights, a music publisher issues licenses to authorize various uses falling into this bundle of rights.  For example, if a company wants to reproduce and distribute a copyright in a musical composition, the publisher will issue a mechanical license to a record label, for example.  Mechanical royalties are a primary source of income for music publishers.  In the United States, the U.S. Copyright Office sets the rate for mechanical royalties, which is currently 9.1 cents for songs that are 5 minutes or less, and 1.75 cents per minute for songs exceeding 5 minutes.  The current mechanical royalty and historical rates can be found at the Harry Fox Agency’s website.  The Harry Fox Agency administers licenses for, and collects and distributes royalties to its member of the National Music Publishers Association, although a music publisher can, and often does, perform this task on its own  Since the rate is always subject to increase,  a music publisher should also request language in the license that provides that payment is made at the rate in effect at the time the product is distributed.

Another major source of income for music publishers is public performance royalties.  in the United States, these royalties are almost always collected by the three major performance rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI & SESAC.  Outside the U.S., each country has its own performances rights organizations.  See the “Resources” page on my blog for a list of and links to many of these.  As discussed in Part 2 of this series, music publishers, as well as songwriters, affiliate with (i.e., enter into an agreement with) the performance rights organization to enable them to track airplay and live performances, and collect and distribute the royalties.  Performance rights organizations issues “blanket” licenses to radio stations, television stations, large nightclubs, large restaurant chains, and retail source so that these entities can play the music of their affiliated songwriters and publishers.  In exchange, these venues pay the performance rights organizations fees based on the anticipated usage.  The societies then use varying formulas based on such factors as airplay and usage to issue payment to its affiliate songwriters and publishers.

The music publisher issues a synchronization license to the producers of  television shows, movies and commercial advertisements for reproduction and distribution of the work.  The “sync fMovie Reelee” is usually a one time payment, varying from the hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands, dependent upon numerous factors such as the length of the segment in which the song is used, the prominence of the song in the scene (whether it is prominently featured or in the background), and whether it is the primary focus of the scene (as, for example, BTO’s old song Takin’ Care of Business as used in the Office Depot commercials).  The publisher typically splits this type of revenue equally with the songwriter.

A less generous source of income, but still significant nonetheless, is revenue generated by printing sheet music and lyrics.  This is a type of public display, but can also fall into the category of reproduction and distribution.  Print licenses are most commonly issued to publishers of individual sheet music (sometimes called “piano copies”) and so-called “folios” (a collection of sheet music by a particular artist) and sheet music collections.  Income is also generated when lyrics to musical compositions are reprinted in a publication, such as, for example, when a book is printed in connection with a movie.  How much of this income is given to the songwriter varies widely, as it is sometimes based on percentage basis, but also can be on a flat, cent rate, e.g, 15 cents per copy.  When a percentage basis is used, it is sometime based on wholesale, sometimes retail.  The general trend among publishers in past years, however, is to split everything equally on a 50/50 basiiphones.

Of course, one rapidly growing area of revenue is in the arena of  technology, i.e., computer software, multimedia products, singing greeting cards, DVD’s and particularly ringtones.  Though these usages also involve the reproduction and distribution rights, they generally require specialized licenses and the rates a very market driven. Again, it is customary for a music publishers to split these fees equally with the songwriter.

Finally, a very significant source of income for a music publisher is foreign sub-publishing.  Outside of the U.S., music publishers solicit foreign sub-publishers on a territory by territory basis.  The arrangement is generally exclusive, meaning that the foreign publisher has the rights to exploit the music publisher’s entire catalogue of songs within that territory, including the entire bundle of rights, and issue mechanical, performance, synchronization and print licenses for the usage of the music.  Typically, the U.S. publisher will receive 75% of the income generated by the foreign sub-publisher, while the sub-publisher retains 25%.  The sub-publisher does not receive any ownership interest in the copyright and usually pays the U.S. publisher a significant advance on future royalties, dependent in large part on the amount of income the catalogue has generated in the U.S.  Foreign income is often the subject of intense negotiation in writer deals, but very often a songwriter will receive half of everything the U.S. publisher receives, or 37.5 cents of the 75 cents received by the publisher.

