Monday, March 30, 2020

Creative sector included in major relief packages as the world battles COVID-19

By Emmanuel Legrand

Governments around the world have been rushing to put together relief packages to sustain crumbling economies, as the world faces an unprecedented situation created by the coronavirus pandemic.

  Very early on, organisations in Europe, North America and elsewhere in the world representing the creative sector have alerted their respective governments of the dire situation faced by the creative economy, following waves of cancellations of events, festivals and tours and confinement measures preventing concerts, shooting of movies and other creative endeavours and cultural projects.

  The goal for these organisations was to ensure that creatives would be included in the various packages put together by governments. That was the case in the USA, UK, France Germany and many other countries.

Relief measures for creatives

  In the USA, Congress passed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The $300 million small-business portion of the bill made self-employed and independent contractors (including songwriters, musicians, road crews, sound engineers, producers) eligible for loans and grants.

  Billboard reported that organisation such as the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), Songwriters of North America (SONA), theNational Music Publishers Association worked with legislators to include wording such as "sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed" as the beneficiaries of the bill's provisions. The bill also includes additional funding of $75m for the National Endowment for the Arts to help support creative projects.

  “Many music industry professionals are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits because they are self-employed,” said NSAI executive director Bart Herbison. “That’s why is was imperative that the federal stimulus package contain language that made them eligible for relief. Now they will be able to apply for immediate financial help for any income they’ve lost over the past few weeks and income they will lose throughout the rest of this year.”

Helping small businesses survive

  "This will make much-needed relief in the form of small business loans and grants available to all who need it.... Our songwriters are the ultimate small business owners and need this help right now," added SONA co-founder Michelle Lewis.

  Mitch Glazier, chairman/CEO of the RIAA, said that access to unemployment insurance, small business loans and payment deferrals, and more funding for the NEA will provide relief to musicians and "will ensure that hundreds of thousands of musicians can continue to pay rent, put food on the table, and care for their children during this public health crisis.” More industry reactions to the CARES ACT can be found here.

  In Europe, the European Union passed the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, a €37bn stimulus package, but European policy-makers were urged to add specific measures for the cultural sector. European Parliament Culture and Education Committee Chair, Sabine Verheyen, said that under the Initiative, Member States will be able to use Structural Funds money "to support small businesses and employment schemes." 

Swift and decisive actions needed

  But, Verheyen added, "it is imperative that businesses and individuals in the cultural and creative sector – whose livelihoods are under existential threat – get access to this financial support. My message to Member States is clear – this money must reach them immediately."

  The groupment of European rights societies GESAC asked for "swift and decisive action to protect European creativity and culture," in particular that "part of the emergency funds provided by the EU is available to creators and the cultural sector."

    European organisations representing creators have asked that emergency measures include: Immediate access to full sick pay including isolation periods for freelance workers; Possibility for authors to be covered by public health insurance during the crisis and the aftermath; Adjustment of unemployment schemes where available to ensure continued access; Immediate access to guaranteed basic income such as welfare benefits aimed at people without any income who do not have rights to unemployment benefits; Options for replacement income for the crisis period, Deferment/support for living costs (e.g. rent, mortgage, loans); and Tax relief.

Urgent help for self-employed

  In other countries such as France, government and private/public initiatives have come in support of the creative sector. The newly created Centre National de la Musique has set up a €11.5m emergency relief fund. Other organisations such as rights society SACEM have aslo taken energency measures such as advances, access to loans, and a €6m emergency fund.

  In the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a package that includes aid to the country's self-employed, including a taxable grant worth up to 80% of self-employed workers’ average monthly profit over the last three years, that will pay up to £2,500 ($3,000) a month, and initially last three months.

  The UK's Music Managers Forum noted that these measure will not pay out until June. UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl also called for “immediate and urgent help for the self-employed.People are in desperate need with bills to pay. They need financial support now and cannot wait until June for the scheme to kick in or wait weeks for payments under Universal Credit."

Using royalties' black-boxes 

  The MMF estimated that there were already 2,100 cancelled shows, and that the live music sector has already lost some over £50m ($60m), with another £68m in predicted losses if shows are cancelled over the next six months.  

  In addition, the Musicians UnionHelp Musicians UKPRS for Music and PPL have set up or contributed to hardship funds. But some voices in the music industry have asked for more from streaming services. 

  Graham Davies, CEO of The Ivors Academy, said that maybe it was time for services to allocated the so-called "black-box" of royalties from unidentified works, to a special fund to help artists weather the crisis. “We call for these black box royalties to be paid into hardship funds for musicians so that targeted help can get to those most in need,” said Davies. 

Set up crisis funds

  Crispin Hunt, Chair of the Academy, added: "It is time the platforms and major labels provided help to the people that create the content on which their businesses depend.”

