Black lives matter.
How to Help Like Artists and the Music Industry Are Doing in the Wake of George Floyd’s Death — Billboard compiles a list of efforts from the music community to support protests and calls for reform in policing and racial justice. Many other sectors of the creative community—like publishing, video games, photographers, theatre, libraries, and others—have also responded and called for far greater efforts to address the long history of denying equal respect and dignity to black Americans.
U.S. Copyright Office roundup — my colleagues at the Office are certainly keeping themselves busy. This week, among other things, the Office announced it is soliciting public comments on best practices for the mechanical licensing collective to identify owners of unclaimed royalties under the MMA (the announcement was accompanied by a report on collective rights management practices around the world, which could help inform those best practices); it is also seeking public comments on copyright infringement by states and state entities, following the Supreme Court’s sovereign immunity decision in Allen v. Cooper; and it will be holding its ninth webinar on Copyright Office modernization, focusing this time on “the development of the online Copyright Public Record with a prototype that demonstrates simple keyword search, advanced search, filters, and the new design language of the Enterprise Copyright System.”
AFM & SAG-AFTRA Owes Session Musicians and Background Vocalists $46 Million — Here’s How Eligible Performers Can Get Paid — Under the statutory license for digital performance of sound recordings by noninteractive services like internet radio, “nonfeatured” performers, i.e., session musicians and background vocalists, are entitled to a percentage of royalties collected. A recent settlement has initiated a process to distribute accrued royalties to those performers who are entitled to those royalties but have until now not been identified or locatable. Digital Music News provides information here on how to claim those royalties.
Instagram just threw users of its embedding API under the bus — But at the same time, potentially good news for visual artists. Ars Technica reports, “Instagram tells Ars that it’s exploring the possibility of giving users more control over photograph embedding. Right now, Instagram users can block embedding of their posts by switching their Instagram account to private. But that will also prevent users on the Instagram platform from seeing their content, too, which can be a career liability for professional photographers. Right now, Instagram offers no option to make content public inside the Instagram app while disabling embedding on external websites.”
Copyright Office Releases Report on Section 512 — The report is the culmination of nearly five years of public consultation and study and the first comprehensive study of the 1998 law providing online service providers with safe harbors from liability for copyright infringement by a U.S. government agency.
Ice Cube Says Mister Rogers Once Sued Him For His 1990 Song ‘A Gangsta’s Fairytale’ — The interesting copyright-related anecdote was revealed by the musician during a digital listening party for the 30th anniversary of his album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.
Virtual Music Events Directory [Google Docs] — A highly useful living doc collecting both tools for musicians and speakers to use to hold virtual events during the pandemic as well as calendar and virtual event listings for promoting and finding those events.
Kris Ahrend (The MLC): “We will be ready to deliver on January 1, 2021.” — Emmanuel Legrand speaks with Kris Ahrend, CEO of The MLC, on the progress being made by the startup in preparing for the MMA’s license availability date next January.
Scientists Discover That Visitors to Oslo’s Munch Museum Are Destroying ‘The Scream’ by Breathing on It Way Too Much — They could also be screaming on it.
Feel Like Screaming? Google Has a New Smartphone Filter That Turns You Into Munch’s ‘Scream’ and Other Famous Artworks — Last year’s AI and copyright hypotheticals are today’s apps. (Though the works in this particular app appear to all be in the public domain, so no actual copyright issues here).
Minister’s Widow Can Get Attorneys’ Fees in Ninth Circuit Copyright Case — An issue of first impression for the Ninth Circuit: whether the Copyright Act’s attorney’s fees provision applies to declaratory judgment actions. The court held it does, and remanded to determine whether the copyright owner here can get attorneys fees after defeating a claim of copyright abandonment.
Carnegie Mellon University Libraries Create Remote Book Delivery — “CMU Libraries’ Technical Services team collaborated with the Research and Academic Services department to implement the new service, delivering books to faculty and graduate students. The staff built workflows to check the availability of print material online from approved vendors and to order and process the material, then worked to ensure that patrons’ information is securely acquired so that books can be delivered to their home addresses. Finally, the Technical Services staff developed a checklist for each order to track the book from the original request to the delivery date. Only vendors, including Amazon and ABEBooks, that are willing to ship directly to students can be considered.”
