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A few former investors in Pandora announced that it will be suing over the SiriusXM acquisition of the personalized radio service that happened earlier this year. The lawsuit alleges that the deal was “invalid and void,” and “prohibited” by earlier agreements and laws in the US state of Delaware. Earlier work preparing for the takeover by SiriusXM of Pandora reportedly breached the terms of a 2017 agreement, and Sirius execs were also claimed to have been putting inappropriate pressure on the firm’s other directors. These claims deprived investors of protections against “a creeping acquisition by a large bloc holder,” which impacted on the value of Pandora stock at the time of Sirius’ acquisition.
Disney’s streaming service, Disney Plus, is set to launch internationally on November 12 in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, followed a week later by Australia and New Zealand. On Monday, the company additionally announced that it had reached global agreements with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku, and Sony to distribute the app across partner mobile and connected-TV devices. In the US, a subscription will cost $6.99 per month. There are also plans to bundle all offerings combining Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, and Hulu for $12.99 per month.
YouTube has made a few changes to its copyright policy, including blocking rights holders from manually monetizing “creator videos with very short or unintentional uses of music.” A blog post published by the company stated that these changes will go into effect in mid-September and will not affect copyright claims filed through content ID, which handles 98% of all claims filed on YouTube.
Now, the details...
Compiled by Heidi Seo
Exploration Weekly - August 23, 2019
Several former investors in Pandora are filing a lawsuit alleging that Sirius XM’s acquisition of the personalized radio service earlier this year was “invalid and void.” The deal, according to the legal filing, was “prohibited” by earlier agreements and laws in the US state of Delaware, where the company was incorporated. Satellite radio firm Sirius first bought into Pandora back in 2017. Then, it announced that it would buy the streaming service last September. The deal was approved by Pandora’s other shareholders in January 2019. Critics claimed that Sirius had exploited the places it had secured on the Pandora board via the 2017 deal in order to “improperly push the company towards unfavourable deal terms” to the detriment of other shareholders. Delaware corporation law states a statutory three-year limitation on any takeover bid. This restriction was waived in the 2017 deal, and it also prohibited a takeover of Pandora by Sirius before Dec 9 2018. The lawsuit says that earlier work to prepare for that takeover breached the terms of the 2017 agreement. Sirius execs who also got seats on the Pandora board in 2017 were accused of putting inappropriate pressure on the firm’s other directors. These claims deprived investors of protections against “a creeping acquisition by a large bloc holder,” which impacted on the value of Pandora stock at the time of Sirius’ acquisition. The filing seeks class action status as well as damages for former Pandora investors who, it alleges, were short-changed by this year’s Sirius deal.
Disney is set to internationally roll out Disney Plus on the same day (Nov 12) that the direct-to-consumer service launches in the US, with a push into Canada and the Netherlands, followed a week later by Australia and New Zealand. The company announced on Monday that it had reached global agreements with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku, and Sony to distribute the Disney Plus app across partner mobile and connected-TV devices. Access to Disney Plus in the US will cost $6.99 per month, with roughly comparative prices in the first four international markets. The company expects to roll out Disney Plus to all major market within the first two years. A social media campaign for the service was also launched on Monday, featuring major Disney brands like Pixar and Marvel. Earlier this month, plans of a bundled offering that combines Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, and Hulu for $12.99 per month were announced.
YouTube’s copyright policy is undergoing a few changes, including blocking rights holders from manually monetizing “creator videos with very short or unintentional uses of music.” The company announced in a blog post that these changes will go into effect in mid-September and will not affect copyright claims filed through content ID, which handles 98% of all claims filed on YouTube. “These claims can feel particularly unfair, as they transfer all revenue from the creator to the claimant, regardless of the amount of music claimed,” writes YouTube. Rights holders will still have the ability to prevent infringing creators from monetizing or blocking videos their content is played in during manual claims, no matter how long their music is played for, but will no longer be allowed to monetize that content themselves. Those who continuously do not adhere to the new rules will lose access to YouTube’s manual claiming tool. This change will reportedly lead to rights holders claiming less videos that infringe for a short amount of time, but it may likely lead to more blocked videos.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently backed Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin in the “Stairway To Heaven” copyright battle with the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe. An amicus brief was filed (friend of the court brief) on Thursday August 15 stating, amongst other things, that “the allegedly infringing work is not virtually identical.” In 2014, Randy Wolfe estate trustee Michael Skidmore accused Plant and Page in a lawsuit for ripping off the opening riff for their classic ‘70s song from an instrumental track called “Taurus” by Wolfe’s band Spirit. The suit sought recognition and a share of the royalties earned. Then in June 2016 after a six-day trial, Plant and Page were cleared of copyright infringement, in which a jury in LA ruled that they were not guilty. Reuters eventually reported in June 2019 that the US Appeals Court would revisit the case after a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel ruled 3-0 in September 2018 that “erroneous jury instructions” were provided by the judge in the 2016 trial. To be specific, the jury weren’t played the recordings of “Taurus” or “Stairway To Heaven.” According to NBC News, Spirit’s song was written in 1967, meaning the judge ruled at the time that only the sheet music was protected under pre-1972 copyright law. The DOJ’s brief last week urgest that “the copy of the work deposited with the Copyright Office defines the scope of the copyright” and that “the district court’s judgment in favor of defendants should be affirmed because the relevant portion of the copyrighted work is entitled, at most, to a thin copyright, and the allegedly infringing work is not virtually identical.”