 

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Abraham Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs” places self-actualization as the pinnacle of human behavior. To illustrate what the phrase “self-actualization” meant , Maslow said:

“a musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves.”

Of course, the thing that is important to note about Maslow’s hierarchy is that physiological needs are at its base, i.e., a person’s basic needs must be met before Maslow's Self-Acutalization hierarchythat person can reach self-actualization. In other words, “a guy’s gotta eat”!

Maslow’s theories shed some light on the ongoing social debate on the Internet regarding whether musicians would continue to produce quality music if copyright as we know it were to be abolished. A different argument, though very related, is whether money motivates one to be creative.

One movement advocating such ideas is the “Free Culture Movement.” Another less extremist movement is Stanford professor, Lawrence Lessig’s “Creative Commons” group, which advocates modified forms of traditional license agreements as a social compromise to “reconcile creative freedom with marketplace competition.” Watch Lessig’s video, released today on TED, entitled “How creativity is being strangled by the law.” For another this interesting discussion, see the site Against Monopoly.

The underlying assumption of some of the parties involved in the debate, which is ostensibly grounded in the record and movie industry’s recent campaigns against infringers, is that all intellectual property should be free for the public to use without payment and that the antiquated copyright laws should be modified or abolished. In my opinion, this extremism ignores the foundation principle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that in order to achieve self-actualization, an artist’s or musician’s base needs must be satisfied.

Proponents of the free culture movement observe that creativity survived many years without the structural form which copyright superimposed upon it. Indeed, it is often observed that the great works of Mozart were created without the existence of copyright laws. Don’t forget, however, that Mozart wrote many of his works while being employed by benefactors such as the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, Heironymus Colloredo and Emperor Joseph II of Vienna, names that are certainly not as prominent as Mozart’s. In fact, where would the world of the arts be without the billions of dollars that have been donated by benefactors such as J.P. Morgan, James Smithson, Bill & Melinda Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefellar, just to name a select, if not elite, few. So, while it is true that “a musician must create music,” it is also true that a musician has to eat.

Long before the existence of copyright laws, there was a strong relationship between money and the creation of arts and music, and it will be that way until we abolish our system of currency as we now know it. Walk around any great city and witness the existence of hundreds of pieces of commissioned artwork. Listen to the commissioned works of Mozart, Beethoven and other great composers, who existed at the hand of benefactors. Walk through the Museum of Modern Art and look at the works of art generously donated by J. P. Morgan and other benefactors. Whether it be a king or a record label, money benefits art. Creativity, like it or not, is often inspired by the almighty dollar, whether that is represented by paper currency or some other bartered for compensation which meets our base needs as human beings.

That’s not to say that people would not continue to make music or art if they were not compensated for it – they would. That is an entirely different question in my mind. People’s hobbies and past time activities are in a slightly different class than, say, the copyrighted works of Don Henley. If great singer-songwriters such as Henley could not make a living at playing music and writing songs, I would venture to bet that most of us would never had heard of The Eagles. Again, even a great musician has to eat. If the musician cannot meet his base needs doing what he loves to do, a musician will meet those needs some other way and, therefore, there would be less time to do what he loves to do. So don’t confuse the musings of the masses with the creations of the geniuses.

The only legitimate question remaining, then, is how should a musician get paid for the music he or she creates? How should the songwriter get paid for the songs he or she writes? The answer, in the United States, is by virtue of the rights created in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, which gives Congress the right:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Investors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The portion of this Clause dealing with the arts is further codified in the various Copyright Acts and amendments thereto. In a nutshell, the Copyright Act creates a legal fiction, called intellectual property rights, which gives creators certain exclusive rights in their works, including the rights to produce copies, create derivative works, perform or display the work, and to sell and assign the works, among other things.

