Weekly Entertainment Law News: TikTok in Content Ownership Controversy, Musician Sues “Baby Shark” Producers, and more

Another Content Ownership Controversy for TikTok, Copyright Office: No License Required for Use of Songs in Marriages, Musician Sues “Baby Shark” Producers for Copyright Infringement, Producer Sues Drake for Copyright Infringement of Beats, RIAA Refuses to Share “Six-Strikes” Results with Cox, Eminem’s Publisher Sues Spotify for Copyright Infringement, and more.

National News

Another Content Ownership Controversy for TikTok
Online video-sharing platform TikTok has found itself in the middle of a content ownership controversy yet again. TikTok had sent takedown notices to social networking platform ShareChat, asking ShareChat to remove content in which TikTok claimed copyright ownership.  However, ShareChat has sent   a letter to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy), in which it has pointed out the inconsistency of TikTok’s claims of being a content owner as well as an intermediary.
In its takedown notices, TikTok had claimed that it had exclusive contracts with certain content creators, which gave it the right to exclude other platforms from featuring content created by these users. However, ShareChat claims that this contradicts TikTok’s claim of being an intermediary under the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
Section 79 of the (IT) Act, 2000 and the corresponding 2011 Rules prevent intermediaries from initiating any transmission, selecting receivers and selecting or modifying the information contained in the transmission.  In its letter, ShareChat has questioned TikTok’s claims, citing the government’s position against similar exclusive contracts in online retail and service platforms.  TikTok has been involved in a public interest litigation earlier this year, which had sought to ban the app due to its inappropriate content.
Copyright Office: No License Required for Use of Songs in Marriages
The Copyright Office has issued a public notice clarifying that the utilization of any sound recording in the course of religious ceremony including a marriage procession and other social festivities associated with a marriage does not require a license from the copyright owners. The notice was issued in response to representations from various stakeholders seeking a clarification on the issue.
The Copyright Office has cited the fair use provisions in Section 52 (za), which specifically makes an exception for religious ceremonies, including those related to marriage.
The notice may be viewed here: http://copyright.gov.in/Latest_Notice37.aspx

International News

Musician Sues “Baby Shark” Producers for Copyright Infringement
The popular children’s song “Baby Shark” created by South Korean brand Pinkfong, is now the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit.  Johnny Only, a musician who has allegedly been performing the song for 20 years, is suing Pinkfong’s parent SmartStudy in a South Korean court, claiming that Pinkfong copied many elements of his unique version of the song. However, he has admitted that “Baby Shark” predates him, making the original version a public domain work. Only claims that he rewrote the original chorus to focus on the sharks, and make it a children’s song, and thus owns a copyright in his version.
Only claims that the length, the key, the tempo, the rhythm, the instrumentation, the harmony and styles of Pingfong’s version are similar to his, and both versions use a splash at the beginning. Pinkfong claims that its version is also based on the song in the public domain, and denies any infringement. Only published a YouTube video of his song in 2011, and has about 100,000 views. The widely popular Pingfong version has been viewed over 3.3 billion times on YouTube, and is the only one targeted at kids in the Top 10 most-viewed videos.
Producer Sues Drake for Copyright Infringement of Beats
Music producer Samuel Nicholas III, aka Sam Scully, has filed a suit against rapper Drake, accusing him of copyright infringement. Nicholas claims that Drake sampled beats from his song, “Roll Call” made in 2000, and used these beats in two songs “Nice For What” and “In My Feelings” both of which were released in 2018.
Nicholas learned of the use of his beat when he watched an interview of producer Adam Pigott who admitted to using a beat that he called “That Beat” when creating the Drake songs. Nicholas says “That Beat” is not an interpretation or new performance of the beat in “Roll Call”, but instead has been directly copied in Drake’s songs. He claims that neither Drake nor Pigott asked him for permission to use the bat, nor did they provide any compensation for its use.
Nicholas is seeking an injunction on the two songs and an invalidation of Drake’s copyrights in the songs. He is also requesting to receive all profits from the songs and additional damages for the infringement.
RIAA Refuses to Share “Six-Strikes” Results with Cox
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has refused to share information about the effectiveness of the “Six Strikes” Copyright Alert System with Cox Communications. The data was subpoenaed as part of an ongoing piracy liability lawsuit to show that the company’s own anti-piracy measures worked better than the alternative suggested by the music industry.
Several large internet service providers (ISPs)in the US sent copyright infringement warnings to customers engaging in piracy. After repeated alerts, these subscribers faced a variety of ‘mitigation’ measures, but their accounts were not terminated. Numerous RIAA labels resorted to filing lawsuits against the ISPs for not doing enough to curb piracy, specifically for failing to disconnect repeat infringers.
The lawsuit, which involves up to USD 1.5 billion in damages, is scheduled to go to trial later this year. Cox has shown an interest in the Copyright Alert System (CAS), requesting documents to compare the effectiveness of the CAS with its own measures.
Eminem’s Publisher Sues Spotify for Copyright Infringement
Eight Mile Style, the music publisher of American rap artist Eminem, has filed a lawsuit against music streaming service Spotify in a US court, alleging that Spotify knowingly streamed Eminem tracks without proper licenses and wants Spotify to compensate the publisher for billions of streams.
The suit alleges two unlawful actions by Spotify: first, willful ignorance of Eight Mile Style’s ownership of Eminem’s catalogue when deciding how to pay out streaming revenue for his playback metrics, and second, violation of sections of the Music Modernization Act (MMA).
Among the central disputes is Spotify’s incorrect labelling of the song “Lose Yourself” as “Copyright Control”, which implies that rights-holders in the song are unknown. Eight Mile claims that Spotify also did not go through the proper process to obtain a license for “Lose Yourself” or determine who owned the licenses. “Lose Yourself” won an Oscar for Best Original Song, and featured in the film “Eight Mile Style”, starring Eminem.
Eminem himself is not a party to the lawsuit, as Eight Mile Style is owned by Mark and Jeff Bass, who own the rights to the majority of Eminem’s early works and also co-wrote a number of his hit singles.
Eight Mile Style is seeking actual damages that could amount to billions of dollars, and per-song statutory damages for 243 works. Spotify, which went public last year, is now valued at $26 billion, and could face penalties besides damages for infringement if found to have violated the MMA.
Authored and compiled by Ashwini Arun and Snehaja Rana (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
The Entertainment Law News Bulletin is brought to you jointly by the Entertainment Law and Consulting/Strategy Divisions of BananaIP Counsels, a Top IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected]  with the subject: Ent Law News.
Disclaimer: Please note that the news bulletin has been put together from different sources, primary and secondary, and BananaIP’s reporters may not have verified all the news published in the bulletin. You may write to [email protected]  for corrections and take down.

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