There are a lot of music—what? Not purists, exactly. And not scholars. I guess music…grouches—out there crowing about the recent ruling against Robin Thicke and Pharrell re: “Blurred Lines.” I love Marvin Gaye as much as the next guy and also believe artists should be compensated for their work, but this verdict is nonsense. And the scale of it borders on dangerous.
The core of the case seems to be centered on whether Thicke and Pharrell “stole” Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up” as the foundation for the massively popular “Blurred Lines.” A jury sided with the Gaye estate and awarded them a $7.3 million settlement. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the music industry the last decade-plus but I can tell you making $7 million on any one song is quite a feat. The award basically negates any original contribution Thicke and Pharrell brought to “Blurred Lines.” You can find lots of debate about song structure, melody and scales elsewhere. The important thing to consider is that songwriters now need to document and compensate any and all sources of inspiration or face legal jeopardy.
Now back to those gloating about another upstart “entertainer” (vs. artist) getting what’s coming to him. Consider the number of songs from your favorite (read: legitimate) artists that might not be here if held to the same standard applied to “Blurred Lines.” You can Google how many times Keith Richards has acknowledged nicking riffs from Chuck Berry, and I won’t even get into Led Zeppelin’s long history of “borrowing” from their idols. Just consider two songs from our most beloved band, The Beatles.
If that riff doesn’t sound familiar then you need to go back and listen to “I Feel Fine” again.
In case anyone’s confused about why Dave Grohl, Krist Noveselic, and now reportedly Courtney Love (who approved the deal) would care about the use of Kurt Cobain‘s likeness in Guitar Hero need look no further than this video:
Love has threatened to sue Activision for allowing Cobain to be used in Guitar Hero 5 to sing songs by other artists, which baffles Guitar Hero CEO Dan Rosensweig who told the NME that Cobain’s estate (controlled by Courtney Love) was fully aware of the terms of the contract to license Cobain’s likeness and that she “cashed the check.”
Despite the fact that you can stream the album in its entirety right now at NPR, it looks like Dark Night of the Soul, the collaboration between Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, and David Lynch with vocals by James Mercer, Wayne Coyne, Gruff Rhys, Jason Lytle, Julian Casablancas, Frank Black, Iggy Pop, Nina Persson, Suzanne Vega, and Vic Chesnutt, is being scrapped due to a legal dispute with EMI.
Perhaps out of spite or maybe just acknowledging the fact that people who want to hear this music already know how to download it, Danger Mouse is releasing a blank CDR along with the 100-page book of David Lynch’s photos for $50.
This whole thing just seems preposterous. EMI couldn’t work out an arrangement to get this officially released? Or did Danger Mouse just forget to read the fine print on a contract? Either way, it’s a shame. The stream sounds really good: more Sparklehorse than Gnarls Barklay, if you know what I mean.
“I know exactly as much as everyone else does. I’ve read the news and I honestly have no idea what these claims are based on. It was such a long time ago. Aside from everything else, I’m being sued for not paying someone for appearing in a movie I didn’t produce. Go figure. I am truly sad it has come to this. I am equally convinced, however, that I have done nothing wrong and that this will be handled fairly and swiftly.”
MP3.com founder and current MP3Tunes CEO Michael Robertson has counter-sued EMI for distributing free MP3s via MP3 blogs and its own sites, and allowing anyone to download them, “except, apparently, MP3tunes”:
MP3Tunes has made detailed factual allegations that EMI and its affiliates have been engaging in massive free distribution, over the internet, using its own websites, using music blogs and other third party sites, and employing paid content delivery networks, of its song files, including the song files which it alleges MP3 is infringing.
Read the full 10-page declaration (PDF) which provides details of specific song files, including the URLs from which they are distributed. We helpfully link to them after the jump.
On September 8, 2003, the recording industry sued 261 American music fans for sharing songs on peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks, kicking off an unprecedented legal campaign against the people that should be the recording industry’s best customers: music fans. Five years later, the recording industry has filed, settled, or threatened legal actions against at least 30,000 individuals. These individuals have included children, grandparents, unemployed single mothers, college professors—a random selection from the millions of Americans who have used P2P networks. And there’s no end in sight; new lawsuits are filed monthly, and now they are supplemented by a flood of “pre-litigation” settlement letters designed to extract settlements without any need to enter a courtroom.
But suing music fans has proven to be an ineffective response to unauthorized P2P file-sharing. Downloading from P2P networks is more popular than ever, despite the widespread public awareness of lawsuits.4 And the lawsuit campaign has not resulted in any royalties to artists. One thing has become clear: suing music fans is no answer to the P2P dilemma.
We first alerted you to this ongoing legal campaign back in June of 2003, when the RIAA first began “gathering evidence and preparing lawsuits.” Five years later, every single thing the RIAA has done in this process has backfired. The EFF advocates “a voluntary collective licensing regime as a mechanism that would fairly compensate artists and rightsholders for P2P file sharing.” Fans could opt in for something like $5/month and the RIAA would agree not to sue them.
What do you think? How much would you be willing to pay?
Well, the RIAA didn’t technically lose the trial, but a federal judge declared a mistrial and threw out the verdict against a Kazaa user who had been ordered to pay the recording industry $222,000 for allegedly sharing music online:
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Duluth, Minn., declared a mistrial in the case against Thomas, who was charged in October with violating copyright law by making 24 songs available for others to download on the Kazaa network.
Davis set aside the verdict on the grounds that he misguided the jury, telling jurors that simply the act of making a copyrighted song available for sharing amounts to infringement.
Looks like that “Making Available” case that the RIAA lost back in April is setting a precedent. Just because someone made files available doesn’t prove that anybody actually downloaded them.
Just when we’d almost forgotten that they were ever even in the band, James Iha and D’Arcy Wretzky-Brown have sued Virgin Records for not paying them for “music downloads and other digitally delivered Smashing Pumpkins music.”
Iha and Wretzky-Brown, who were founding members of the Smashing Pumpkins, said in their lawsuit that, five years after the band first broke up in 2000, Virgin entered into a deal with Billy Corgan, 41, and began licensing Smashing Pumpkins music through electronic transmissions.
“To date, Virgin continues to engage in the exploitation of electronic transmissions of the band’s recordings without plaintiffs’ consent,” the lawsuit states.
In its ruling (PDF), the district court found that the initial recipients of “promo CDs” own them, notwithstanding “not for resale” labels. The court rejected the notion that these labels create a “license,” concluding that the CDs are gifts. According to the opinion, “UMG gives the Promo CDs to music industry insiders, never to be returned. … Nor does the licensing label require the recipient to provide UMG with any benefit to retain possession.” (The court also found that federal postal laws relating to “unordered merchandise” establish that promo CDs are gifts to their recipients.)
So there you have it. If anybody wants to buy a bunch of crappy CDs (cheap!), we can hook you up…