The laws in the U.S. are based loosely on English concepts and laws that date back to the 17th and 18th century, which were a direct result of the invention of the printing press. The first actual copyright law was the Statute of Anne, or the Copyright Act 1709. Thus, the concept of “copyright” is a three-hundred-year-old concept that has survived the evolution from printing press to piano rolls to digital media, and I have little doubt that it will continue to survive through the technological age, despite the rumblings of these groups.

As the law often does, it must evolve, albeit it ever so slowly, to encompass these new technologies. The good news is that the debate that is ongoing in the new virtual marketplace of idea will help us formulate new and improved amendments to the laws that will hopefully address the perceived dichotomy between the rights of free speech and free culture and those of the creators and owners of intellectual properties to receive just compensation for their efforts and investments.

In the end, this blog is my response to viewing Larry Lessig’s video, as I said, posted today on the TED website, entitled How creativity is being strangled by the law (See the link above). In it, Lessig harkens back to the days of Sousa when children sat on the porch and sang the songs of the day. Lessig told of how Sousa decried the advent of the phonorecord machine as the demise of creativity. He points out that in our current state ot technological advance, copyrights should be “democratized” because the new generation of children use copyrights to create something uniquely different, that is to say they use the copyrights of others as “tools of creativity” and “tools of speech.” Since every such usage requires a copy, the arguement continues, every such usage is presummed by the establishment to be an infringement of someone’s copyright. Lessig’s solution is that the creator should simply license the use of their creation for free in the instance of “non-commercial” usages, and retain the rights to exploit it commercially. He refers to this as the “Sousa Revival.”

My question to Professor Lessig is this: why does the fact that an entire generation of Internet downloaders who are using copyrighted material to create derivative works mean that the rights of copyright holders have to be abolished or even diminished? Why do the creative whims and urges of those who utilize other people’s copyrights to create different, derivative works supercede those of the people who created the original works? Why should they? Are the audiovisual images of a actor portraying Jesus Christ lipsyncing to an infringed copy of “I Will Survive” so creatively valuable as to supercede to the rights of Gloria Gaynor to distribute the original? (This creation is one of the examples in Lessig’s video presentation). Consider this carefully before you answer, as it is a slippery slope.

This brings me to another relevant observation: people would generally not want pay money to hear most children sitting on the porch singing their songs, unless that child happens to be a Don Henley protegee. That is the difference between most of the music ony MySpace, for example, and the music that is generally downloaded on iTunes. There is a tremendous difference in the value of the spontaneous, albeit creative, songs of a child and the intricate lyrics and melodies which are the product of a genius the likes of Don Henley. That is precisely why almost 100% of the product downloaded from Napster in the early days was product that had been recorded and marketed by major record labels. It had intrinsic value.

Let me illustrate these principles with an example from the world of physical property. Person A has a piece of property populated with a lot of trees. Person B, owns the lot next door, which is flat and has a nice stream of water running around its perimeter. Person C comes along, see this situation and, overwhelmed with creativity, cuts down Person A’s trees and builds himself a house on Person B’s lot and claims it as his own. When Persons A and B confront him, stating that the law says he cannot do what he did, Person C responds that his creativity is being strangled by the law and, therefore, the law should be abolished. Is Person C making a good argument? Is Person C likely to prevail in court? No. Yet, this is the argument of the Free Culture Movement and, in some ways, of the Creative Commons.

Just as the law creates real and enforceable property rights for a person who owns a plot of real estate, the law creates intellectual property rights so that person can own an intellectual creation and enforce his rights to the exclusion of those who usurp it. Abolishing the one makes no more sense than abolishing the other. Abolishing the intellectual property right a person has in a copyright, therefore, devalues the creation.

Now, imagine that Person A’s lot was, instead, full of reeds and twigs and Person B’s lot was full of ravines, rocks and arid soil. Person C would never stop to take a second look! The barron options now before Person C would NOT inspire creativity in most people.

