Last week, beloved musical humorist “Weird Al” Yankovic dropped his new album Mandatory Fun. Propelled by a set of eight viral videos, it quickly rose to the top spot on the Billboard charts, his first ever #1, with over 104,000 album sales. Al recently told the New York Times, “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, I’m on the bleeding edge of marketing, this is going to be a business model that will change the world.” But as a longtime (possibly obssessive?) fan of Al, I’d suggest there’s still a few things we can learn from him. read more
Maybe it was in celebration of International Happiness Day, or maybe it was just coincidence, but this week saw three high-profile copyright cases all resolved through out-of-court settlements.
First, upstart toy company GoldieBloxsettled with Beastie Boys over the unauthorized use of a version of the Beasties song “Girls” with altered lyrics in an online ad video. As we reported in December, the case was framed initially as a question of whether the video qualified as fair use, but it also raised issues of trademark infringement, false endorsement, unfair competition, and misappropriation of publicity rights. In the end, the Beasties got what The Hollywood Reporteroriginally reported that they were after: a donation by Goldieblox to a charity of the Beasties’ choice, based on a percentage of revenue, and a more substantive apology:
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.
On January 28, 2014, Future of Music Coalition submitted written testimony to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet in its hearing on “The Scope of Fair Use.”
House Subcommittee on the Courts,
Intellectual Property and the Internet
2138 Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
January 28, 2013
Dear Chairman Goodlatte, subcommittee Chairmen Coble and Marino and members of the committee:
We are honored to submit the following testimony for the record in this hearing on the scope of fair use. read more
Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, The Internet, & Intellectual Property
Sunday, July 20, 2014
FMC has been closely monitoring the Subcommittee’s ongoing review of the Copyright Act, with special attention to musicians’ needs and perspectives. Here’s a chronology of events so far, with links to our coverage and commentary, along with video of the archived hearings.
Here at FMC, we regularly engage in a kind of protracted dialog with government through public comments and other filings that can extend over years (actually, thirteen and counting!). While we don’t claim to have all the answers, we do believe that our history of direct engagement with musicians, composers, independent labels, publishers, PROs, unions and others is useful for policymakers to consider as they grapple with the many questions facing creators in the digital age.
On Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2013, FMCfiled comments with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) regarding their recent “green paper”—itself a product of the Internet Policy Task Force comprised of USPTO, the Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Way back in 2010, we filed comments in the original proceeding that resulted in this year’s report, Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy [PDF].
Future of Music Coalition filed the following comments with the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) in an inquiry related to a previously published “green paper” from the Internet Policy Taks Force (a joint effort also including the United States Copyright Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration).
[UPDATE: Read our written testimony before the committee here.]
On Wednesday September 18, The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held a hearing to discuss “The Role of Voluntary Agreements in the U.S. Intellectual Property System.”
Uh-oh, did we lose you already? Hearings always sound boring; they don’t have punchy names like SXSW panels, but we promise this one was relevant to musicians, fans, and Internet users. Keep reading. read more
“The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art—many dos and dont’s.” – High Fidelity
This is the essentially the argument made by dance record label Ministry of Sound in their lawsuit against Spotify in the United Kingdom. Most of the label’s profits come from selling compilations featuring artists they haven’t signed—albums with names like Running Trax 2013, Clubbers Guide and Chilled House Classics.
“We painstakingly create, compile and market our [compilation] albums all over the world,” wrote Ministry of Sound chief executive Lohan Presencer in his Guardian Op-Ed.“Millions trust our brands, our taste and our selection.” (Note: Lohan Presencer is only a slightly-less awesome name than Benedict Cumberbatch.)
According to Presencer, the effort that goes into this curation process is intellectual property that needs to be protected.
Having had time to digest a 100+ page report on digital copyright policy, we can report back that this “green paper” covers a range of issues around copyright and technology with an understanding of the complexities for creators. The report is a product of the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) with input from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). We wouldn’t say that the green paper is a good beach read — and not just because it’s after Labor Day — but it does lay out very clearly the challenges and opportunities of the digital marketplace.
Of course, we’re mostly concerned about how these issues impact musicians and composers. This is why we’re also delighted to announce that one of the contributors to this report, Shira Perlmutter, Chief Policy Officer and Director of International Affairs at USPTO, is going to give a keynote at the Future of Music Summit (Oct. 28-29, Georgetown University, Washington, DC). Don’t miss the chance to hear from the horse’s mouth about how executive branch agencies are dealing with the issues that impact YOUR livelihood — registration is open now (with a limited number of musician scholarships available)!