  In Germany, a €50bn package was set up by the government for small business, small businesses, self-employed individuals, and members of the liberal professions, which includes companies and individuals in the cultural sector. It includes one-time payments of up to €9,000 for three months, for businesses with up to five employees; and one-time payments of up to €15,000 for three months, for businesses with up to 10 employees. 

  Performance rights society GEMA also pledge for a €40m crisis fund. The aid fund will be provided in a two-stage plan: in a first stage, funds will be made available to composers and lyricists who also act as performers; and in a second stage to support songwriters and composers facing “individual hardship cases."

Imperative to support creators

  In Sweden and Norway, governments have set up cultural response funds of €45m and €27m, respectively. Netflix has also pledged to create a $100 million fund to help with hardship in the creative community.

  Will all these measures be enough? Government and industry bodies will have to continue to monitor the situation and act when required, as suggested by Jean-Michel Jarre, the French electronic music composer and performer and President of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers.

  In a letter sent on behalf of the four million creators represented by CISAC, and co-signed with the organisation's vice-president, Jarre said it was "imperative that governments in all countries act for creators now and ensure the highest level of support possible." 

All in it together

  Jarre added that following the a collapse of cultural and entertainment activity, creators "urgently need rescue measures now, and only the lever of government policy will have the impact required."

  One thing is certain, if the crisis lasts, it will have a long and significant impact on the creative sector, and more help and more solidarity will be required. 

  As ASCAP President & Chairman Paul Williams puts it, "We are all in this together, and ASCAP will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that music creators can weather this storm.”

[During the confinement, stay home, stay safe and continue to follow basic rules: wash hands, social distancing, etc.] 

Piracy is going viral too...

By Andy Chatterley, CEO of MUSO

The world is gripped by Coronavirus COVID-19 and it is having a significant impact on society, culture and the global economy. As more and more countries go into lock-down, closing schools, public gatherings and enforcing mandatory stay-at-home policies, MUSO is seeing some initial data trends indicating a potentially significant increase in piracy.

The announcement to postpone the release of the latest Bond film ‘No Time To Die’, from April to November 2020 due to concerns over the coronavirus' impact on cinema, has made headline news around the world. It brings into sharp focus the falling box office revenues, especially where the virus has taken a grip.

This was the case in China, South Korea, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Greece and other countries around the world. Inevitably, people will still want to watch the latest cinema releases, just not in a cinema, but from the comfort of their own home, laptop or mobile.

Huge economic losses

Across the whole of 2019, MUSO tracked over 174 billion visits to piracy sites. Piracy activity was already high, but early data indicates it may well become considerably higher. The general fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and cinema closures mean that unsuspecting internet users – and moreover, non-traditional piracy users – whilst looking to find a stream of a film they may have seen at the cinema in a few clicks stumble upon piracy. They then discover they can watch '1917', 'The Invisible Man', 'Jojo Rabbit', 'Birds Of Prey', 'Parasite' and everything else they may have wanted to watch at the cinema but now don’t need to.

It’s long been known that the whole movie ecosystem suffers huge economic losses from piracy, but conversely, there is also significant gain from understanding this audience’s behaviour. Which films are popular and where; what genres should be commissioned; what films to buy and what data to leverage negotiations, inform marketing plans and audience activation, to name but a few.

Consumption with no barriers

Piracy is a level playing field. No walled data-garden, no exclusivity, no windowing and no theatrical release. It’s all there: consumption with no barriers. Just as the data shows staggering amounts of demands it shows emerging trends. Take Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film 'Contagion' for example, where a mysterious virus starts in Hong Kong and spreads throughout the world. As news of COVID-19 escalated, we saw something interesting. Way back on July 1st 2019, MUSO tracked 29 visits to streaming sites globally for 'Contagion'. Not exactly an in-demand title by anyone’s standards.

On January 7th 2020, when Health Officials announced they had identified the coronavirus, demand for 'Contagion' had increased to 546 visits. But by January 30th 2020, when the coronavirus was declared a global emergency, visits to streaming sites for 'Contagion' increased to 30,418 on that single day alone. Although not an especially high number compared to the piracy numbers for blockbuster titles, the average daily visits for 'Contagion' increased by an astonishing 5609% in January 2020.

Imperative to protect content

The days ahead are uncertain for all of us. The forecasts that the movie industry could lose an estimated $5 billion due to COVID-19 now seems conservative. No-one knows how long this will continue; we don’t know just how big the losses might actually be.

With digital piracy increasing during these times it is imperative for rights holders to protect their content in order to maximise its value and to drive fans and demand to licensed platforms. Systems such as MUSO Protect, powered by our unrivalled piracy database, can help protecting digital content in the most impactful way by targeting the highest traffic piracy sites first, removing infringing files and links quickly and permanently.