Movie & TV Giants Obtain Court Injunction to Shut Down Nitro TV — Torrentfreak reports, “A coalition of entertainment companies headed up by Universal, Paramount, Columbia, Disney and Amazon has obtained an injunction to shut down ‘pirate’ IPTV service Nitro TV. A court in California has ordered all individuals acting in concert or participation with the service to stop infringing the companies’ copyrights, including by disabling its domains.” From the court decision: “the court must pay particular regard for the public consequences in employing the extraordinary remedy of injunction. The public has a significant interest in the lawful enforcement of United States copyright laws. Conversely, Defendant’s alleged copyright infringement does not offer any lawful benefit to the public. Defendant has offered no lawful personal interest for the Court to consider. Thus, the public interest is best served by an injunction of Nitro TV.” (Internal citations and quotations omitted).
Sohm v. Scholastic, Inc. (2d Cir) [PDF] — In a decision published Tuesday, the Second Circuit joined the Ninth Circuit in holding that the registration of a compilation of photographs by someone who holds the rights to the individual works also effectively registers the underlying individual photos where the compilation does not list the individual authors of the individual photos.
Symposium: Exploring Copyrightability and Scope of Protection — The Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts has published its issue dedicated to Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts annual symposium, held last October. The symposium covered such topics as “whether and how copyright attaches to new and emerging forms of creative expression, as well as doctrines, such as merger and scènes à faire, which may render unprotectable key elements of an otherwise copyrightable work.”
Places a Seuss-Trek Mashup Will Go May Include Back to Court — Bloomberg Law‘s Kyle Jahner covers the recent Ninth Circuit oral arguments in Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix. The court is reviewing the lower court’s decision holding defendants’ mashup of Dr. Seuss and Star Trek to be a fair use.
21 and illegal in all states? The German Pelham court confirms when sampling is illegal — In a sad bit of irony, the decision finding the use of a two-second sample of Kraftwerk’s “Metall auf Metall” (Metal on Metal) infringing came out just days before the world lost Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider.
Copyright in the Age of Artificial Intelligence — The U.S. Copyright Office has posted videos from an all day symposium it co-sponsored with the World Intellectual Property Organization. Tune in to hear discussions regarding “the relationship between AI and copyright; what level of human input is sufficient for the resulting work to be eligible for copyright protection; the challenges and considerations for using copyright-protected works to train a machine or to examine large data sets; and the future of AI and copyright policy.”
YouTube Rippers and Record Labels Clash in US Appeals Court — The question of when U.S. courts have personal jurisdiction over operators of foreign websites took center stage as the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in UMG v. Kurbanov.
Finally, a copyright hypo: A Webcam Company Is Demanding Payment From an Artist Who Used Screenshots From Its Feeds to Document Italy’s Deserted Streets. Are these images protected by copyright?
Opinion analysis: Sharply divided bench rejects Georgia’s copyright in annotations of Georgia statutes — Writing for SCOTUSBlog, Ronald Mann looks at Monday’s Supreme Court decision in Georgia v. Public.Resource.org, which considered when works by government officials are precluded from copyright protection. Read the full opinion here.
Appeals Court Reviews ‘Star Trek’/Dr. Seuss Mashup — Later that same day, the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix. Eriq Gardner takes a look at what went down. View a recording of the arguments yourself here.
Preparing for 2021 — January 1, 2021, is the date the new blanket license created by the Music Modernization Act becomes available. The Mechanical Licensing Collective, which was designated to administer the unprecedented license, has been hard at work gearing up for the launch. Here, they provide some essential steps songwriters and publishers can start taking now to ensure they are getting the royalties they are entitled to when the license becomes available. Be sure to also check out the Copyright Office’s own update on developments regarding the MMA, including a set of notices soliciting public comment that were recently published and an entire page of printed and video materials to explain the MMA and what it means for musicians.
