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In this newsletter:

The NMPA has filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter for copyright infringement on behalf of 17 music publishing companies, claiming that Twitter has knowingly infringed on approximately 1,700 songs and seeks damages of $150,000 for each instance of infringement.

Amazon Music, Spotify, Distrokid, Empire, Downtown, and other major players in the music industry have joined forces to launch the Music Fights Fraud Alliance, a global task force that aims to eradicate fraud in music streaming and represents the first united front against streaming fraud.

US-based PRO ASCAP is embracing artificial intelligence in the music industry with plans for an AI-focused symposium, panel session, and a startup challenge.

Now, the details...

Exploration Weekly - June 16, 2023
Compiled by Ana Berberana

NMPA Sues Twitter for $250 Million in Copyright Lawsuit for Music Publishers

The trade group the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) has sued Twitter for $250 million for copyright infringement on behalf of several music publishers. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Nashville and represents a total of 17 music publishing companies including Universal, Sony, Warner Chappell, BMG, Polygram, Concord, EMI and more. The suit alleges that Twitter has willfully infringed on the work of about 1,700 songs. It seeks damages of $150,000 for each case of infringement and additional damages for direct copyright infringement, contributory infringement and vicarious infringement. It also requests a trial by jury. “Twitter fuels its business with countless infringing copies of musical compositions, violating Publishers’ and others’ exclusive rights under copyright law,” the suit reads. “While numerous Twitter competitors recognize the need for proper licenses and agreements for the use of musical compositions on their platforms, Twitter does not, and instead breeds massive copyright infringement that harms music creators.” Among the complaints included in the lawsuit is the chaos at Twitter after Elon Musk’s takeover. At least two executives leading Twitter’s Trust and Safety division are no longer with the company, leaving Twitter effectively unmoderated. “Videos with music, including infringing copies of publishers’ songs, attract and retain account holders and viewers, and grow the body of engaging tweets on the Twitter platform,” the suit continues. “Twitter then monetizes and uses those tweets and users via advertising, subscriptions, and data licensing, all of which serve to increase Twitter’s valuation and revenues.” The NMPA also says it began sending Twitter formal infringement notices—which Twitter has ignored. These notices began on a weekly basis in December 2021 and the lawsuit alleges that 300,000 infringing tweets have been identified since then.

Amazon Music, Spotify, Distrokid, Empire, Downtown, & More Launch ‘Music Fights Fraud Alliance’

The Music Fights Fraud Alliance unites all corners of the music industry in combating the growing threat of fraud in music streaming. A new global task force aimed at eradicating streaming fraud, the Music Fights Fraud Alliance (MFFA) represents all corners of the music industry, aligning for the first time as a united front to combat fraud in music streaming. The movement’s mission is to ensure that the global music streaming market is fair and that all members actively contribute to solutions intended to balance the equity of its operations. “As an alliance, our members hope to detect, prevent, mitigate, and enforce anti-fraud measures, thereby moving closer to an industry where fraud has no place,” reads the statement on their website. It’s estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost each year across the music industry, resulting from streaming abuse encompassing bots, streaming click farms, and imposters. These issues impact all artists, both self-published and those signed to labels, and it affects the music industry by diluting the royalty pool and reducing revenue for legitimate streams, slowing the approval and release process for creators. “Streaming fraud, in all its guises, is recognized as one of the biggest — and growing — issues facing the recordings business. AIM welcomes all initiatives from distributors, platforms, and labels to help tackle it effectively,” comments Silvia Montello, CEO of AIM, the not-for-profit organization representing and supporting the UK’s independent music community. “The Music Fights Fraud Alliance, which seeks to identify fraudsters, prevent ‘distributor hopping’ tactics, and enable fraud investigation for criminals operating at scale, can only be a step in the right direction. AIM encourages this and other initiatives using technology to assist in the gatekeeping of content uploads so that genuine artists and creators receive the royalties due to them.”