As further illustration of this principle of intrinsic value, ask yourself whether the Jesus video referred to earlier would be nearly as popular, nearly as creative, if the actor’s own singing voice had been used in place of Gloria Gaynor. The answer is probably no, because the reason that the video of Jesus Christ singing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is so popular is because it incorporates a copyright that already has intrinsic value and, therefore, adds additonal value to the video. The arguments of the free culture movements omit or overlook this concept of intrinsic value.

What I do like about Lawrence Lessig’s movement, Creative Commons, is that it is, in the final analysis, based on the principles of the Copyright Act, i.e., that the copyright has value and that its owner has certain exclusive rights, which he can assign to others. Lessig’s solution is essentially using existing copyright laws to create a unique license that attempts to strike a balance between fair use and full copyright reservation. In the end, however, the license are based on the rights already granted in The Copyright Act, proving that the copyright laws as they currently exist allow for the very thing that these groups seek. I cannot agree with him more in that respect.

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I have often advised my clients in the past that the new direction for independent artists is what I refer to as “guerilla” marketing, meaning finding alternative means of marketing your product.  One of the most explosive methods of doing that over the past few years has been the Internet.  One of the problems with marketing yourself on the Internet, however, is how do you get people to come to you?  The void of the Internet is so vast, that finding an artist whose sound is something that matches your musical taste is even more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack! 

So, it is a beautiful thing to see an artist actually breaking into the Billboard charts catapulted in large part by her success on the Internet, particularly her MySpace page.  Her success story gives hope to every artist whose desire is to put out a record, throw it up on the Internet, and have people flock to listen.

Enter Indianapolis, Indiana singer-songwriter Sally Anthony whose  “eTeam” of over 125,000 fans, including over 40,000 friends on MySpace, helped propel Anthony to stardom.  Thanks in largem_6c31918cf33c79bad2c07905f6783a30 part to that online community, Anthony’s first album, Vent, released in 2004, sold over 175,000 physical and digital copies.  Two releases from that album spent months on the R&R pop chart.

Her new album, Goodbye, released October 23rd, has already sold 14,000 digital copies.  It has already reached the top of the pop charts at walmart.com, FYE Digital and iTunes and on November 7th landed at No. 9 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.  The album is being distributed by her company, Gracie Productions, through Imperial Records/EMI.

Anthony is succeeding because she is treating the music industry as broader than just the radio promoted, hit-driven, plastic disc business the major labels seem stuck in.  She is viewing the music industry as an entire package, generating buzz wherever she can, from the ground up rather than from the top down.

I predict that we will start to see more and more of these types  of breakthrough artist as the popularity of YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and other online communities grow in popularity and as the pioneers of the Internet find more creative ways to index diverse product, match it to the tastes and purchasing patterns of Internet users, and make recommendations – sites such as  LivePlasma, Pandora, Audiobaba, Last.fm, MyStrands and, of course, Amazon,

As radio fades into the annals of history alongside the monolithic corporate conglomerates that are r060719_Books_longtailChartecord labels, these innovative types of indexing sites will help those artists in the deep dark recesses of the “long tail”  find an audience for their music.  By the way, if you haven’t read Chris Anderson’s treatise on this subject, The Long Tail, buy a copy and dissect it now.   The long tail consists of that product that is not in the mainstream — not on the shelves of Wal-mart — but product that is still sought after and purchased by people.  Maybe it’s only ten people per month, but people still want and buy it.  It is the millions of artist that fly below the radar of the “hit-driven majors.”  These are the artists who can benefit from the exposure the Internet can provide.

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For years now, a huge battle has been brewing between proponents of performance royalties for the owners of sound recording copyrights to be paid by terrestrial radio stations (those broadcasting through the air) and it has been gathering steam in the last several months.

