royalties

Another Cash Grab?

The Copyright Act is being reviewed by the Canadian Government and some Canadians are of course concerned that this will include an extension of private copying levies to cell phones and the possibility of websites being blocked for minor copyright violations.

Unfortunately the government has been pretty quiet about this since their December 17th, 2017 press release and I didn’t want to speculate. But a line in the sand needs to be drawn, regardless of what is and isn’t being considered in the closed door meetings they might be having with foreign lobbyists.

I don’t think cell phones should be subject to the private copying levy because streaming is the preferred method of obtaining music on this device according to Music Canada, some customers listening to radio on these devices. And the possibility of having my site blocked because I accidentally linked a site that decided to offer pirated music is just absurd but these kind of proposals have been made in other countries.

This isn’t about giving artists more of their dues but giving labels more money. And streaming is where the improvements are needed when it comes to royalties for artists, so I see no point in levying cell phone storage.

The Copyright Board proposed levying hard drives and microSD memory cards in 2014 but that propose was rejected because a “recording audio medium” is defined by Part VIII, Section 79 of the Copyright Act as “a recording medium, regardless of its material form, onto which a sound recording may be reproduced and that is of a kind ordinarily used by individual consumers for that purpose”.

A cell phone’s primary function is communication, not the receipt, storage and playback of music. And this device is also used to take and view photographs and videos.

It makes no sense to levy this device for royalties for music and nothing else. And this slippery slope is not advantageous for consumers, who would object to paying levies for storing photographs, video and games on their new smartphone, or tablet.

I don’t like being gouged on data fees so I don’t listen to music, watch videos or play video games on mine now. And I seriously doubt i’d enjoy paying more for a newer model, for services I wouldn’t use.

Do we really want to burden the cell phone industry with this? And when it comes to blocking, this can be bypassed with Virtual Private Network services, so is the government going to go after those as well in the name of copyright?

VPNs are used by people who travel and use public wi-fi, for security reasons. Do we really want to loose access to this service over piracy? When a sharp decline in music piracy was observed in 2017 by Music Canada?

A form has been made available by Open Media to provide comments to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on these issues.

Please submit this form and share this link and your opinions on social media before September 17th, 2018. Thank you.

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Fairness Rocks

So, have you guys heard of an independent film called “This Is Spinal Tap” ?

I guess you haven’t heard of this film because according to French media company StudioCanal it allegedly only made US$98 dollars in soundtrack and US$81 in general merchandise sales since it was released 34 years ago.

Yes, the Vivendi subsidiary allegedly stated the vinyl, cassette, compact disc, VHS, laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray sales were that low. A rather interesting claim seeing that I managed to purchase Spinal Tap recordings and merchandise over the past few years, with little to no effort.

Seriously, this is a critically acclaimed film that has had a cult following since it premiered in theatres in March 1984. The quoted figures can’t be right so what happened ?

A lawsuit has just been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by actor, writer and composer Harry Shearer alleging StudioCanal had “engaged in anti-competitive and unfair business practices, as well as fraudulent accounting, directly related to its management of the cult-classic film, This Is Spinal Tap.”

Harry Shearer co-created Spinal Tap with Christopher Guest and Michael McKean in 1978, co-wrote the film’s soundtrack and portrayed the cucumber packing bass player Derek Smalls in the film itself :

“Almost 40 years ago, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner and I created the somewhat legendary band Spinal Tap,” said Shearer. “We thought there was something real and really funny about the characters, and between that inception and the theatrical release of This Is Spinal Tap in 1984, we poured ourselves into nurturing and perfecting the paean to rock loudness that has entertained so many people, even today. But despite the widespread success of the film and its music, we’ve fallen victim to the same sort of fuzzy and falsified entertainment industry accounting schemes that have bedevilled so many other creators. In this instance, the fraud and negligence were just too egregious to ignore. Also, this time, it was personal.” – Press Release 10/2016

As a fan I had hoped that the creators of Spinal Tap had been properly compensated, ensuring the possibility of more sequels. But it as pretty much become the norm in the entertainment industry for creators to get crumbs for their work, making fans like yours truly wonder where content will come from in the future.