One thing we can be sure of is that people will find a way to watch what they want to watch, and that piracy demand is going to escalate. But it is not because large parts of the world have confined their citizens home that such behaviour should be rewarded.

Andy Chatterley
, CEO and Co-Founder of British piracy tracking company MUSO. This is an edited version of a white paper which can be found in full here.

Judge crushes $2.8m Katy Perry's 'Dark Horse' verdict

By Emmanuel Legrand

Is the tide turning in copyright infringement cases in the US after the 'Stairway to Heaven' ruling?

  In the Katy Perry case related to her 2013 song 'Dark Horse', lawyers for the defendant have urged in a hearing US District Judge Christina A. Snyder in California to upend the verdict which found Perry guilty of copyright infringement and have been heard. A jury awarded $2.8 million to rapper Marcus Gray who claimed 'Dark Horse' infringed his song 'Joyful Noise'.

  In her ruling, Judge Snyder said that 'Joyful Noise” was not distinctive enough to be protected by copyright. "It is undisputed in this case, even viewing the evidence in the light most favourable to plaintiffs, that the signature elements of the 8-note ostinato in 'Joyful Noise'... is not a particularly unique or rare combination, even in its deployment as an ostinato: prior compositions, including prior works composed by the parties, as well as what all agree is a separate non-infringing ostinato in 'Dark Horse,' all contain similar elements."

Plans to restore the verdict

  The judge added: "Because the sole musical phrase that plaintiffs claim infringement upon is not protectable expression, the extrinsic test is not satisfied, and plaintiffs' infringement claim — even with the evidence construed in plaintiffs' favour — fails as a matter of law."

  Plaintiffs plan to appeal. Speaking to AP, Gray’s attorney Michael A. Kahn said: “We believe the jury was right and will do our best to restore their verdict on appeal.”

  Meanwhile, a Manhattan federal judge presiding the case involving Ed Sheeran, accused of copying Marvin Gaye's song 'Let's Get It On' with his song 'Thinking Out Loud', is expected to bar jurors from listening to Gaye's recorded version of the song to determine if Sheeran infringed the song.

Ben Sisario wrote in The New York Times 'The ‘Blurred Lines’ Case Scared Songwriters.' Decisions in copyright cases involving Led Zeppelin and Katy Perry suggest the open season on lawsuits could be coming to a close.

> And Stephen Carlisle analysed the Stairway to Heaven ruling in his blog 'The 9th Circuit Court Made It Harder To Sue' after its recent ruling on Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven'.

British recorded music revenues up 7.3% in 2019

By Emmanuel Legrand

British record companies generated £1.069 billion ($1.33bn) in revenues in 2019, up 7.3% year-over-year, according to the UK's trade organisation the BPI. This is the highest annual amount since 2006, when the combined total was £1.16bn. It is the fourth fourth consecutive year of growth registered by the BPI.

Streaming income grew 21.8% at £628.9m and was the main driver of growth. Streaming-generated revenues now make up the majority (58.8%) of record label trade income.

  Within streaming, subscription services brought in £568.8m, up 21.7%, ad-supported audio streaming revenues were up by 29.7% to £24.7m, and video streaming revenues also grew by 18.8% to £35.3m.

  Physical revenues were down 10.4% to £215.8m, with CDs down 19.8% to £141.7m, and vinyl up 16.1% with revenues of £66.3m, accounting for 6.2% of overall industry income. Downloads were down 28.7% to £58.1m. Sync revenues were up 11.1% to £28.3m.

Physical formats still healthy

  “Whilst mainstream music consumption is now largely digital, physical formats continue to enjoy a healthy, complementary relationship with streaming as a valued part of the music eco-system,” said the BPI.

  In addition, revenues form the public performance of recordings (neighbouring rights) were up 4.4% to £137.4m. BPI calculates record labels income with the combined revenues from streaming, sales of music across physical and download formats, public performance rights, and sync.

Time for a new partnership with government

  BPI noted that the continuing growth in revenues “is welcomed,” but expressed concerns about “structural factors that are holding back the recorded sector from realising its full potential to reclaim the peak levels of two decades ago.” In particular, BPI & BRITAwards Chief Executive Geoff Taylor pointed out the discrepancy (or “value gap”) between revenues from paid streaming subscription and revenues from video streaming services (read YouTube), generating only just over half the income produced by vinyl records.

  “British music faces intense competition at home and abroad, is undervalued by some tech platforms and is undermined by widespread illegal sites. In fact, total revenues remain more than a fifth below the post-Millennium peak recorded in 2001. It is time for a new partnership with Government to unleash the full potential of our music industry to benefit our culture and our economy,” said Taylor.

