“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Wixen has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit this week against streaming service Pandora over unlicensed use of song lyrics on its platform. The music publisher reported that its representatives sent over a notice of the infringement in early 2018, but Pandora allegedly continued to display the lyrics to the musical compositions without any valid license or authorization. According to the lawsuit, statutory damages may total up to $150,000 per infringement, oblivious of the actual loss or gain caused by the infringing behavior.
Universal Music Group, Vivendi’s subsidiary, is on sale for up to 50%, a process that was previously announced to be wrapped up by the end of January 2020. However, Vivendi Chairman Yannick Bolloré further confirmed in a new interview this week with Bloomberg TV that the company was “very confident” that it will “open a [UMG sale] process” by the end of 2019, and that its roadmap to offload up to 50% of Universal is “on the right track”. Potential buyers of UMG include Alibaba, Apple, Amazon, Tencent, Liberty Media, and KKR. JP Morgan previously revealed in February that the music company could be worth as much as $50 billion.
In other news, YouTube is partnering up with Universal Music Group to remaster up to 1,000 music videos from standard definition to HD by the end of 2020. Those music videos affected will be from iconic artists like Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, and Lionel Richie. By maintaining the same URLs, view counts, and likes as before, original videos will simply just be replaced by the HD videos on YouTube and YouTube Music, most likely being marked with a #Remastered label and “Remastered in HD!” listed in the description.
Now, the details...
Compiled by Heidi Seo
Exploration Weekly - June 21, 2019
Pandora has been sued for copyright infringement by music publisher Wixen, which represents songs by the likes of Tom Petty, Neil Young, and The Doors. According to the lawsuit filed this week, the streaming service allegedly has been making lyrics from its writers’ works available via its service without permission. The publisher further stated, “Pandora does not have any valid licence or other authorisation to display any of the musical compositions in this manner...Nonetheless, Pandora has displayed and continues to display the lyrics to the musical compositions without any valid licence or authorisation from plaintiff, even after receiving notice of the infringement from plaintiff’s representatives in early 2018”. Those services that intend to utilize lyrics in their apps and platforms need separate lyric licenses from the music publishers, on top of any licenses that cover the actual streaming of the songs. Although many digital firms work with LyricFind to get access to a large library of lyrics via one license, Wixen stresses that it doesn’t make its lyrics available via LyricFind. The music publisher has brought up statutory damages, which state under US copyright law that $150,000 in damages per infringement can be awarded to the copyright owner oblivious of the actual loss or gain caused by the infringing behavior. Pandora has yet to respond.
Vivendi’s plan to sell up to 50% of its subsidiary, Universal Music Group, which is currently being valued at anywhere between $30 billion and $50 billion by investment banks, was further confirmed by Vivendi Chairman Yannick Bolloré in a new interview with Bloomberg TV. Previously announced last year that the UMG part-sale would be wrapped up by the end of January 2020, Bolloré revealed that his company was “very confident” that it will “open a [UMG sale] process” by the end of 2019, and that its roadmap to offload up to 50% of Universal is “on the right track”. Pressed by Bloomberg journalist Caroline Hyde on what that really meant, Bolloré reiterated that Vivendi expects the UMG sale process to begin by the close of this year, rather than necessarily expecting that a suitable partner will be found in this timeframe. Companies like Alibaba, Apple, Amazon, Tencent, Liberty Media, and KKR have since been mooted as possible buyers of UMG. The highest valuation with UMG so far has come from JPMorgan, which in February suggested the music company could be worth as much as $50 billion.
Universal Music Group and YouTube are partnering up to remaster iconic music videos from standard definition to HD. The two companies are planning to upgrade the visual quality of up to 1,000 videos by the end of 2020. Some of the music videos remastered will be from artists like Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, and Lionel Richie. The original versions will be replaced by the HD videos on YouTube and YouTube Music, but will maintain the same URLs, view counts, and likes as before. A #Remastered label and “Remastered in HD!” within the description will indicate whether the video has been updated or not.
