Explaining Copyright Term and Fair Use

In this http://www.artistshousemusic.org interview, Maggie Lange, an attorney and Professor of Music Business/Management at Berklee College of Music, explains how copyright term (that is, the duration for which a work remains under exclusive ownership) works, and sketches out some “fair use” exceptions to the five exclusive rights granted to copyright owners under law.

Understanding Copyright Law and Exclusive Rights

In this http://www.artistshousemusic.org interview, Maggie Lange, an attorney and Professor of Music Business/Management at Berklee College of Music, explains the five “exclusive rights” that the law grants to a copyright holder, as well as some of the exceptions and additions that apply to music, such as the compulsory mechanical license and minimum statutory rate clauses.
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Australian Copyright Amendment

4841330621_2c1e2f7a62_oThe Australian Senate has recently passed a Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill, which could soon force ISPs to block website which are deemed to be ‘facilitating piracy.’

This new bill will allow copyright holders, such as film studios and record labels, to apply to the Federal Court for an injunction requiring all Australian ISPs to block overseas website facilitating piracy. In order for the website to be blocked, the Rights holders must be able to prove to the court that the primary purpose of the website in question is to facilitate copyright infringement. Furthermore, the court will also factor whether the site’s operator has a “disregard” for copyright and the “flagrancy” of infringement that it allows.

While this law will not really affect anyone in the immediate future, numerous sites that facilitate copyright material may soon disappear. If the court’s order ISPs to block a website, then Australian Internet users will be met with dead ends to these websites, meaning they will no longer be available. The bill is designed to target BitTorrent sites, such as the Pirate Bay, which gives users access to enormous amounts of copyrighted material for free.

If you live in Australia and would like to learn more about how this new bill may affect you then check out this article.

Three Important Music Copyright Laws

If you are a musician or business owner that enjoys playing other artists music, then make sure you check out this list of music copyright laws to ensure that you are not breaking any laws. While you may think that your performances are playing within the rules, song owners have more rights over their work than you think. Here are is some key information that you will definitely want to know.

1) The Performance Right

Pink Floyd, Earls Court 1973Many musicians believe they have the right to perform any song, in any place, at any time. However, the right to perform songs depends on the individual song owners, not the performers. Song owners are entitled to collect royalties for all public performances of their songs. This means that performers need licenses from the song owners in order to legally be allowed to perform them.

Business owners and musicians need to be aware that they are required to pay for performance licenses if they want to play music for their customers. If your band ends up performing at a bar, restaurant or party, then you will want to ensure the venue has paid for a performance license before you play any cover songs.

2 – The Right to Make Changes to Others’ Songs

music-musical-instrument-guitar-soundsMaking changes to the lyrics or melody of a song may seem like a good way to leave your personal mark or show your unique artistic talent on a song, but you actually still need permission from song owners before changing inherent parts of the song. While there are some things that you can change, such as tempo and key, anything that alters the fundamental bones of the song requires that you get in contact with the song owners first. Keep in mind that you should be prepared to pay a fee to the song owners for the privilege of making changes to the song.

3 – Fair Use

downloadFair use is one of the tricker and most commonly misunderstood parts about copyright law. There are no hard and fast rules about what is fair use really is. In fact, the courts evaluate fair use on a case-by-case basis, weighing factors four factors to determine fair use.

The court evaluates fair use on the following criteria: whether the use is for commercial or nonprofit/educational purposes and how the use will affect the value of the original work, nature of the copyrighted work, amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Whenever you make a lot of money or gain fame and influence by borrowing someone else’s idea, there is a good chance that someone will take legal action against you. It is always best to err on the side of caution by asking for permission before making changes to someone else’s work.

Fair Play, Fair Pay

Christopher Sabec Fair Pay, Fair PlayToday marks a historic day in the eyes of the music industry, as four members of Congress introduced a bi-partisan piece of legislation called the “Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015.” The four members of Congress responsible for introducing the legislation were House Democrats Ted Deutch, Jerrold Nadler, and John Conyers Jr. and House Republican Marsha Blackburn. If the act passes, it would require radio stations to pay musicians for their songs played on the radio.  The act would also force all forms of radio to pay royalties on master recordings made after 1972, and do away with discounted rates paid by certain digital services to artists and musicians.

There is a short list of countries that don’t pay their artists for AM/FM radio airplay, and the United States is the only democratic country where this exists. The other countries include North Korea, Iran, Rwanda, Vietnam, and China. The United States has held this position for almost a century, and this act is a step forward towards change in the music industry. Because of the laws instilled in the United States, artists also don’t get paid for their songs played on the radio abroad. Since the US music industry imports more music than they export, the music economy in the US suffers due to this.

The executive director of musicFirst Coalition, Ted Kalo said, “The bill is designated to return the music licensing system to a basic principal of Fair Play, Fair Pay.”  People assume that artists are rich if their music gets played all over the world, but this is not necessarily the case coming from the United States.

Rightscorp Increases Revenue by 282% in Q3

Rightscorp, the copyright monetization company in Santa Monica has just increased the quantity of Internet Service Providers helping them combat illegal downloading of copyrighted material. At the beginning of the year, they had about 150 ISP participating in their cause, now they have over 200. This demonstrates a 33% growth in ISP participation for the company. Growth in ISP participation is a fundamental metric for company growth because an additional ISP represents thousands of potential copyright infringements that provide revenue for the company. Currently, Rightscorp represents about 15% of the Internet Service Providers in the country.

