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In this newsletter:

Australia's music industry is petitioning for changes to copyright law that imposes caps on radio royalty payments to artists and labels.

The UK government is addressing streaming economics through projects on data, transparency, and music-maker remuneration.

UK’s Culture Secretary assured MPs that the government-led working group on music-maker remuneration will deliver solutions, not just discussions.

Now, the details...

Exploration Weekly - June 9, 2023
Compiled by Ana Berberana

Australian Music Industry Launches Petition Over Radio Royalty Caps In Copyright Law

The music industry in Australia has launched a petition calling on lawmakers in the country’s Parliament to amend a quirk of Australian copyright law that puts a cap on what royalties radio stations pay to artists and labels. In a briefing on its website, Australian record industry collecting society PPCA explains: “Section 152(8) of the Copyright Act 1968 limits the amount that Australian radio broadcasters can be required to pay to artists and labels to no more than 1% of the station’s gross annual revenue”. And “Section 152(11) of the Copyright Act 1968 provides that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation cannot be required to pay more than half a cent per head of population for the broadcast of sound recordings across its radio network. Since the imposition of the radio caps in 1969, the amount payable by the ABC has not been adjusted to reflect any movements in the cost of living or the expansion of the ABC radio networks”. It then adds: “These radio caps are well below the rates applicable in other similar territories around the world (including the UK and NZ) and unfairly limit the amounts paid to artists by radio broadcasters. PPCA believes that the caps undervalue the use of sound recordings so that artists are effectively subsidizing the provision of content to the highly profitable commercial radio sector”. The music industry has been campaigning to have the radio caps taken out of Australian law for years, and various independent reviews of the current system have recommended such a move. The new petition on the Australian Parliament’s website – part of a PPCA-led campaign called Radio Fair Play – states: “Radio has built a successful business playing music, yet artists and rightsholders are not being paid a fair market rate when their music is played on the radio”.

Music Industry Organisations Provide Perspectives On The Economics Of Streaming Debate

Following the announcements earlier this week about the economics of streaming work being coordinated by the UK government, CMU has been speaking to representatives from some of the organizations that have been involved in those projects. Unsurprisingly, while everyone sees positives in that work, there are disagreements about what has been achieved so far and what should happen next. The government instigated a number of projects in response to the inquiry into streaming undertaken by the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee in the UK Parliament. MPs on that committee raised various issues with the way streaming currently works, especially from a music-maker perspective, and called for a “complete reset” of the digital music businesses. There were three main government-led projects, overseen by the Intellectual Property Office, respectively putting the focus on data, transparency and music-maker remuneration. Expert working groups were convened to discuss the issues around data and transparency, and to identify and discuss possible solutions. Meanwhile research was commissioned to consider copyright reforms that had been proposed by the select committee to address music-maker remuneration issues. To help coordinate all of that a ‘music industry contact group’ was created mainly made up of the organizations that represent each stakeholder group within the music rights industry. So that includes organizations representing artists, musicians, songwriters, producers, managers, labels, publishers and the streaming services. Those organizations have canvassed their respective members on the various issues that were raised by the select committee, and have fed back what they learned. They also nominated experts for the two working groups and have led the negotiations on the codes of practice on data and transparency that came out of those specific projects. The big two announcements this week in relation to all this were that the code of practice around music metadata has now been agreed and signed, and that the government has agreed to convene another working group focused on music-maker remuneration.

UK Culture Secretary Insists New Music-Maker Remuneration Working Group Will Not Become A Mere Talking Shop

UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer yesterday reassured MPs on Parliament’s culture select committee that the recently announced government-led working group on music-maker remuneration will be effective and set out to deliver solutions, and not just become a talking shop. She was responding to concerns expressed by committee member Kevin Brennan MP that some in the music industry are pushing for the terms of reference for that working group to be so wide that it will not be able to focus on the core issues. The new working group, confirmed last week, is part of ongoing work initiated by the government following the select committee’s big inquiry into the economics of music streaming back in 2021. Working groups were previously convened to discuss issues around data and transparency in the music streaming domain, the former resulting in a metadata agreement that was signed last week, and the latter in a similar transparency agreement that is now in the final stages of negotiation. However, when it came to the various remuneration issues raised by the committee, the government initially commissioned research into the copyright law reforms that MPs had proposed to address said issues, rather than facilitating any active industry discussions. During a general session before the select committee yesterday, Frazer told MPs: “I am really pleased with the work that the industry has done to ensure that the right answers are reached – and you mentioned the announcement last week both in terms of the metadata agreement and the progress on transparency”. “I do think it is really important in all these sub-sectors”, she went on, “that … organizations within industry work together to resolve the issues of the industry, and I’m really pleased that music has done that”. However, music-maker remuneration is the area where there is the most disagreement within the music industry, which will make it trickier to reach any consensus within the newly convened working group. Things are also complicated somewhat by the fact that the specific remuneration issues are different for different groups of music-makers. So new artists, heritage artists, session musicians and songwriters all face different challenges.

Figaro Will Help Streaming Services Deal With AI-Generated Music

UK-based audio search and detection startup Figaro wants to help streaming services to deal with the nuanced challenges of AI-generated music. The company is responding to the recent industry debates about this topic by extending its audio-search technology into AI content moderation. CEO Lydia Gregory told Music Ally that its focus is on helping DSPs to tackle three separate (but related) issues with content: quantity, quality and copyright infringement. The first concerns the sheer amount of tracks being uploaded to streaming services every day, which has grown from an estimated 20k a day in 2018 to around 120k now. With the prospect of generative AI technologies swelling that number further, services face the challenge of making all that music searchable. When it is easier than ever to both make and release music, DSPs also face the challenge of trying to ensure that they’re only surfacing good-quality content to their listeners. The quality of music is subjective, of course, and Gregory stressed that Figaro will not be making itself the judge of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ music. Instead, it will work with each of its streaming-service clients to identify which music does not fit the expectations of their listeners. The third prong of Figaro’s expansion is helping streaming services to identify music that may infringe artists’ rights: for example as seen in the recent rash of voice-cloned tracks released without the permission or involvement of the artists. “I don’t think it makes sense, or is practical, to achieve a blanket ‘is it generative AI?’ detection system, and so we’re considering solutions for each one of these challenges,” said Gregory, who before she co-founded Figaro (which was originally called FeedForward but has since rebranded) worked as head of growth for one of the first AI music startups, Jukedeck. “If automated detection is used, there’s then a question about what a business wants to do with that information. Take down? Pay royalties? Don’t surface in search? Or something else? Working that out will require collaboration between rightsholders, artists, platforms, and technology experts.”

Dua Lipa ‘Levitating’ Lawsuit Jointly Dropped With Prejudice Days Following Dismissal Order

Earlier this week, a federal judge dismissed the Dua Lipa “Levitating” lawsuit, questioning whether the London-born artist had in fact accessed the allegedly infringed track. Now, despite being given leave to amend the complaint, the plaintiffs have agreed to drop the action. The joint stipulation of dismissal was just recently submitted by attorneys for the plaintiffs (members of a Florida-based band called Artikal Sound System) and the defendants (Warner Records, Dua Lipa, and other “Levitating” creators). According to the filing, the case has been dismissed with prejudice, and each side of the (relatively) short-lived showdown will bear its own costs. At the time of writing, neither the defendants nor Artikal Sound System (which has booked a number of shows throughout the remainder of 2023) had taken to social media to comment on the Dua Lipa “Levitating” lawsuit dismissal. Contrasting many separate infringement actions, fan comments over the course of the legal battle appeared generally supportive of Artikal Sound’s claims and complaint. “Super talented group,” a new supporter weighed in on a YouTube video of the allegedly stolen song. “I’m feeling this version more …so much more authentic. I’m glad the copyright is allowing for a little more exposure. Definitely gonna listen to this group more.” In any event, the suit represents just one of several infringement actions that the 27-year-old singer-songwriter has been named in over “Levitating,” which has racked up approximately 2.5 billion streams on Spotify alone. To be sure, upon dismissing the Dua Lipa “Levitating” lawsuit with leave to amend, the presiding judge also rejected a request from the three-time Grammy winner to transfer the case to New York, where plaintiffs called Larball Publishing Company and Sandy Linzer Productions are suing for infringement.

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