Earlier this month, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) introduced the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2016” or “CASE Act”, which would create a small claims court facilitated by the Copyright Office for federal copyright-related claims as a voluntary alternative to the federal court system.
Kevin Erickson, National Organizing Director for Future of Music Coalition made the following statement: read more
When legal battles about copyright infringement make the news, they tend to concern big stars. big hits, and big dollar amounts, from Robin Thicke vs. Marvin Gaye’s estate, to Led Zeppelin’s successful defense of their authorship of”Stairway to Heaven.”
Those charges rise quickly when a case takes years to wind through the courts. When photographer Daniel Morel won a $1.2 judgment after a 5-year legal battle against AFP and Getty Images, his law firm had racked up some $2.5 million in legal costs. However, even though the jury had found AFP and Getty had willfully violated his copyright, the court refused to grant him attorneys fees. This left the law firm that worked with Morel with little hope of collecting on the more than 3,800 hours of work they had put into the case.
This is bad news for both plaintiffs, who often can’t afford to file a lawsuit at all, as well as defendants, who are regularly targeted for hefty damages to justify the expenses. For many musicians and composers, this all means that legal recourse, even in clear cases of copyright infringement, may be out of reach.
In the United States, most copyright law deals exclusively with “economic rights”, or rights associated with the money and the economic value of creative work. These rights are incredibly important as they allow creators to prevent others copying/distributing their works, making new works based upon their creation and publicly performing it without a license.
These rights are why rightsholders can sue to block unlicensed CDs from being printed and why songs can’t be covered without a license fee to the songwriter.
But money isn’t everything. Elsewhere in the world, creators may enjoy a separate set of rights known as “moral rights.” The term comes from the French language and might actually be better translated as “personality rights”; this set of rights ensures that artists are able to protect their reputation by ensuring that they receive attribution when their work is used and that they can object to uses that they see as harmful to their name.
In July 2013, Future of Music Coalition launched the Money from Music Quizzes, four online questionnaires that were designed to test how much musicians knew about money and music, and the copyright laws, licenses and agreements that frequently determine who gets paid, and how much. Today, we are publishing a report that analyzes the results over the first 18 months.
FMC’s goals with this project were twofold. We hoped to:
(1) educate musicians about some common – but often misunderstood – copyright and revenue stream issues in a fun and challenging way read more
Commercial soft rock radio stations around the country frequently play Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” – a song written by Dolly Parton. Who receives public performance royalties for this consistent terrestrial airplay of the song?
A. Dolly Parton and Dolly’s publisher
B. The estate of Whitney Houston, the performer
C. The record label that released Whitney’s recording (Arista)
D. All of the above: (1) Dolly, (2) Dolly’s publisher, (3) Whitney’s estate and (4) Arista read more
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held its second hearing on music licensing on June 25, welcoming input from a variety of interest groups and organizations as a continuation of the ongoing reexamination of our country’s copyright system. You can find our coverage of the prior hearing here.
Nine witnesses testified before the committee, offering opinions that varied in focus but all highlighted major areas of potential reform. Witnesses for this hearing included singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash representing the Americana Music Association, Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA), Charles Warfield on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Darius Van Arman on behalf of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Ed Christian of the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), Paul Williams as President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Chris Harrison of Pandora, President of SoundExchangeMichael Huppe, and David Frear, CFO of Sirius XM.
by Kevin Erickson, Communications Associate & Jordan Reth, Policy Fellow
You may remember back in March 2013, when Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante—our nation’s highest ranking copyright official—told the House Judiciary Subcomittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, “Music licensing is so complicated and broken that if we get that right, we can get the whole [copyright] statute right.”
Well, after more than a year of hearings examining the nation’s copyright laws from many different angles, that same subcommittee finally tackled music licensing directly on June 10. It was a wide-ranging discussion, touching on multiple pieces of legislation currently under consideration, offering a preview of legislation around the corner, and laying out a range of views of how music licensing ought to be structured.
Future of Music Coalition submitted the following testimony in June 10 and June 25, 2014 House Judiciary subcommittee hearings on “Music Licensing Under Title 17, Part One and Two.” As Congress reviews existing copyright law, we recommend that it consider the needs of creators alongside the goal of expanding the legitimate digital marketplace.
Chairman Coble, Vice-Chairman Marino and members of the committee, it is a privilege to submit the following testimony for the record in this important hearing on music licensing.read more
Tuesday’s session was somewhat more focused than previous hearings, but was unfortunately cut short due to a scheduled floor vote. Although it didn’t go into as much depth as we’d have liked, the hearing offered valuable perspectives on an often contentious subject.
Witnesses on the panel included law professors Peter Jazsi and June Besek, author Naomi Novik representing the Organization for Transformative Works, songwriter and musician David Lowery of Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven and Kurt Wimmer of the Newspaper Association of America.
As we mentioned, fair use is a unique legal exception allowing artists and others to make use of copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the author or rightsholder. But fair use doesn’t mean you can just use whatever you want whenever you please—there are four specific factors that courts weigh to make determinations about the “fairness” of a use. (Check ‘em out here.)
Fair use has produced a lot of debate, from 2 Live Crew’s “Oh Pretty Woman” parody to controversies over mass digitization to the recent Beastie Boys vs Goldieblox dispute. As ranking member Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) noted, the flexibility of fair use is a strength. A weakness is that that it doesn’t always provide perfect clarity. This might be why fair use tends to be poorly understood by the general population.