ASCAP Unveils Initiatives Around AI to “Help Music Creators Navigate the Future While Protecting Their Work”

With AI taking the music world by storm, businesses, industry groups and artists’ groups are grappling with the challenges and opportunities the technology poses – and some are making an effort to prepare for an AI-influenced future. One such group is the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the US’s largest performance rights organization (PRO) by membership. ASCAP has announced a series of new initiatives revolving around AI designed to “help music creators navigate the future while protecting their work.” This year’s ASCAP Experience – the organization’s signature annual event that regularly features big-name musicians – will host a panel titled “Intelligently Navigating Artificial Intelligence” featuring insight from experts in the creative, tech and business fields commenting on how AI can potentially remake the music industry. Panelists will include ASCAP’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, Nick Lehman, as well as composer Lucas Cantor and Rachel Lyske, CEO of DAACI, a music-generating AI system. The event is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles on June 19. “Our members are telling us that they want ASCAP to help them navigate technology disruption, advocate for better regulation in AI and pursue compensation if their music is used in AI-generated content,” Lehman said in a statement. ASCAP is also planning a members-only AI symposium, to take place July 19 in New York City. The event will look at “the broad range of opportunities and issues catalyzed by the proliferation of AI applications in the music industry.” Additionally, the group is planning a 12-week “AI challenge” run by its ASCAP Lab, an innovation incubator run in conjunction with the NYC Media Lab, a project of New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. ASCAP chose five teams that will receive grants and mentorship to help them develop their music-related AI technologies.

META Just Released an AI Music Generator That Was Trained on 20,000 Hours of Licensed Music

Researchers at Facebook parent company Meta have developed an AI text-to-music generator called MusicGen. The language model, described by Meta’s Fundamental AI Research (FAIR) team as “a simple and controllable model for music generation”, can take text prompts like, for example, ‘up-beat acoustic folk’ or “Pop dance track with catchy melodies” and turn them into new 12-second music clips. The model, released as open source over the weekend, can also use melodic prompts to generate new music. Meta says that it used 20,000 hours of licensed music to train MusicGen, which included 10,000 “high-quality” licensed music tracks, and as reported by TechCrunch, 390,000 instrument-only tracks from ShutterStock and Pond5. Meta’s entrance into the world of text-to-music AI marks a significant moment in this fast-moving space, with the company becoming the latest tech giant, after Google, to develop its own language model that can generate new music from text prompts. Google unveiled MusicLM, an ‘experimental AI’ tool that can generate high-fidelity music from text prompts and humming, in January, and made it publicly available last month.

Schneider Retreats From YouTube Content ID Court Battle After Failing to Secure Class Action Status

Just a day before the June 13th trial for the now-infamous YouTube Content ID lawsuit, Grammy-winning composer Maria Schneider has officially stepped back. After failing to secure the much-talked-about class-action status, the war is over and the case has been voluntarily dismissed. In a strange turn of events, YouTube and Schneider said in a joint court filing that they agreed to end the case ‘with prejudice,’ which means that the case cannot be refiled. Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider had sued YouTube back in 2020, accusing the leading video-sharing platform of structurally permitting infringement of some of her works. Schneider’s lawsuit claimed that YouTube ‘limits access to Content ID’ for ‘ordinary’ copyright owners like her, allegedly enabling piracy and events of repeat infringement. Meanwhile, production houses and labels can access the system’s advanced features — safeguarding their content from infringement. YouTube had vehemently denied the allegations, saying it goes ‘above and beyond’ to protect copyrights, adding that its copyright management tools are so powerful they ‘must be used with care.’ On content-sharing platforms, all artists really care about is properly monetizing their craft. As long as that goal is being achieved, battling for users isn’t relevant. On that front, companies like Identifyy (owned by HAAWK) aim to assist creators in matching and monetizing their content across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube using Content ID, regardless of the specific sub-platform. While Schneider’s lawsuit initially appeared to many as the turning point that would forever alter the copyright infringement landscape — and YouTube — the climax has been quite the buzzkill. During the last few weeks, a series of smaller wins for YouTube quickly turned the tables. The death blow to Schneider’s lawsuit occurred last month when Judge Donato denied the plaintiffs’ request for class action status, noting that “Every copyright claim is subject to defenses that require their own individualized inquiries.” With the June 13th trial date looming, Schneider’s legal team made another attempt to attain class-action status, appealing to the Ninth Circuit to halt court proceedings while Donato’s ‘erroneous’ ruling was theoretically overturned. This last-minute leap for class-action certification has spelled suicide for the lawsuit, leading to Schneider retreating from battle.

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