Weekly Copyright News: HC Denies Statutory License to Wynk for Tips’ Music, SC Refuses to Intervene in EC Bar on Release of Modi Biopic, Endgame Earns USD 2 Billion at Box Office, and more
Bombay HC Denies Statutory License to Wynk for Tips’ Songs, SC Refuses to Intervene in EC Bar on Release of Modi Biopic, DJ Arty sues Marshmello for ‘Happier’, RIAA Obtains Subpoena to De-anonymise Cloudflare Users, Artists Sue Universal Music over Assignment Clause, Facebook Revamps Video Rankings to Promote Original Content, Avengers: Endgame Earns Over USD 2 Billion in 11 days, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Makes Queen Richer Than the Queen, Snap Inc. Partners with Shopify for Advertising, and more.
“You will only have copyright in a society that places a very high value on the individual, the individual intellect, the products of individual intellect.”
― Tim Parks
Indian Copyright News
Bombay HC Denies Statutory License to Wynk for Tips’ Songs
Indian music streaming service Wynk, which is owned and operated by Airtel, was recently slapped with an injunction, and was asked to remove all content from its servers, which belonged to record label, Tips Industries Limited, after the two parties were unable to agree to a license re-negotiation. Wynk attempted to invoke the statutory licensing provision under Section 31-D of the Copyright Act, which is available to broadcasters, to require the licensing of any work which is being withheld from the public by the owner of the copyright. The High Court rejected this argument, and held that the statutory license rights would be available to only radio and television broadcasters, as the text of the provision suggested. Wynk’s continued use of songs owned by Tips Industries would amount to copyright infringement of Tips’ exclusive rights to sell and commercially rent copies of their songs.
This case may impact the ongoing dispute between Spotify and Warner Group, in which Spotify has sought a similar statutory license to broadcast works owned by Warner.
SC Refuses to Intervene in EC Bar on Release of Modi Biopic
The biopic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, starring Vivek Oberoi in the titular role, was set to release in theatres on the 11th of April. However, mere hours before the premiere, the producers were handed an order from the election commission, banning the release of the movie until the results of the Lok Sabha election are announced. The reason for the order was that the release of the movie would subserve the interests of one political party, and would thereby disrupt the level playing field.
The film producers approached the Supreme Court, challenging the order of the Election Commission, stating that the decision was arbitrary, as the Commission had not watched the entire film, but only the trailer. The Supreme Court, in response, ordered a screening of the entirety film to be viewed by the Election Commission, so that a more reasoned opinion may be arrived at, which would then be decided upon by the apex Court on the 26th of April.
The Supreme Court, after receiving the report from the Election Commission, refused to interfere with the order, and allowed the ban to persist until the announcement of the Lok Sabha election results.
The movie is now scheduled to release on May 24th 2019, one day after the results of the Lok Sabha elections are announced.
DJ Arty sues Marshmello for ‘Happier’
American DJ Marshmello (Christopher Comstock) is facing a copyright infringement suit against his song ‘Happier’, by Russian DJ and producer DJ Arty (Artem Stoliarov), who filed a suit in a California Court. The single, ‘Happier’, has been a resounding success, having sold over 2 million copies.
The suit claims that the song ‘Happier’, produced by Marshmello and Daniel Campbell, incorporates a note-to-note copy of 19 notes out of the 20, in the melody of Arty’s remix of OneRepublic’s song ‘I Lived’. He has named several other music companies as defendants in the suit. Lawyer Richard Busch, who is representing Arty, was instrumental in winning a similar suit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell for copying Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” in their 2013 single “Blurred Lines.”
Arty has asked for actual damages, profits for copyright infringement, a running royalty and an ownership share in ‘Happier.’ Marshmello has yet to issue a formal response to the lawsuit.
RIAA Obtains Subpoena to De-anonymise Cloudflare Users
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) obtained a subpoena against content delivery service provider, Cloudflare, demanding the names, contact information, addresses and payment information of six allegedly infringing users of Cloudflare’s services.
Although Cloudfllare provides a legitimate service of content delivery, the RIAA, which represents the interest of record labels and other copyright owners, is wary of the threats of copyright infringement that such entities pose. The RIAA has already identified several instances of copyright infringement taking place on the servers of Cloudflare. These instances include unauthorised sharing of songs of eminent artists like Drake, Taylor Swift, and Pink.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the US, which was enacted to tackle copyright infringement in the digital sphere, the process of obtaining a subpoena is fairly simple. A copyright owner merely has to make a reasonable claim of copyright infringement to obtain a subpoena. In this case, the RIAA provided links where such infringing content was being shared. The information so received could be used by the RIAA to tackle pirating websites like RapGodFathers music releasing website, and file-hosting websites ‘AyeFiles’ and ‘DBREE’.
