Pandora's Royal(ty) Problem

$90 million. 

That's how much Pandora is required to pay to record labels in royalties for pre-1972 recordings. In a settlement between Pandora and several record labels, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Capitol Records and ABKCO Music & Records, has covered themselves through the end of 2016 for pre-1972 royalties. 

Pandora isn't the only coughing up back royalties to Labels. 4 months ago Sirius XM had to pay $210 million three months ago to resolve a similar case filed against them for pre-1972 recording royalties. 

LA Times has an interesting write up here


Sing It Out

How many times have you heard the song, "Happy Birthday To You" sung on a television show or film? Perhaps it's because singing the song publicly often came at a steep price.  It's relatively well known that the rights to the lyrics of "Happy Birthday To You" have been tied up preventing the public performance of the celebratory tune.

On Tuesday, August 22, 2015 a Federal Judge in the Central District of California granted a summary judgment motion against Warner/Chappell, who has enforced the rights to the song for plenty of years. Warner/Chappell has collecting approximately $2 million per year in royalties for the song. Mildred Hill and Patty Smith Hill, the original writers and sisters, transferred the rights to the melody of the song to Clayton F. Summey Company, who was later acquired by Birch Tree Group. Birch Tree Group was then later acquired by Warner/Chappell. Judge George H. King, however, found that the rights to the lyrics to "Happy Birthday To You" were never properly transferred from the Hill Sisters and are therefore in the public domain free to use by anyone. 

The next step in this lengthy battle, that's been going on since 2013, is to determine whether Warner/Chappell should be forced to return the royalties it has collected from the song over the years. In the meantime, creators should rejoice that their characters can celebrate their birthdays properly on the big and small screen without a hefty price tag. 

Computer Screen to the Silver Screen

YouTube is not just a hotbed for cat videos or pranks, it's also a career starter. As an entrepreneur focused firm, we believe in the power of taking your career goals into your own hands. Nothing offers that power more than the web for content creators. YouTube stars Jenn McCalister and Lauren Luthringshausen are the latest mini-screen celebrities turned Hollywood starlets, in the upcoming film Bad Night. Check out this article from Kernel Magazine discussing how some of the "big guys" are starting to pay attention to the talent pool that YouTube fosters.

If you are ready to launch your own YouTube channel or have a web series in production, contact The Rad Firm, APC to make sure all of your legal ducks are in a row. 

The Perils of Periscope and Meerkat for Content Creators

Logos owned by Meerkat and Periscope.

Logos owned by Meerkat and Periscope.

Meerkat and Periscope are attempting to make live streaming fashionable. Despite reservations about poor quality video and grainy user footage, showcasing life in real time is unquestionably the next popular trend in social media. Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Don't forget-- It wasn't that long ago that cellphone cameras were ubiquitous with low resolution photos, before their quality rivaled that of high-end cameras. It is only a matter of time before Meerkat and Periscope offers the premium viewing quality audiences have grown to expect from visual media. Unfortunately when there's a popular trend, someone is going to figure out how to game the system. In the case of Meerkat and Periscope, it's Internet Pirates. 

Are Meerkat and Periscope going to evolve as the preferred method of internet pirates? Generally, as in the case with YouTube, a take down notice is sent from a copyright owner and Youtube then removes the content. The owner of the channel who posted the video can then submit a response to explain why the video should be put back up. Studios and other large corporate content creators have entire departments dedicated to sending take-down notices to YouTube. Independent content creators, don't have the time or money to sit on YouTube, let alone Periscope or Meerkat to scan for piracy. Here are 3 hurdles independent content creators may need to overcome to try and stop the livestreaming of unowned content beyond the companies requesting users to report infractions. 

1) The Digital Millennium Copyright Act currently doesn't apply to live streamed content, only content redistributed. 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is hardly a favorite legislation of internet piracy advocates. For much of the 21st century, it has been the act which empowers the US government to take down popular piracy sites in the name of content creators. 

One problem: the DMCA only applies to content that is recorded for redistribution for illegal means. In the case of Meerkat and Periscope, users are never recording content, yet the threat of illegal redistribution is equal to that of sites which host illegally recorded content. 

2) It's going to be difficult to prove that a user is sharing content illegally. 

Proving that a user is hosting illegal shared content may be of extreme difficulty due to current technological limitations.* As preferred in any case which goes to court nowadays, photo and video evidence can sway a jury or judge in ways simple argumentation may not. This is where an issue may erupt with these platforms, as any user who seeks to protect their rights will probably need to find a way to record content not meant for recording in order to prove that someone is illegally distributing content they do not own. Doesn't that sound like a chicken and egg situation? We think so.

3) We can't just rely on users.

Meerkat and Periscope's response has been to listen to user requests for copyright infringements. Once receiving word of a violation, the app shuts the offending user down in an attempt to curtail the damage already done. Both Meerkat and Periscope are operating on blind faith of users stepping up, which leaves a potential for abuse by users and the problem of illegally streamed content not being found by systems administrators. If the apps are focusing on users to step up, that is a surefire way to understand that current law is insufficient.

* Update June 23, 2015: Persicope began allowing replays of the live streams for 24 hours after the stream ends. 


Has Cord-Cutting Finally Hit Its Stride

Scott Swigart /Flickr

The concept of cutting the cable cord has been an ever-growing trend over the past few years. As a cord-cutter myself, I enjoy the freedom to watch content when and where I choose for a much lower price than traditional cable. Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime have all become staples in the cord-cutter repertoire. Traditional content providers are finally understanding that cord-cutting is more than a passing phase. In late 2014, HBO announced that it would be offering subscriptions to its popular HBO GO app for users without the requisite cable subscription, and cord-cutters rejoiced. 

Dish Network became the most recent and interesting company to jump on the bandwagon when it announced its new app Sling TV in January 2015 . Sling TV allows cord-cutters to pay $20/month to have access to a bundle of cable channels. These 12 channels include CNN, ESPN, ESPN 2, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, TBS, ABC Family, TNT, HGTV, and Food Network.  Users are only allowed to watch channels live and are not able to pause or rewind. The app is currently compatible with iOS, Android and Roku platforms. There are additional packages of channels that can be purchased for an additional $5. 

I'm interested to see how and if Sling TV takes off. I applaud Dish Network for actually paying attention to trends in the industry. Albeit a bit late, it's still the first of the cable/satellite providers to do so. The biggest drawback it seems is the inability to play shows when the user wants to. 

What do you think? Will Sling TV save Dish Network as the cord-cutting trend continues to grow?