Spotify, the Sweden-based company was hit with a lawsuit recently for charging a customer monthly without her consent. A Spotify customer who recently upgraded her account, states that she did not give consent for recurring charges to her credit card. At the initial upgrade, customers are awarded a free month prior to being charged. Customers are informed at this time that if they do not cancel their subscription after the first month, their credit card on file will then be charged. Subscriber Melissa Bleak, “claims that automatic renewal charges to her premium account violate a California law requiring affirmative consent”. Read More
Just like the common cold, pretty much everyone has had Bieber fever, but apparently people are immune to the epidemic. Two songwriters, Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Virginia against the pop star. Justin Beiber and Usher are facing a $10 million lawsuit for supposedly stealing song “Somebody to Love.” Back in 2009, Copeland and Overton claim that “Somebody To Love” was presented to Usher and Jonetta Patton, Usher’s mother, who also plays the role of his manager from time to time, by music scouts. They state that copy was never returned and that they never heard back from Jonetta or anyone associated with the company. Read more
Anthrax members Charlie Benante, Frank Bello, and frequent VH1 panelist Scott Ian found themselves caught in a mosh in 2009 when Dan Nelson sued the group for some inaccurate statements they made after his departure from the band. The band published that an illness had caused the singer to leave and the band to cancel an upcoming concert tour. Nelson pursued a $2.65 million lawsuit to refute Anthrax’s “intentional defamation” and collect lost royalties. “I was never seriously ill or sick at all, as reported in Anthrax’s 7/17/09 press release,” said Nelson. “This statement misled fans, friends, and family members into believing that I was seriously ill when I was not.” To settle the suit, Nelson was offered a confidential, yet “fairly small”, monetary amount and was given co-writing credit on 11 of the 14 songs on the band’s 2011 release Worship Music.
A unique legal settlement has gone down just across town from Lawyer.com headquarters here in Basking Ridge, NJ. Apparently, a combo bar/restaurant called the Bamboo Grille had its liquor license suspended because of noise complaints from two neighbors. Not, of course, the rowdy roadhouse kinds of noises like bar fights and hollers, but that of amplified live music. Each spring prior to 2011, the bar opened up its mezzanine to the likes of acoustic duo 3 West and the Ed Fleischman Jazz trio. Clearly, raucous and disruptive young punks. These performances, from 7-10 pm Thursday through Saturday (what I like to call “bedtime for boring people”), were enough to rile up a couple of families across the way, who filed numerous complaints with the township over the course of three years. In 2011, the township suspended Bamboo Grille’s liquor license, later returning it on the condition that the bar no longer use electricity for outdoor music. Since then, the bar has been embroiled in a fight for their right to party.
I’ve written before that music companies need to adjust to changing times. Today, Sony BMG settled a suit with a group of several musicians concerning digital distribution. The gist of it is this: the royalties that go to artists are different if the transfer of a song is considered a sale or a license. 12-20% of a sale goes to the artist, while 50% of a license does. A sale means that the copyright holder has given some ownership rights to the purchaser (e.g. with a CD or record, where the purchaser owns a copy of the album and can resell that copy at some point). A license means that a purchaser has the right to listen to the song, but the copyright holder still retains all ownership rights. Digital distribution services like iTunes and Amazon’s music download service have been treating digital versions of songs transferred via the internet as sales rather than licenses. This lawsuit challenged that definition — the artists alleged that online distribution is more like a license than a sale, and therefore they are owed more money.
The settlement of this case for $8 million may influence more artists to sue. If more artists sue, music distribution services may need to change their royalty calculation to a licensing system to protect themselves from greater losses in litigation. Last year, Eminem famously won a similar suit, though it was mainly based on his contract and not the idea of licensing in general. It was considered a precedent in copyright law, but since then the debate has been mostly quiet. Hopefully, the music industry will begin to shift its digital rights management and become more open to change and paying artists a fair share of their work. However, considering it’s an industry that sold over $6 billion worth of digital music last year, I can understand their reluctance to even a small shift in royalty fees.
- An excellent blog post about the difference between a license and a sale.
- Radiohead released their album In Rainbows using a different model
- A forthcoming government lawsuit tackles digital distribution of books