SIMFY's music streaming platform MusicTime plans expansion in Africa

By Emmanuel Legrand

MusicTime, the music app part of African music streaming service SIMFY Africa, is expected to launch in four more countries in Africa and the Middle East, in addition to the six countries it is already operating in. The announcement comes as the service has unveiled a new visual identity.

  SIMFY Africa CEO David Gillaranz said the rebranding "goes alongside with our vision to provide an affordable and legal music streaming services in Africa and beyond. Our proposition is unique and truly provide everyone the ability to access millions of songs and playlist focusing largely on local music.”  

  MusicTime launched in South Africa in December 2018 and it is now live in six African countries (South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon and Eswatini). The service has a continent-wide partnership with phone operator MTN, which acquired SIMFY in 2018. The service claims that the app has been downloaded over 500,000 times.

New opportunities for artists

  MTN eyes expansion to other markets in Africa and the Middle East in 2020, with the services made available in a further un-named four countries by the end of the year.

  MusicTime has a pay-as-you-go model by which users can buy a weekly pack, that gives 2 or 5 hours access to music, over a seven day period. Through the agreement with parent company MTN, data is pre-packaged with the music, so users do not risk running out of data.  

  Yoel Kenan, CEO of Johannesburg-based  content distributor and aggregator Africori, said the development of MusicTime has the potential to generate new revenues and promotional opportunities for African artists and labels. “MusicTime integrated offering to users is set to challenge music consumption patterns to mainstream audiences across Africa by offering new opportunities to local artists to reach new fans locally and across the continent," said Kenan.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

California's appeals court rules that Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' did not copy Spirit's 'Taurus'

By Emmanuel Legrand

The Ninth Circuit in San Francisco has handed Led Zeppelin a victory in its appeal to the 'Stairway to Heaven' infringement case. The British rock band was accused by the heir of the late Randy Wolfe from the band Spirit of having copied the instrumental 'Taurus'.

  The "en banc" court affirmed the ruling by the United States District Court for the Central District of California which found the British composers of the 1971 song 'Stairway to Heaven' – Jimmy Page and Robert Plant – not guilty of copying the instrumental 'Taurus', written by Wolfe, known as Randy California, and recorded in 1968 by Spirit.  

  The executor of the Wolfe estate, Michael Skidmore, represented by lawyer Francis Malofiy, claimed in a 2014 lawsuit that the introduction of 'Stairway' was a a copy of 'Taurus'. In 2016, a jury found that Page and Plant were not guilty of infringement, after a trial that saw the Plaintiff's lawyer argue that Led Zeppelin, which had been touring with Spirit in 1969, were aware of the song, while Defendant's lawyers told the court that the two songs shared a chord progression and a descending chromatic scale which could also be found in compositions from 300 years before.

Declining requests to play recordings

  The district court also ruled that under the 1909 Copyright Act, the scope of the copyright was circumscribed by the musical composition transcribed in the 'Taurus' deposit copy. In 2018, an appeals court ordered a new trial, on the grounds that the jury had not received proper instructions, in particular that they should have been entitled to listen to recordings of the songs, and not base their decision solely on the merit of the composition registered in 1967 by Wolfe with the Copyright Office.

  Following appeals filed by both parties, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco took the decision to rehear the case before a full panel of 11 judges. In its ruling, the "en banc" Ninth Circuit stated: “The scope of the copyright in the unpublished work was defined by the deposit copy, which in the case of Taurus consisted of only one page of music. Accordingly, it was not error for the district court to decline plaintiff’s request to play sound recordings of the Taurus performance that contained further embellishments or to admit the recordings on the issue of substantial similarity.”

  It added: “This copyright case was carefully considered by the district court and the jury. Because the 1909 Copyright Act did not offer protection for sound recordings, Skidmore’s one-page deposit copy defined the scope of the copyright at issue. In line with this holding, the district court did not err in limiting the substantial similarity analysis to the deposit copy or the scope of the testimony on access to 'Taurus'.”

Rejecting the inverse ratio rule

  The appeals court affirmed the district court’s challenged jury instructions and also took the opportunity “to reject the inverse ratio rule, under which we have permitted a lower standard of proof of substantial similarity where there is a high degree of access. This formulation is at odds with the copyright statute and we overrule our cases to the contrary.”

  The “inverse ratio rule” has been a staple in copyright infringement cases in the Ninth Circuit for years. According to the Chicago Tribune, the “inverse ratio rule” – which had not been adopted in other circuits – “held that the more access was shown, the less similarity was required to establish infringement” which went in the way of Plaintiffs since to prove copyright infringement, they must show that the alleged infringer had access to the plaintiff's work, and that the two works are “substantially similar.”