The battle is being waged between the giants of industry,  the RIAA, representing the four major record labels, aRep. Michael Conawaynd organizations like the National Association of Broadcasters and the Free Radio Alliance, representing the broadcast radio industry.  The latest round of fire was shot on Oct ober 31, 2007 on behalf of the broadcasters when two Texas lawmakers, Michael Conaway, a Republican, and Gene Green, a Democrat, co-sponsored concurrent resolution H. Con. Res 244, the “Local Radio FRep. Gene Greenree Act.”

 A concurrent resolution is a legislative measure passed by both the House and the Senate generally used to address the sentiments of both chambers with regard to certain matters.  Since they do not have the force of law, concurrent resolutions are generally used to provide for adjournments, recess, use of the Rotunda, and other such matters.  The “Local Radio Free Act” is essentially a policy statement supporting free local broadcast radio and opposing any new performance fees, taxes or royalties for the public performance of sound recordings over the airways.  Ever wonder what is behind all of this noise?

When a company wants to use a sound recording of a musical composition, there are two copyright owners with whom it must deal:  the owner of the musical composition copyright and the owner of the sound recording copyright.  For example, Dolly Parton (or her publishing company) owns the copyright to I will always love you, but two different record companies own the copyright in the sound recordings performed independently by Dolly Parton and, later, by Whitney Houston.  And, of course, one of the rights granted by the Copyright Act to the owner of a copyright is the right to publicly perform the work.

For years, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC have collected the performance royalties on behalf of the composers and writers of the music compositions.  All radio stations, whether terrestrial or digital (over the Internet or Satellite), pay performance royalties for the musical compositions they play over their broadcasts — to the tune of around 500 million dollars per year.  It wasn’t until 1995 and the passage of The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Acts that the public performance right was created in the sound recording of a musical composition.  At that point in time, the digital broadcasters of music, including Satellite and Internet stations, were required to start paying a performance fee to the owners of the sound recording copyright, i.e., the record labels and artists who perform the song.  The Act specifically exempts, however, the local radio stations that broadcast the music over the airways, ostensibly on the grounds that the recording artists and labels were receiving free publicity from the broadcast radio stations in exchange for the use of their sound recording.

Now, with the demise of the CD and the rise of illicit downloading, the record industry is pressing Congress hard to extend the Digital Performance royalty to the local broadcasters and, of course, those broadcasters, with their extremely old and strong political ties, are fighting hard against it. 

The RIAA, for its part, is sending CEO Mitch Bainwol onMitch Bainwol, CEO of RIAA the interview circuit.  Bainwol is consistently hailed by many Washington publications as one of the most powerful and influential lobbyist in Washington.  In an L.A. Times article in which he discussed the performance fee, Bainwol is quoted as saying that “the creation of music is suffering because of declining sales.”  This group has the formidable support of the U.S. Copyright Office, which has support the removal of the exemption for terrestrial stations for many years, and the chair of the House subcommittee on intellectual property, California representative Howard Berman, who is actively pursuing legislation to remove the exemption.

The National Association of Broadcasters is fighting the RIAA with a barrage of print ads and radio ads in support of their position.  They use the word “tax” as an emotive term to sway people to their side.  The NBA stress that it is the major label conglomerates that would get the bulk of any new performance fees.  The radio broadcasters are a formidable force themselves with corporate entities such as Cox Radio, Citadel, Cumulus, Clear Channel, just to name a few, in opposition to the expansion of the digital performance fee. This new legislation is a result of this group’s hard fought efforts against any new measures, claiming that with profit margins already in the single digits in some instances, a performance tax would obliterate their business.  

In the grand scheme of events, the concurrent resolution is probably a non-event.  It is the efforts of one group’s successful lobbying finding a materialization.  Don’t expect this to be the last word on the subject, however.

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There appears to be a slight ripple of a trend among courts to take a stricter look at the evidence being presented by the RIAA in its crusade against digital downloads, based primarily on the evidriaa2ence of user names and IP addresses assembled by their expert consultants, MediaSentry. 

