royalties

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.

Canadian Labels Settle Lawsuit

Four of the major labels in Canada have 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. have agreed to pay approximately $47.5 Million dollars to songwriters and music publishers that had not been compensated the use of their works in certain compilations and live recordings.

The class action lawsuit alledged that the labels had distributed over 300,000 works without authorization or compensation, fifty of which whose copyright is owned or partly owned by the estate of Chet Baker, the renown jazz trumpet player, arranger and composer.

According to January 10th, 2010 press release, the settlement will be distributed to the plaintiffs via the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA), and Société du droit de reproduction des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs au Canada (SODRAC).