  In overturning the rule, noted the Tribune, “the appeals court noted that the idea of 'access' has become diluted in the digital age, as millions of works are readily available on Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify.”
  “The court got it wrong,” said Malofiy in an interview with The New York Times. “Led Zeppelin can be happy they won on a technicality, but that does not mean they won on the merits. Anyone who has heard the two songs at issue knows it is a blatant ripoff.”

Too many nuisance copyright claims

  Two previous copyright infringement cases had sent shock-waves throughout the songwriting and producing community: one filed by the Marvin Gaye Estate against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, which found the latter guilty of copying Gaye's 1973 song 'Got To Give It Up' with 'Blurred Lines'; and the one against Kary Perry, in which a jury found that the writers of Perry 2013 track 'Dark Horse' had infringed a 2008 song called 'Joyful Noise' written by Christian hip-hop artist Flame.

  Los Angeles-based copyright lawyer Charley Londoño of Law Office of J. Charley Londoño, considers that the 'Stairway to Heaven' case "was decided correctly, unlike the Thicke/Williams/Gaye case and Katy Perry case."

  Speaking to Creative Industries Newsletter, he elaborated: "I am glad the Ninth Circuit judges thought the deposit copy was complete and that the judges dismissed the attorney’s argument about insufficient jury instructions and 'selection and arrangement'." He also quipped that "when you have a baroque period piece that sounds similar to 'Stairway' and 'Taurus', that’s good for Zeppelin."

  He added: "Personally, I think there’s too many people bringing nuisance copyright claims. 'Blurred Lines' and 'Dark Horse' cases don’t help either, it fans the flames and opens up the floodgates for these types of nuisance claims. Copyright is complex and very difficult for juries, even judges, to understand."

Pro Music Rights accuses US music licensees of 'running an illegal cartel'

By Emmanuel Legrand
Privately-owned US performance rights society Pro Music Rights has filed an antitrust lawsuit in the federal court of Connecticut against various organisations representing the interests of US broadcasters and digital platforms for "running an illegal cartel for the performance rights of musical works."
  The suit names as Defendants the Digital Media Association, National Religious Broadcasters Music License Committee, Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), which represents and negotiates on behalf of most commercial broadcasters in the United States licensing terms, the National Association of American Wineries, and Television Music License Committee.
  “Litigation was not our first choice but something had to be done to stop the buyers from bullying PMR out of the market in flagrant violation of antitrust laws," said PMR CEO Jake Noch in a statement. “We kept going back to the buyers to offer them a public performance license. Radio, TV, music steaming services – they all collectively and uniformly ignored us in a group boycott for the past two years."
Appetite for litigation

  He added that "the buyers never intended to do business with PMR, and they have been running a cartel in the industry.”
  PMR has also recently sued 10 music streaming services (Apple, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Spotify, 7Digital, Deezer, iHeartMedia, Rhapsody and SoundCloud) in New York federal court for copyright infringement, and has also filed a $1bn lawsuit against Spotify in the District Court for the Middle District of Florida in November 2019.
  Pro Music Rights claims to represent over two millions music works and to command a 7.4% market share, based on the number of musical works, a figure that has never been confirmed through independent sources. PMR also claims that "100% of the license usage fees Pro Music Rights collects goes directly to songwriters, composers and music publishers as royalties."
  Pro Music Rights is represented by Richard Gora and Sinead Rafferty, Partners at Gora LLC.

Netflix agrees to a collective frame agreement with Swedish film union

By Emmanuel Legrand

The Swedish Union for Performing Arts and Film (Teaterförbundet) has signed a groundbreaking partnership with Netflix to set up a collective frame agreement to remunerate local creators. Teaterförbundet said this is the first time that a streaming entertainment service has concluded a collective agreement of the sort in Sweden.

  The collective frame agreement will see Netflix compensating Swedish creators for initial showing of an original series, as well as providing additional remuneration for each individual season. It also includes a share of Netflix’s secondary exploitation revenues, if for example the company decides to license a series to a traditional broadcaster, distributed to all entitled parties.

  The agreement also ensures a pro rata payment based on certain contractual thresholds related to the number of streams accumulated by each programme. "Each party believes this is an important step toward ensuring fair and appropriate remuneration, and deepening Netflix’s commitment to the Swedish creative community and with its Swedish producing partners," said the two parties.

Understand each other's objectives

  "I am pleased that we have come to an agreement that provides consistency within the creative relationships and demonstrates our mutual commitment to the Swedish ecosystem," said Rachel C. Schumacher, Senior Counsel, International Labour Relations at Netflix. She added: “Netflix is committed to ensuring fair and appropriate remuneration for its talent, and thrilled to be embarking on this historic partnership with Teaterförbundet. We have built a relationship over time and worked hard to understand each other’s needs and objectives."