Yes, people will continue to write screenplays and compose music but the channels that most fan use to access material are controlled by the major players. And it appears that to have one’s material distributed one must get naked in a desert and hope the vultures won’t come in for a snack.

So what’s a fan to do ?

I, for one, had previously decided to wait for a blu-ray release that included the “Break Like A Wind” music videos, being quite content with the special edition DVD I had purchased years back. And i’m hoping that this will all work out so I will have the opportunity to complete my collection. But for now i’ve decided to only link the official case website, instead of posting links encouraging the purchase of the Spinal Tap film and soundtracks.

I support fair compensation for content creators, whether it is for music or for film, and will actively discuss and promote campaigns for both. I encourage fans to do so as well through their social media accounts.

Vinyl Sales Back But…

AOL UK Finance report that sales of vinyl have returned to the level they have back in the states in 1988. But recording artists aren’t getting much of anything from streaming.

Back when I heard streaming was going to go legit and a royalty scheme was in the works, I had assumed that they would get rates like that of radio. Those were acceptable rates. But for some reason considerably lower rates were adopted for streaming and artists get pretty much nothing, as made apparent by Cracker’s “Low” royalties – Pun not intended.

That band’s single streamed a million times on Pandora and the guitarist of the band reported on his blog that he got US$16.89 for those streams ; Less than the amount of royalties obtained from a t-shirt sale, according to this 2013 blog entry.

The Spotify royalties were slightly better for “Low“, at US$12.05 for just over 116 thousand streams. But that is still quite low.

I guess all one can do to support their favourite artists is to buy their merchandise and see them live.

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Spotify Sued, Again

Music Business Worldwide reports that Spotify is facing a second class action lawsuit over royalties.

The first was filed by Camper Van Beethoven songwriter and frontman David Lowery on December 28th, 2015 for US$150 Million and the second was filed by songwriter and publishing company owner Melissa Ferrick on January 8th, 2016 for US$200 Million.

The music streaming service is also in negotiations with the National Music Publishers Association in the states over their alleged failure to secure mechanical rights.

It Makes You Think, Again !

It appears that the pending lists affair is not over.

In January 2011, the major labels in Canada had settled a class action lawsuit against them for the unauthorized use and distribution of recordings, as well as unpaid mechanical and video royalties.

EMI Music Canada Inc., Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc., Universal Music Canada Inc. and Warner Music Canada Co. had later in May 2011 agreed to pay approximately $50.2 Million dollars to songwriters and music publishers that had not been compensated the use of their works in certain compilations and live recordings.

Well, Universal Music Group and Universal Music Canada is now suing the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pennsylvania, their insurer, for their share of the settlement and other related expenses in the Supreme Court of the State of California in Los Angeles.

According to their November 8th, 2011 complaint found on HollywoodReporter.com, Universal Music Group had paid $14.4 million in damages and approximately $1.06 million in attorney fees and costs.

Makes You Think, Doesn’t It ?

Today the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has approved a settlement of $50.2 million dollars in the “Pending List” class action quit against the four major labels in Canada.

Appearently several years back several recording artists, composers and their estates had noticed their recordings had been released by these labels, with no licencing agreement or royalty payment.

From June 2007 to December 31st, 2009 countless compilations were released that included recordings that the major labels assumed were available to them without prior negotiation because they had assigned a royalty rate to these recordings.

Unfortunately the rights agencies that collected royalties on behalf of the artists found it rather difficult to confirm what was on these lists and coult not truly determine how much was owed to specific artists.

This of course eventually resulted in a class action suit in 2008 that alledged the labels had performed hundreds of thousands of copyright violations, that resulted in the unauthorised sale of recordings.

I find it rather interesting that the labels hindered the collection of royalties associated to this scheme whilst opposing private copying on the grounds that it would hurt artists.

Private copying does not enable the consumer to sell copies of the recordings.