The key stories from the last week in the music business…
Amazon announced a rejig of the music service it offers as part of its Prime membership scheme. Previously Prime members got access to about two million tracks on-demand. Moving forward they will be able to access the same catalogue as the main Amazon music streaming service – so 100 million tracks – but only on ‘shuffle’, so it basically becomes a limited functionality personalised radio service. VP of Amazon Music Steve Boom said: “When Amazon Music first launched for Prime members, we offered an ad-free catalogue of two million songs, which was completely unique for music streaming at the time. We continue to innovate on behalf of our customers, and to bring even more entertainment to Prime members, on top of the convenience and value they already enjoy”. [READ MORE]
The US record industry won $46.8 million in damages from American internet service provider Grande Communications. It was one of the ISPs sued by the major record companies following the earlier ruling against Cox Communications. Both Cox and Grande were accused of not doing enough to deal with repeat copyright infringers among their respective customer bases. As a result, the labels argued, they should not enjoy protection under the copyright safe harbour, the principle that says that internet companies cannot be held liable for the copyright infringement of their users. Like with Cox, a jury decided that Grande’s slack systems for dealing with repeat infringers meant it lost safe harbour protection and could therefore be held liable for the infringement of over 1400 tracks by its users, to the tune of nearly $46.8 million. The Recording Industry Association Of America said the ruling was “the latest validation by US courts and juries that unchecked online infringement will not stand”. [READ MORE]
A new study by economist Will Page estimated that global music copyright revenues in 2021 nearly reached $40 billion, up 18% on 2020. Page’s now annual study aggregates data from various sources to estimate the value of the wider music copyright sector, so that it accounts for all the revenues that come in from the exploitation of both recordings and songs. For the first time he also factored in revenues from production music companies that operate outside the collective licensing system, such as Epidemic Sound. The new study also estimated that, of the $39.6 billion generated by music rights, 66% came from recordings, with 34% from songs. That compares to a recording/songs ratio of 64.9%/35.1% in 2020 – and 55%/45% in 2014 when Page first did this study. Much of the wider industry growth is down to streaming, where a bigger cut of revenue is allocated to recordings; while the revenue streams that favour songs, such as live and public performance, were most hit by the COVID pandemic. [READ MORE]
The US music industry published an open letter under the banner Protect Black Art calling for restrictions on the use of lyrics in criminal cases in all American courts. There has been increased concern in recent years about US prosecutors using a defendant’s creative output as evidence in criminal cases. Doing so tends to prejudice against rappers, because people are prone to assume, wrongly, that rap lyrics are more rooted in reality than lyrics in other genres. California recently introduced restrictions on the use of lyrics as evidence in its courts, and similar proposals have been made in New York State and on a US-wide level in Congress in Washington. An open letter backed by a plethora of artists, music companies and industry organisations called for a US-wide change to the law in this domain. [READ MORE]
The major labels urged an American court to order stream-ripping site Yout to cover its legal costs following a recent copyright dispute. Yout sued the Recording Industry Association Of America after it sought to get the stream-ripper de-listed from Google search on copyright grounds. The labels argued that Yout breaks US copyright law by helping people to circumvent technical protection measures put in place by YouTube to stop users downloading permanent copies of temporary streams. Yout countered that YouTube didn’t actually have any such measures to circumvent, but the court did not concur, ruling in favour of the labels. The RIAA now argues that Yout’s claims that it doesn’t circumvent any technical protection measures were always ridiculous and therefore its lawsuit was “meritless” and, as a result, it should cover the label trade group’s legal costs. [READ MORE]
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