  The sentiment was shared by Ulf Mårtens, chief negotiator for copyright issues at Teaterförbundet: "Throughout the negotiations, both parties have shown a great deal of dedication in reaching an agreement that we hope will further strengthen the creative community. With Netflix being the first streaming service in Sweden to conclude a collective agreement, we look forward to working together to keep building a fair and progressive industry.”

  This agreement, which already exist in countries like France, could be replicated in other European countries where audiovisual creators are usually remunerated through collective management agreements with broadcasters when their works are used.

Synchtank and peermusic make IRIS available to the music royalty sector

By Emmanuel Legrand

Synchtank, a London-based cloud-powered software platform, has teamed with music publisher peermusic to unveil its latest software, IRIS (International Repertoire Information System), a royalty accounting platform for collecting, distributing, and/or reporting on music royalties.

  The product is aimed at rights owners, rights holders and rights administrators, with the ambition to "maximising automation and bringing clarity to increasingly complex processes." The system was originally developed by peermusic and has been running globally for over 10 years. It is already fully integrated with over 60 Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) and has over 1,000 formats for statements.

  “We built IRIS to allow us to best serve our clients in the digital era,” said peermusic Deputy CEO Mary Megan Peer. “For us this meant having a secure system with the ability to deal with significant amounts of data and with regularly changing CMO statement formats, but with quick processing time. IRIS has allowed our global royalties departments to become more efficient, allowing them more time to spend on income tracking. Our songwriters and their representatives appreciate the transparency, detailed information and ability to drill down into specific song details.”

Gap in the market

  According to the two companies, IRIS "can transform tedious, time-sucking tasks that can take days into the work of mere hours, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs" and allow organisations to "devote more time to value-add tasks than reports and repetitive data inputting."

  Synchtank’s Chief Business Officer Chris Cass, said. “We realised there was a gap in the market for high-performance royalty systems in this increasingly data-driven and complex environment. We discovered that peermusic had developed a system for their 30 worldwide offices based on these principals, and we worked directly with them to perfect the IRIS platform. It’s already handled more than $1 billion revenues and incorporates peermusic’s experience in markets around the world and our tech know-how.”

  “IRIS dramatically increases processing speed without missing any deadline or causing any distribution errors," said Cass.

Global film business revenues reached $101 billion in 2019

By Emmanuel Legrand
For the first time, the global film market – combining theatrical, home and digital entertainment – exceeded $100 billion in 2019, according to the annual THEME report, released by the Motion Picture Association.  
  Global revenues from the film industry reached $101bn in 2019, up 8% over the previous year, with global box office reaching $42.2 billion (+1% over 2018), and the home entertainment market, including streaming, reached $58.8bn (+14%), with physical format representing $10.1bn and digital $48.7bn.

  Subscriptions to online video services worldwide grew by 28% to 863.9 million in 2019, with the USA accounting for 237.2 million, up 26% year-on-year. "Streaming, which was once a small part of our business, is without a doubt an increasingly large part of our industry's bright future," wrote MPA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin in the foreword to the report. 
  Added Rivkin: "The film, television, and streaming industry continues to transform at breakneck pace, and this report shows that audiences are the big winners. Most importantly, our industry continues to innovate and deliver great storytelling for movie and TV fans — where, when, and how they want it.”