Artists Sue Universal Music over Assignment Clause
Universal Music Group (UMG) is facing a suit for not honouring the 35-year termination clause in its contracts, in a suit filed by John Waite and Joe Ely. The record label has filed a motion to dismiss, citing several grounds, so as to retain their control over the works of the artists.
The US Copyright Act of 1976 permits termination of licenses or assignments after a period of 35 years from the grant, thereby allowing artists to regain ownership over their works, and granting them the freedom to approach other record labels. The clause, however, contains an exception, according to which any ‘works made for hire’ will not be covered by the 35-year termination clause.
Record labels have been taking advantage of the exception, by listing artists as their employees, thereby nullifying any chances of the authors regaining ownership over their works.
Licensing and Merchandising News
Facebook Revamps Video Rankings to Promote Original Content
Social Media giant Facebook has initiated a change in its algorithms to promote videos that feature original content created by the users, as opposed to videos featuring shared or unoriginal content. The changes will affect what videos appear on the ‘News Feed’, ‘Facebook Watch’, and the ‘More Videos’ pages.
The changes were introduced to help talented video creators to build profitable businesses around their content. The new algorithm factors in loyalty, intent, video durations and originality in raking videos.
This move tackles the monetization of sharing schemes and other content that may incorporate infringing content, and thus demotes such unoriginal videos across Facebook’s video sharing platforms.
Avengers: Endgame Earns Over USD 2 Billion in 11 days
The final movie of the Avengers series, aptly titled ‘Endgame’, is set to become the highest ever grossing movie in history, after already surpassing Titanic, with USD 2.2 Billion collected at box offices worldwide, in a record-breaking 11 days. This large-scale collection was boosted by its enormous USD 1.2 Billion collection on the opening weekend itself. Endgame is poised to overtake Avatar as well, which amassed a total of USD 2.8 Billion worldwide.
Marvel has applied an interesting strategy to the Avengers’ series, by linking the plots of 22 movies over 11 years, which culminated in its climax, Avengers: Endgame. It also employed a number of innovative marketing and box office moves, including round-the-clock shows, social media embargoes, and media tie-ins.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Makes Queen Richer Than the Queen
Classic rock band Queen, fronted by Freddie Mercury, played their last concert in 1986. However, the blockbuster biopic of the band, starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, has fueled the revenues of the remaining band members by a large scale. The movie collected a whopping USD 902 Million at the box offices, and a great deal more through licensing and other agreements.
The licensing agreements for the movie have given the remaining band members’ a net worth of USD 583 Million. This is about $100 million more than what Queen Elizabeth II is currently worth (USD 484.6 Million), according to the Sunday Times’ Rich List. Although the calculation excludes certain assets like the royal art collection, the ranking highlights the many channels through which musicians can continue to monetize their works and stories.
Snap Inc. Partners with Shopify for Advertising
Snap Inc., which operates the Snapchat application, has joined hands with e-commerce company Shopify, to increase revenues through advertisement slots. The businesses that sell on Spotify can now purchase slots, to display their goods on Snapchat directly.
Snapchat has recently become a platform for businesses to display advertisements through Snapchat’s story feature, where advertisements that are compatible with the application are displayed while the user scrolls through stories uploaded by other users. The prospective advertiser may purchase a Snapchat Story ad profile, and post advertisements there, and select a target market. Considering the immense popularity, this affords a lucrative opportunity to small and medium scale producers.
Snapchat’s partnership with Shopify amplifies the advertising horizons of small-scale sellers, as they are now able to reach their target market, and do not have to shell out substantial amounts of money on market research and segmentation. Advertisements are tailored based on users’ interests, other Snapchat users that they follow, and the nature of the target market.
Author: BIP’s Copyright and Entertainment Law Attorneys
Led by Sanjeeth Hegde, Senior Partner, the entertainment law attorneys at BIP are among the well-known lawyers in the field. They work with clients such as Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions, Ananda Audio, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh, and Arka Media (Producer of Bahu Bali). BIP’s entertainment law team helps clients protect, manage and effectively license and merchandise their creative works such as films, music, brands and other content, to maximize financial returns.
The weekly copyright and entertainment law news initiative is a part of their pro bono work, and is aimed at spreading entertainment law awareness. You are free to share the news with appropriate attribution and backlink to the source.
If you have any questions, you may write to BIP’s Copyright and Entertainment Law Attorneys – [email protected]