An annual member survey by the National Music Publishers’ Association found that its US publisher members had revenue of $3.3 billion, up 11.8% growth from last year’s $2.957 billion, according to NMPA president and CEO David Israelite. In fact, Israelite pointed out for the first time in recent memory, the US music publishing sector grew at the same rate as the recorded music sector. Overall revenue broke out to 54.56% performance, 21.09% synchronization, 6.59% other and 17.76% mechanical. Within performance, Israelite reported that digital comprised 32.64%, while radio contributed 13.06% and TV 8.75%. The growth and strength in music publishing can be attributed to the music publishing victories from last year. Those include the Copyright Royalty Board’s rate determination that increased the headline rate 44% over a five-year licensing period, the Music Modernization Act’s favorable changes for songwriters in the way rate court and the CRB will set rates going forward, and the US Department of Justice’s plan to review the consent decrees under which ASCAP and BMI operate. Regarding the MMA, the Copyright Office is set to announce its decision over which group will run the MLC by July 8.
Streaming services from Europe, the US, China, and Africa are competing for the Nigerian market as well as that of the entire continent of Africa, and no clear front-runner has emerged. According to executives at labels and streaming companies, early entrants to the African market like Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda, among a disparate market of 54 countries and hundreds of cultural groups, are still struggling to capture market share. African companies are also becoming frustrated with their own struggles to gain a foothold in the face of so much well-funded competition. A study from the Brookings Institution unveiled that consumer expenditures in Africa are expected to rise from $1.4 trillion in 2015 to $2.5 trillion by 2030, making it one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. In addition, Nigeria, which now has 200 million people and is the most populous country on the continent, is expected to double in size by 2050 and overtake the US to become the third-most populous nation in the world. Major labels have made a significant investment in A&R in Africa, while outsiders like Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer are launching their services all across the country.
Global indie-label collective Merlin paid out a record $845 million to label and distributor members between April 2018 and March of this year, according to its 2019 membership report. That figure is a 63% year-over-year increase, including more than $130 million paid out this year from non-royalty income and an estimated $125 million in proceeds from Merlin’s sale of Spotify shares last year, all distributed back to its members. Merlin collectively represents thousands of independent labels and distributors, and has licensed more than 25 digital service providers on a global basis. According to the report, over the past 12 months, Merlin has added the biggest influx of new members since its launch, with another 141 companies becoming members, growing its global reach to 63 countries. In addition, income increases from video streaming are keeping pace with audio streaming. Respondents who said video accounts for less than 10% of their digital income dropped from 63% (2018) to 55% in 2019.
According to new information posted by the Pew Research Center this week, 37% of US adults say they mostly use a smartphone when accessing the internet. This figure has doubled since 2013. More specifically, 58% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they mostly go online through a smartphone, up from 41% in 2013. Pew states that these findings are part of a bigger shift towards mobile technology, while also noting that a growing number of Americans are mobile-ONLY internet users, at home at least. The report further revealed, “A majority of adults say they subscribe to home broadband, but about one-in-four (27%) do not. And growing shares of these non-adopters cite their mobile phone as a reason for not subscribing to these services...Among non-broadband users, 45% say they do not have broadband at home because their smartphone lets them do everything they need to do online, up from 27% in 2015.”
Last summer, famous soul and gospel singer Aretha Franklin passed away due to complications caused by pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. As a result, she left behind a music catalog that contained multiple revenue-generating assets. Unfortunately, the late singer apparently did not leave a will nor a trust behind, causing legal fights among her family members. A recent report published several weeks ago stated that family members discovered three handwritten wills under the cushions in the living room of her suburban home in Detroit. The most recent one, dated March 2014, gave her assets to several family members, including the youngest of her four songs, Kecalf Franklin. However, the report states that the writing remains “extremely hard to decipher” and has multiple words scratched out across the four pages. There were also two more wills discovered in 2010 in a locked cabinet. Aretha Franklin’s lawyer, David Bennett, told a judge that he does not know whether the wills remain legal under Michigan law. Before discovering the wills, her four sons had agreed to turn over control of Franklin’s estate to Sabrina Owens, a university administrator. The latest will, however, appears to “prove” Franklin wanted Kecalf as the estate’s administrator. To verify the will in court, Kecalf hired a handwriting expert, but the judge did not allow the expert to enter the courtroom.
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