Pandora loses music streaming top spot in the USA to rival Spotify

By Emmanuel Legrand
Pandora is no longer the most popular music streaming service in the US, losing the top spot to Spotify in 2019. At the end of 2019, the American streaming service had 63.1 million listeners, down 8.1% over 2018, compared to Spotify's 65.4m US listeners, up 25.8% year-on-year, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast on digital music listeners. 
  Amazon Music and Apple Music are distant third and fourth with, respectively, 38.7m and 33.7m listeners. Both platforms have added listeners in 2019, with Apple up 18.5% y-o-y and Amazon up 27%. eMarketer define listeners as internet users of any age who listen to music streaming services on any device at least once per month. 
  Pandora and Spotify follow two different trends: Spotify has been on a constant growth path in the US, with users jumping from 45.8m in 2017 to 65.4m in 2019, when Pandora's listeners dropped from 74.5m to 63.1 million during the same period. eMarketer forecasts that Spotify's users' base will continue to grow, reaching 75.9m at the end of 2020 and 93.4m in 2023. Pandora is expected to have 60.8m listeners in 2020 and 57.8m in 2023. 
Key business decisions
  eMarketer attributes Spotify’s rapid growth "to a few key business decisions" such as the acquisition of several podcast production companies, which provided additional content on the platform. Additionally, Spotify partnered with Google Home Mini, Hulu and Samsung devices, "offering deals that have allowed it to reach more listeners."  
  “Thanks to a great user experience and strong discovery features, Spotify has added listeners to its free and premium services a lot quicker than we expected,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Peter Vahle. “In 2019, Spotify focused on adding and curating podcast content, which was largely successful in driving engagement and appealing to a wider range of listeners.” 
  eMarketer analysts forecast that while Pandora will remain the second-largest platform in terms of listeners through 2024, its listener's base will continue to decline throughout that time. Pandora, which is only available in North America, operates a non-interactive free tier, and two paid-for offers, Pandora Plus for $4.99 a month and Pandora Premium at $9.99 a month. 
Growing appetite for subs
  “In 2019, Pandora saw declines in ad-supported listeners and a slight increase in paid subscribers,” explained Vahle. “This has a big impact since Pandora’s ad-supported audience, which is much larger than Spotify’s, currently makes up a vast majority of its listeners. We continue to see a growing appetite for ad-free music subscriptions, which gives Pandora an opportunity to convert its ad-supported audience to its ad-free services like Pandora Plus and Premium.” 
  Regarding Amazon, eMarketer attributes the platform's growth to "the many music streaming options it offers" (ad-supported, Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Music HD) as well as the increasing popularity of its Echo smart speakers. In 2020, eMarketer forecasts that Amazon Music will grow by 12.%, reaching 43.3 million listeners. Meanwhile, Apple Music is expected to grow by another 10% to 37.1 million in 2020.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Singapore's Daren Tang elected Director General of WIPO

By Emmanuel Legrand

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has a new designated Director General in the person of Daren Tang, the current chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). Tang was elected by WIPO's 83-member Coordination Committee on March 4 after two rounds of voting from an initial list of six candidates, with Tang getting 55 votes against Binying Wang of China, who received 28 votes.

  Tang will be confirmed by WIPO's General Assembly at an extraordinary session on May 7-8, 2020. He will replace on September 30, 2020 outgoing Director General Francis Gurry, who served as DG since 2008 for two six-year terms.

Francis Gurry (left) and Daren Tang (Picture: IPOS)

  The election of Tang is a victory for the United States that campaigned heavily against China's candidate. “We are very pleased with the election outcome," said Andrew Bremberg, the US ambassador to the United Nations, who added that the "overwhelming vote was a clear demonstration of the importance of protecting intellectual property and the entire independence of WIPO in the international community."

 A first for Singapore

  "This is the first time a Singaporean has been nominated for the leadership position of a UN Agency," said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

  Tang commented: “I am humbled and honoured by the nomination of the WIPO Coordination Committee as the DG-nominee ... There were many well-qualified candidates who contested through a fair, open and transparent process."  

  In a letter to WIPO’s coordination committee on Nov 6, Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan praised Tang's expertise and for transforming ISOS from “a regulator into an innovation agency with IP expertise and networks.”

A forum for IP issues

  WIPO is the main international body dealing with IP issues. Its core business is to manage the world's patent registration system, but the 193-member Geneva-based agency is also the forum for discussions on a wide range of IP and copyright issues. WIPO has recently started a process to evaluate the impact of Artificial Intelligence on copyright legal frameworks. It is also the forum where a possible treaty on the resale rights for visual artists is being discussed.

  WIPO administers 26 treaties that provide an international framework to copyright and IP issues, including the Berne
Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works from 1886, the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations, the Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms (1971), and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (2012).

  WIPO's budget is not funded by its members but by the proceeds from the patent filing fees. WIPO's revenues for 2020-2021 are expected to be in the region of 880 million Swiss francs ($921m).

Essential mission

  The election of Tang was greeted by Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO of the Washington, DC-based Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "Copyright protection and enforcement is a critical driver of global job growth, economic development, culture and trade, and WIPO plays a critical role in assuring the world’s creators are granted exclusive rights to their property," said Glazier. "It is vital to the music community that creators receive fair value for their work and music fans have access to legitimate content. We look forward to working with Mr. Tang on this essential mission.”

Switzerland wants to be out of USTR's 'Watch List' after passing a new Copyright Act

By Emmanuel Legrand
The Swiss Government has filed a letter with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) addressing the main concerns that the United States and copyright holder groups have with the country's copyright regime. The letter points out that from April 1 of this year, Switzerland's new Copyright Act will come into effect and should answer some of the issues that have warranted the country to be on the USTR's ‘Watch List'.