Copyright infringers take up a lot of bandwidth from their Internet Service Provider, so they have an incentive to fight copyright infringement using Rightscorp’s digital loss prevention technology. Rightscorp represents over 1.5 million copyright holders, partnering with platinum recording artists, major motion picture studios, award winning movies and authors, the country’s top TV shows, and many more. The company has closed well over 130,000 copyright infringement cases.

At the end of September, the company announced their third quarter earning results. Their three major metrics for growth are ISP participation, settlements closed and quantity of copyrights. The company announced that their year-over-year revenue growth was equal to 282%. The company was able to increase the amount of copyrights that their company held from 21,000 last year to 160,000 this year. The company closed 130,000 cases of copyright infringement cases, which was up from 75,000 last year. Considering the aforementioned increase in ISP participation, the company has well increased their three metrics used for revenue growth. With continued hard work and dedication to provide fair justice for copyright holders, Rightscorp is hoping to build on their most recent success and continue to grow.

Google is Linking its Users to Illegal Pirating Websites

Christopher Sabec Google Online PiratingIn a recent study done by MusicTechPolicy there seems to be some interesting connections between Google and online pirating websites. It seems that Google is helping these pirating sites by driving traffic towards the sites via Google alerts. Google alerts are emails that Google can send its users through data analytics. Users can set their Google alerts for whatever they desire, and when the alert appears, the option to share it to social media is readily available. In some cases, Google even send a link that might be relevant to the requested alert. In some cases, the link might even be to an illegal downloading site.

This could be coincidence because Google might not have the capabilities to know that the site it is endorsing is an online pirating site. There is more data to suggest otherwise. By looking at Google’s “Transparency Report,” one can see that in the last 30 days, Google has received more than 31 million Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices to disable certain links. One can even go more in-depth to see how many times Google has received a notice for the particular illegal website that they are sending to its users. Google has received and acknowledges 1,161,250 DMCA notices that the site that they are sending to its users violates copyright law.

Twitter and Facebook are also promoting these illegal downloading websites because they link to Google alerts. It is a tough battle for copyright lawyers out there as even the biggest search engine that seems to have a monopoly on online searches is promoting these illegal pirating websites.

These days, it is very difficult for artists to make any money online because of these pirating sites. The fact that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are promoting these sites only makes it more difficult for artists. Digital sales revenue is dropping in the music industry. Physical music product sales (like CDs and vinyl’s) are developing greater revenue.

Independent Record Labels vs. Youtube: The Fight for Money

Christopher Sabec YoutubeIn a recent article by Billboard Biz, Youtube might “take down” music from independent music labels. This is all in light of Youtube’s recent subscription service launch. If the rates that Youtube is offering are not fully compensated for the paid subscription service then Youtube will not be “supporting” them any longer on Youtube’s ad-supported streaming service. A service that pays hundreds of millions of dollars a year to labels and publishers. Not only will this hurt the independent labels that use the site to promote their artists and videos but Youtube will keep the videos up on the site without backing the label with advertisers.
In order to defend themselves, Youtube will stand by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and will only take down the music when they are notified by the rights owner. The independent labels either can take down their music or leave their music on the site with no compensation from Youtube. It is a tricky situation. After the service launch, there have been many independent labels complaining about the way Youtube is handling the situation and they are trying to get government regulatory agencies to look at Youtube’s businesses tactics in the way they set up the subscriptions service. However, not all indie labels are upset with Youtube. Other online streaming services, such as Spotify, don’t give labels the option to be on the premium service rather than the ad-supported part of their model. Labels state that Youtube is “going backwards” with their business model. This means that Youtube built and developed the “free” part of their model first and then figured out how to make money by converting the site to an ad-supported model. On the other hand, other streaming services have offered indie labels lower rates than other established labels. Moving forward, hopefully something can be done to help indie labels not have to suffer when big names like Youtube and spotify want to turn a profit on their content.

A Fight Against The Pirate Bay and Illegal Downloading

Christopher Sabec The Pirate BayIn a recent article posted by The Trichordist a website whose mission statement is “artists for an ethical and sustainable internet,” music pirating and how it affects artists is discussed. Lindy Morrison recently received the Ted Albert award at the APRA Music Awards in Brisbane for her contribution to the music industry. She was deeply honored that her work had been recognized, including her work as an advocate musicians’ rights. Morrison has worked for many years to ensure that music creators’ rights have been safeguarded and that they receive compensation when their work is used by others. She states that people want to know all the time “what it takes” to work in the industry. She replies by discussing the length of time is takes to build the skills it takes to create and record songs, the discipline in takes in rehearsals and lastly the management skills in order to keep bands on the road and the constant support and tenacity the bandmates will need throughout the years to keep making music.

In addition to discussion all of these skills, she also asks them to think about copyright laws and how they could affect musicians in protecting their music. She urges her proteges to make sure they are paid, know what their rights are, knowing how their payments are collected and passed  back to them and lastly how to know when their work has been taken without their permission. However, it is difficult, especially for artists in Australia to know/find out when their work has been taken away from them without their permission. It is difficult because it is constantly being done on the internet everyday. Morrison explains that she does not hate the internet, in fact she loves it when people discover her band, the Go-Betweens on the net but that instead of illegally downloading artists music, discovering their music through licensed websites that give back to the artists. In Australia, there is very little a musician can do in order to stop someone from illegally downloading their music. The scamming websites make a lot of money through advertising and don’t give any of it back to the artists.Morrison feels upset when she says her friends and fellow musicians being scammed by these kinds of pirating websites. It is time that people start drawing their focus on how copyright laws can improve and help artists in the future. Morrison believes that more people should support musician’s rights because she wants to see people’s rights being protected in “practical and meaningful ways.” Moving forward, time will tell if this will actually happen.

This blog post is based off of this article.