A lawsuit filed in May against tech giants and indie record labels added an amended complaint by the estates of two more American songwriters as plaintiffs - Harry Warren and Ray Henderson. The suit alleges that this group of companies exploited song rights on various digital music platforms without licence, uploading old recordings that they do not actually own onto an assortment of streaming platforms and download stores. It was originally filed by the son of Harold Arlen, the man who wrote “Over The Rainbow,” “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “Get Happy”. Although there is a compulsory licence covering the mechanical copying of songs in the US, that only applies where the recordings being distributed are legit. If the downloading or streaming of a recording constitutes copyright infringement, then the compulsory licence does not apply, so the song rights are being infringed too.
Spotify’s price rise in Norway, which saw Premium, Family, and Student subscription prices rise surprisingly did not bring negative results. In fact, according to Music Business Worldwide’s calculations and analysis, over the course of 2018, according to IFPI Norge data, streaming revenues (across free and paid services) hit 656 million NOK ($73 million), up 39.1m NOK on the prior year’s figure. A Bloomberg report further stated that Spotify is now planning to raise its prices across the whole of Scandinavia by 13%. An acceleration in annual streaming growth showed nearly three times the size of that recorded in H2 2017 in Norway. As a result, Spotify has not rolled back its subscription price increases in the territory. Today, a standard Premium Spotify subscription in Norway costs 109 NOK per month, the equivalent of $12.12, and 10% higher than its previous price point of 99 NOK.
Apple recently publicly announced its Music for Artists dashboard earlier this month, which included Shazam data-powered insights. The company acquired music recognition app Shazam for $400 million back in 2018. This week, Shazam data will also be used to power a new Apple Music chart: the Shazam Discovery Top 50. The chart will feature a weekly global ranking of the top 50 artists on the move and their trending track, based on Shazam data. To rank on the chart, the song could be demonstrating a pattern of moving quickly through Shazam’s charts, rapid growth, steady growth, or it may be growing geographically, says the company. Or all of the above. Songs will be featured that are trending in the US and more than 10 other countries. This move confirms as to why Apple wanted to bring Shazam in-house, because the company holds data on trending music. This brings the streaming service in competition with Spotify, whose own Artist dashboard launched and exited beta back in 2017, giving it a headstart on serving artists and musicians with insights. The new Shazam chart can be found in the Browse tab of the Apple Music app on iOS and Mac, and elsewhere in the app.
A federal copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Las Vegas-based artist Vladmir Kush against Ariana Grande was settled in court this week. The filing involved an image of a woman in a candle flame allegedly copied and used without permission in the pop star’s widely viewed “God Is a Woman” music video. Kush sued Grande, Universal Music Group, video director Dave Meyers, and video producer Nathan Scherrer and his company Freenjoy, Inc. in January alleging that they used an image of a candle identical to paintings that Kush painted and copyrighted in 1999 and 2000. The complaint continued, “Specifically, defendants chose to use the same color palette, the same background of a cloudy sky, the same ring effect of the clouds around the flame, the same light beams radiating from the flame, and the same color candle, light fading to dark." Both parties announced in court papers in July that they had “reached an agreement” to resolve the lawsuit. And on August 16, notice of the parties’ voluntary dismissal was filed, and Kush agreed to voluntarily dismiss all claims against Grande and UMG. Lincoln Bandlow, attorney for Ariana Grande, UMG, Dave Meyers, Nathan Scherrer and Freenjoy, stated, “The matter was settled to the satisfaction of all the parties.”
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