  Provisions in the law include a "stay down" requirement for ISPs. “If pirate sites are hosted in Switzerland, the revised legislation targets them by creating a ‘stay-down’ obligation," reads the letter seen by TorrentFreak. "Such hosting providers will have to ensure that infringing content, once removed, remains off their servers." But the law does not include measures such as pirate site blocking and maintains the “private use” exception for downloading. 
Unjustified inclusion
  "With the conclusion of the revision to its Copyright Act, Switzerland further demonstrates its commitment to copyright protection and enforcement. The revised law constitutes an important step in effectively addressing the challenges posed by the internet and includes effective remedies against copyright piracy on the internet,” states the Swiss government in the letter. 
  It continues: “It should thus put an end to criticism directed against Switzerland as a host country for infringing sites. With the upcoming enactment of the revised Copyright Act as of 1 Apr 2020, Switzerland considers a further inclusion on the watch list to be unjustified and inappropriate."
  TorrentFreak noted that "whether the USTR agrees with this conclusion will become apparent in the upcoming Special 301 Report, which is set to be released later this year."

SGAE's board names Adrian Estrepo as director general

By Emmanuel Legrand 
SGAE's Board of Directors has appointed Adrián Restrepo Rendón, an intellectual property expert from Colombia, as the new Director General of the Spanish music rights society. He replaces outgoing director general, Juan Carlos Angaramo, whose contract ended on March 5. 
  The arrival of Restrepo, 54, a respected IP expert, could help appease some concerns about SGAE's implementation of the society's statutes, voted for the general assembly on January 30, and the modernisation of its rights management systems. 
   SGAE said that the appointment of Adrián Restrepo will allow the organisation "to boost its international strategy," and undertake its "digital transformation to adapt it to the new challenges in copyright management."
New technologies specialist
  Restrepo is a systems engineer and specialist in new technologies applied to the management of intellectual property. He is the former CEO of Colombian society SAYCO, and also worked for Peru's APDAYC as deputy general manager.

  He was a member of the internal audit committee of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and worked with CISAC to implement CISAC's Common Information System (CIS) and infrastructures for societies in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, within the LatinNet program.

  CISAC's board decided in June 2019 to suspend SGAE's membership to the global confederation. However, a spokesperson for the Paris-based organisation said CISAC "was not aware of [Respreto's] appointment before it took place" and "does not endorse his appointment or takes any view or position with respect to it." 
Strengthen the society

  SGAE also announced that Chief Financial Officer Gerardo Rodríguez will step down "by mutual agreement" to allow Restrepo to find the best candidate for the job in order to implement the digital transformation project and the international initiatives. SGAE's Secretary General, Germán Bercovitz, will also be leaving the society "by mutual agreement" and, according to the statutes, will be replaced by SGAE's chief legal counsel Marta Beca until further decision from the Board of Directors. 
  SGAE President Pilar Jurado, said the changes will allow the society to “strengthen itself with people having maximum technical competence and an international management experience,” and focus on “improving service to our partners, increasing the collection of authors and strengthening our international role."

Pex acquires Dubset Media

By Emmanuel Legrand
Los Angeles-based video and music data tracking and analytics company Pex has acquired San Francisco-based rights management platform Dubset Media Holdings, which has pioneered online content licensing agreements for DJ mixes. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Dubset chief executive Stephen White is not part of the deal but Bob Barbiere, VP of Global Licensing at Dubset, has joined Pex as SVP Digital Rights. 
  Pex provides content-owners with an exhaustive account of what, where, and how much of their copyrighted works are being distributed and consumed across all of the world’s leading digital platforms.
  Pex said that the combination of its copyright search and content management tools, combined with Dubset's systems will allow rights holders using Dubset’s platform to "have access to their catalogue’s use and performance in any audio and video content across social media and user-generated content platforms."
  “Dubset is a company we’ve been interested in for some time,” said Rasty Turek, founder and CEO of Pex. “There are very few companies in the music business that have successfully licensed as much catalogue as Dubset, and the music rights database they’ve built is massive and rare. Our technology’s scale and speed enables broad market access by all rights holders to our rights management and analytics services, built on top of the 20 billion video and audio files in our indexed database. We feel this will prove to be a game-changing combination."
Monetise catalogues
  “The distribution of digital media via social media has outpaced rights holders’ abilities to track, license, and manage their audio and video assets,” said Barbiere. “Dubset was timely and successful in filling an industry need around identification and licensing of music in mixes and remixes. This acquisition will immediately expand rights holders’ abilities to locate, protect, and monetise use of their catalogue within any form of music or video currently being shared on any of the world’s largest UGC and social media sites.” 
 In addition, Pex has rolled out its copyright compliance solution, Attribution Engine, which identifies, licenses, and administers royalties for the use content. For digital platforms, Pex's Attribution Engine "mitigates significant copyright liability, meeting or exceeding all requirements contained within Article 17 of the new EU Copyright Directive, which promises to close the value gap between content creators and platforms."