In the RIAA’s case against Jeff Dangler, filed in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of New York in Rochester, Dangler failed to file a response to the Complaint, and the Clerk entered the default against him.  Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), the Plaintiff can then apply to the judge for a judgment based on the default.  In addition, Fed.R.Civ.P 55(b)(2) gives the judge the option to conduct hearings and hear evidence in order to determine if the damages requested are justified.  This gives the judge the opportunity to evaluate the merits of the underlying claim and, if he finds it to be deficient, deny a judgment on the default.

On October 23, 2007, U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer denied a 55(b)(2) request by the RIAA for a default judgment of $6,420 in Atlantic v. Dangler.   Judge Larimer specifically ruled that there were “significant issues of fact” in the record “as to the identification of the defendant from his alleged ‘online media distribution system’ username” heavyjeffinc@KaZaA.  The court points out that there is no evidence presented that established a time period of the alleged distribution and/or infringement nor are there details sufficient to determine whether, in fact, the defendant is the user so identified. 

Because of these deficiencies, Judge Larimer determined that he would hold a hearing to allow the Plaintiffs to establish additional evidence that a copyright violation was committed by the defendant.  You can read the full text of the judge’s order here.

Previously, in August 2007, a similar 55(b)(2) request was denied by Judge Rudi Brewster in Interscope v. Rodriguez in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.  In that case, Judge Brewster held that “Plaintiffs . . . must present at least some facts to show the plausibility of the allegations of copyright infringement against on th[is specific] defendant,” citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007) that more than a mere recitation of the elements of a claim are necessary to find relief.   Basing his decision on facts similar in nature to Dangler, Brewster concluded that the RIAA’s complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

These decisions arise in districts where the judges are, generally speaking, more technically saavy than some other districts where these types of issues do not arise as often.  In a somewhat related case, the Ninth Circuit, the appeals court that has jurisdiction over the California district courts, one bankruptcy court has already established stricter standards of proof for establishing the veracity of computer records.  For more information, see the informative article entitled Admitting Computer Record Evidence after In Re Vinhnee:  A Stricter Standard for the Future?, by Cooper Offenbecher.  In short, this article discusses the interplay between Rules 901 and 803(6) of the Federal Rules of Evidence and their application to digital business records.  Essentially, without getting into the details, there is a hearsay exception for business records allowing their admission as evidence in a trial if they are maintained in the regular course of business and are relied upon by the business.   It is these sorts of dialogues that must inform the judges as they scrutinize the evidence presented by the RIAA in support of infringement claims, whether they be in the course of a default judgment or in the course of a trial.

 

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Earlier this week, Tom Baldrica, vice mcbee president of marketing at Sony BMG, announced that Heather McBee has been promoted to vice president of digital business.  McBee, who has been with the label for 14 years, was formerly senior director of that department.

Baldrica said in a prepared statement:

“I’m so proud of this promotion.  Heather has demonstrated constant growth and leadership skills in building her new media band-of-one into a full-fledged digital business department.

Originally from Clarksburg, West Virginia, McBee interned with BNA Records while attending the music program at Belmont University and was employed as a sales assistant upon her graduation in 1993.  Through various mergers and acquisitions among the various labels, she ended up with Sony BMG.  In 1997 she was picked to head up a newly formed research department which eventually evolved into the Digital Business and New Media department.  She was appointed director of that department in 2003.

A part of Leadership Music’s 2007 Digital Summit, McBee is quoted as saying

I had the fortitude to stick it out when everybody was saying “no.”

McBee credits label group chairman, Joe Galante for allowing her flexibility to prove the viability of her ideas about the future of the industry:

He asks that things be quantified. He gave me freedom to experiment…as long as I tempered my excitement and made it fit our goals and what we were doing.

Among other things, McBee was influential in moving Sony BMG into the cellular ringtone business.

 

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