What is a Master-Use License?

A master-use license permits the licensee to use a copyrighted sound recording in a new project. Typically, licensees are seeking to use recordings in audiovisual projects or as a sample in a new audio recording. To understand master-use rights, it is important to have a basic comprehension of the difference between sound recordings and compositions. By obtaining a master-use license, the only rights being granted are to the sound recording. This means that any copyrighted composition embodied in the recording must be licensed separately.

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In this newsletter:

The US Trade Representative's annual report on intellectual property highlights countries, including China and India, that need to do more to protect IP.

Spotify removes songs created with Boomy due to alleged fake streams, not the use of AI.

SiriusXM's revenue drops 2% YoY due to an 8% decline in Pandora's Q1 2023 monthly active users amid competition from Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music

Now, the details...

Exploration Weekly - May 5, 2023
Compiled by Ana Berberana

US Government Publishes Annual Report Assessing Copyright Regimes Around the World

The office of the US Trade Representative last week published its annual list of countries that should really try harder when it comes to protecting copyright. Argentina, Chile, China, India, and Indonesia all find themselves on a priority watch list. The USTR’s team puts together two annual lists regarding intellectual property infringement around the world. Firstly, the Notorious Markets list focused on physical and digital marketplaces where rights are infringed. Then this newly released list – aka the Special 301 Report – which sets out those countries where the US reckons there are issues with the local IP laws and/or the enforcement of those laws. The lists are based on input from groups representing the American IP industries, including the music industry. Seven countries are on the priority watch list this year, with 22 on the main watch list, all of which – the US reckons – have work to do to properly protect the rights of American “inventors, creators and brands”.

Spotify Is Blocking Releases from AI Music Platform Boomy - But Not Because of AI

Spotify has reportedly pulled a number of songs created through Boomy and ceased allowing new releases from the AI music platform – albeit because of alleged fake streams as opposed to the way the tracks were made. This newest twist in AI’s rapidly evolving music industry role just recently came to light in a brief message that Berkeley-headquartered Boomy posted on Discord. A self-described “generative tech company,” the five-year-old entity says it “enables anyone with a smartphone to produce and monetize world-class original songs.” But as an abundance of AI-created music (including extremely similar minute-long “songs”) continues to arrive on platforms, Boomy in the aforementioned detail-light post informed users that Spotify had hit the brakes on new releases and pulled the plug on select existing projects. “Very recently, Spotify stopped publishing new releases from Boomy,” the company explained in part. “Additionally, certain catalog releases were removed from their platform. This decision was made by Spotify and Boomy’s distributor in order to enable a review of potentially anomalous activity.” Boomy – which has according to its website been used to create “14,414,689 songs, around 13.81% of the world’s recorded music” – also indicated that “these pauses are likely to happen more regularly and across a wider set of platforms” moving forward. The occurrence, the AI developer relayed, is a byproduct of the music sphere’s ongoing efforts “to navigate the use of bots and other types of potentially suspicious activity.” After this message circulated, a Spotify spokesperson clarified that alleged fake streams, not the fact that the music in question was created with artificial intelligence, were behind the pulldowns and the pause on the distribution of new Boomy-generated projects.

Pandora’s Monthly User Base Fell Beneath 47M in Q1, as Parent SiriusXM Saw Revenues Dip 2% YOY

US satellite radio service SiriusXM reported a 2% year-over-year drop in revenue in the first quarter of the year, due in part to the continued decline in Pandora’s monthly active users. In the three months to the end of March, Pandora’s user base shrank 8% from a year earlier, or by 3.9 million YoY, to 46.7 million MAUs from 50.6 million, according to SiriusXM’s first-quarter financial results published Thursday (April 27). That 46.7 million figure for Q1 2023 was also down by 900,000 users vs. the prior quarter SiriusXM has been struggling to retain Pandora’s user base since its $3.5 billion all-stock acquisition of the streaming company in late 2018. The struggle comes amid increasing competition in the music streaming space and changing consumer preferences. Pandora rivals Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music have continued to assert their dominance in the market with new features like personalized playlists, exclusive content and advanced music discovery algorithms. Another reason for Pandora’s decline in subscribers is changing consumer preferences, with many listeners moving away from traditional radio-style services and are instead seeking out more personalized options.

Ed Sheeran Cleared by Jury of Infringing on Copyright for Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’

Ed Sheeran was found not liable Thursday in Manhattan federal court on a copyright claim alleging that he copied key elements from the Marvin Gaye ’70s hit “Let’s Get It On” for his own “Thinking Out Loud.” The verdict that cleared him of copyright infringement came after just a few hours of deliberation Thursday, wrapping up a trial that lasted just under two weeks. Standing outside the courtroom, Sheeran read a statement for reporters that made it clear how frustrated he felt at being accused of plagiarism and having the case reach trial. “It looks like I’m not going to have to give up my day job after all,” Sheeran said, alluding to a statement he’d made on the stand earlier this week suggesting that he would feel compelled to quit music if the verdict went against him. “We need songwriters and the writing community to come together to bring back common sense,” Sheeran said. “These claims must be stopped so the creative process can carry on and we can all get back to making music. And at the same time, we absolutely need trusted individuals, real experts, to help support the process and protect copyright.”

50 Cent, Fat Joe, Scott Storch Sued For Alleged Copyright Infringement Over 2000s Hits “Candy Shop” and “Lean Back”

A Maryland-based independent hip-hop producer has filed a lawsuit accusing several prominent rappers of ripping off a track he distributed in the underground hip-hop scene two decades ago. David W. Smith alleges elements of his 2003 track WHACHACOM4? were pinched by Terror Squad’s 2004 hit Lean Back, and again by 50 Cent’s 2005 hit Candy Shop. In a complaint filed in the US District Court for the District of Maryland on April 27, Smith says that 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson), as well as rappers Fat Joe and Remy Ma of Terror Squad, plus Scott Storch, who produced both tracks, “made millions of dollars from their exploitation” of WHACHACOM4?. According to the complaint, Smith registered a copyright for the track on April 22, 2022. The lawsuit doesn’t elaborate on why the copyright for the track was filed nearly 20 years after Smith distributed it. The complaint includes details about the alleged similarities between Smith’s track and Candy Shop and Lean Back, including comparisons of musical notations for the track and images of waveforms, which the complaint argues, show “substantial similarities” between the tracks.

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