Infogroup $21.2 mln judgment against DatabaseUSA and ousted founder is upheld — Reuters reports on a recent decision from the Eighth Circuit regarding the copyrightability of databases. Read the full decision in Infogroup v. DatabaseLLC here.
The Breakdown: What Songwriters Need to Know about the Music Modernization Act and Royalty Payments — The U.S. Copyright Office introduces the landmark legislation to songwriters and composers, and points to its more comprehensive page of educational resources on the MMA, including print and video materials.
COVID-19 Relief for Music Industry Workers — MSK attorneys Eleanor Lackman and Craig Bradley provide helpful information regarding unemployment compensation and PPP loans under the CARES Act for bands and musicians.
DSM Directive: French Competition Authority orders Google to negotiate Remuneration with Press Publishers — IPKat reviews the decision from the French antitrust agency regarding Google’s actions following France’s implementation of Article 15 of the Digital Single Market Directive, recently adopted by the EU, which provided a press publishers right. Among other conclusions, “The FCA held that Google’s likely dominant position in the market was the reason why Google was able to impose such conditions on the press publishers. As the traffic generated by Google is crucial and non-replaceable for press publishers and news agencies, they have no choice but to comply with the policy and to accept conditions that are even more unfavourable them than the ones that existed before the transposition of the DSM Directive.”
Supreme Court to hear cases on Trump’s financial docs, religious freedom and Electoral College via telephone — Finally, after postponing all oral arguments in light of COVID-19, this week the Supreme Court announced it will resume hearing arguments in a number of cases by telephone. Unfortunately for copyright fans, arguments in Google v. Oracle, which had originally been scheduled for March 26, will not be heard this term; instead, they will be rescheduled for some time after the Court reconvenes for its new term starting in October.
Artist Relief — “To support artists during the COVID-19 crisis, a coalition of national arts grantmakers have come together to create an emergency initiative to offer financial and informational resources to artists across the United States. Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19; serve as an ongoing informational resource; and co-launch the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists.”
Google’s AI can replicate your photos in the style of iconic paintings — When we talk about the intersection of artificial intelligence and copyright, we discuss applications like this. “Art Transfer is a new feature in the Google Arts & Culture app that lets you apply the characteristics of well-known paintings to your photos, from the bold swirls of Vincent van Gogh to the surreal brushstrokes of Frida Kahlo. It’s powered by an algorithmic model that doesn’t just blend images or overlay your photo, but instead produces a unique recreation of the image inspired by the specific art style chosen. And it all happens right on your device—no cloud involved.”
Coronavirus turned these costumers into Hollywood’s ‘mask crusaders’ — “The motion picture industry has been decimated by the coronavirus crisis, which has halted film and television productions worldwide. More than 100,000 cast and crew have lost work and are turning to relief packages set up by unions, independent Go Fund Me efforts and various Hollywood foundations. With no end in sight to the crisis, costumers — whose job is to create and fit costumes for actors on sets — are plying their sewing and design skills to help address the very real shortages of face masks and other protective clothing among medical workers.”
Movie & TV Giants Sue ‘Pirate’ Nitro IPTV For ‘Massive’ Copyright Infringement — TorrentFreak reports, “Late Friday a coalition of entertainment industry companies filed a lawsuit against Alejandro Galindo, the supposed operator of Nitro TV, plus an additional 20 ‘Doe’ defendants. Filed in a California district court by companies owned by Columbia, Amazon, Disney, Paramount, Warner, and Universal, the lawsuit alleges that Nitro TV offers subscription packages consisting of thousands of ‘live and title-curated television channels’ available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the United States and abroad.”
U.S. Copyright Office Operations Updates During the COVID-19 Pandemic — The Copyright Office has created a dedicated page that continually updates with COVID-19 related Office news, such as temporary changes to timing provisions for certain copyright registrations and notices of termination.
An Exhaustive Guide to Coronavirus-Relief Resources for the Music Community — Variety has compiled a set of resources for musicians and songwriters to help them through the pandemic. One of the biggest is Music Covid Relief, a resource supported by over 50 U.S. music organizations.
Hollywood’s Army of Craftspeople Take on COVID-19: ‘We’re the MacGyvers of This Industry’ — “Like virtually everyone in the motion picture industry, costumers and set designers cannot work due to social distancing. As infection counts climbed and news of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) began to surface, people wanted to help. ‘Members started reaching out to me about these desperate pleas for PPE for medical professionals,’ recalls Brown. Though it surely feels longer, that started in the middle of last week. ‘I put a post on Facebook, a call to arms.’ Following an email solicitation to the #705 membership, about 130 people had enlisted.”
‘Emergency’ Online Library Draws Ire of Some Authors — The New York Times reports, “Some early positive coverage of the project noted that it was filling a void, making books accessible at a time when many libraries and bookstores across the country have closed. But authors quickly began criticizing the effort, calling it piracy masquerading as public service. Some argued that the free online library would deprive authors and publishers of royalty payments — at a moment when sales are declining and many writers are struggling.”
Opinion analysis: Congress cannot subject states to suit for pirating and plundering copyrighted material — Writing at SCOTUSBlog, Howard Wasserman breaks down Monday’s decision in Allen v. Cooper, which considered whether states (and state entities) could be sued for copyright infringement. In a unanimous decision (though only a majority opinion), the Court held they could not. Opinion here.
Real-life ‘Glee’ choir wins song-stealing lawsuit — The Ninth Circuit published a decision in Tresona Multimedia, LLC, v. Burbank High School Vocal Music Association holding that, contrary to decades of industry expectations, there is no market for licensing music to be used as part of medleys.
National Recording Registry Class Produces Ultimate ‘Stay at Home’ Playlist — “Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today named these and 20 other recordings as aural treasures worthy of preservation because of their cultural, historical and aesthetic importance to the nation’s recorded sound heritage. ‘The National Recording Registry is the evolving playlist of the American soundscape. It reflects moments in history captured through the voices and sounds of the time,’ said Hayden.”
Copyright Office Updated Fee Schedule Takes Effect Today — On March 20, new fees for Copyright Office services, including registration, went into effect. Check out the link for the new fee schedule to make sure you’re submitting the proper fee and avoid delays in processing.
Update on Friday’s Campaign to Support Artists During the Covid-19 Pandemic — Last week, I noted that indie music platform Bandcamp was waiving its cut of artist sales for 24 hours as a way to provide aid during this pandemic. Here, Bandcamp reports on the results of that waiver: over fifteen times in daily sales, for a total of $4.3 million in music and merch sold.
The world is a lot different than it was a week ago, and that won’t change anytime soon. I hope everyone stays healthy, safe, and secure.
Resources for artists and creators — Media, organizations, and individuals have been compiling lists of resources for the creative community, who along with the general challenges a pandemic brings, face their own set of specific challenges. Just a few: COVID-19 & Freelance Artists is a comprehensive collection that started as a crowd-sourced Google Doc. Billboard compiled a State-by-state Resource Guide for Music Professionals Who Need Help During Coronavirus Crisis. Recording Academy regional chapters have compiled lists of resources for musicians by region: East (Chicago, NY, Philly, DC), South (Memphis, Nashville, Florida, Atlanta), and West (LA, San Francisco, Pacific Northwest, and Texas). The British Journal of Photography has a similar list for photographers. The National Endowment of the Arts has a compilation of compilations of Resources for Artists and Artist Organizations.
The mail must go through — Government can’t stop during a pandemic, though it must adapt to the challenges social distancing brings just as any other organization must. The Copyright Office has a dedicated page for Operations Updates During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The US Patent and Trademark Office also set up a page collecting USPTO Notices Regarding COVID-19. Federal Courts make individual decisions regarding modification of their operations, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has a page dedicated to collecting links to all Court Orders and Updates During COVID-19 Pandemic. For general information, visit the Center for Disease Control’s dedicated page at Coronavirus.gov. For other federal government initiatives, see USA.gov/coronavirus (and Spanish language version). For general state and local government updates, your best bet is to start with your local Congressional representative website, many of which have compiled lists of updates and links as a constituent service.