Category Archives: Copyright

Eminem vs. New Zealand’s National Party in Soundalike Copyright Trial

New ZealandHip Hop mega-artist Eminem sued New Zealand’s conservative National Party this month for copyright infringement. The suit alleges that the soundtrack, used in a 2014 National Party TV ad, was copied from Eminem’s iconic Lose Yourself and breached the copyright of Eight Mile Style, Eminem’s publisher.

The National Party said it licensed the rights to the soundtrack, titled Eminem Esque, from the Australian-based music library Beatbox Music.

Garry Williams, the lawyer for the plaintiff told the court that Lose Yourself is the ‘jewel in the crown of Eminem’s music catalog’ – the licensing of which is tightly controlled. ‘They would never allow the use of a re-recording of the musical work unless that re-recording involved the participation of the original artist.’  [Skynews, May 1, 2017]

He said the Detroit rapper’s hit was “iconic,” having won an Academy Award, two Grammys, and critical acclaim and that meant rights to the work were “enormously valuable” and were strictly controlled by the publisher, which had rarely licensed them for advertising purposes. [ABS CBN News, May 1, 2017]

Lose Yourself has indeed been licensed in the past. It was used to great effect in a Super Bowl ad in 2011. The ad, Imported from Detroit for Chrysler, was built around the guitar riff to the song.  In this case,  Lose Yourself was legally licensed (paid for) and used with the artist’s permission. Eminem appeared in the ad giving a boost to his hometown of Detroit.  The success of the Imported from Detroit campaign more than likely contributed to Lose Yourself becoming “the jewel in the crown of Eminem’s music catalog”.

Eminem Esque, the song the National Party licensed, has the same urgent, pulsing beat of Eminem’s song.

Here is the ad spot.

While there is little doubt that the soundalike Eminem Esque emulates the main riff of Lose Yourself, they are not identical.

Lose Yourself makes use of an insistent eighth note guitar riff which alternates between the pitch A for one measure and then moves to B-flat for one measure. The real sonic power of the riff is the guitar which, performed with some very fine musicianship, creates high interest using different accents applied to notes in the riff.

Eminem-esque’s version of the guitar line is this.

It is clearly different (and in no way as interestingly performed as in the Eminem track). It incorporates notes not found in Lose Yourself. It’s true; the guitar is featured prominently in the mix just as in Lose Yourself. Eminem Esque is also in the same key as Lose Yourself but it adds sustained synthesizer strings and harmonies that are not found in the Eminem recording.

Identical? The answer is no. I’m sure this is what the creators of Eminem Esque thought as well. They had made enough change in their soundalike that, though they were drawing on Lose Yourself, they had created enough difference that their track would be free from a copyright infringement claim.

What makes things difficult is that the infringement in question centers around a guitar riff. There is no real melody here. Most infringement cases compare the vocal line – the song’s melody – one to another.

The precedent for Eminem’s claim of infringement is the 2015 case against Blurred Lines brought by the children of Marvin Gaye, who sued for copyright infringement claiming Blurred Lines copied Gaye’s hit Got to Give it Up.

“Rather than hinging on a particular set of notes [melody], Blurred Lines was found in violation of copyright based purely on the atmospheric similarity to Gaye’s Got to Give it Up — a “vibe” that’s a result of production choices and the rhythm pattern.”  [ Business Insider, Sept 16 2016]

This verdict has been appealed. It has also been criticized by many composers, musicians, and songwriters. In the summer of 2016 more than 200 music creators signed a legal brief supporting Pharrell Williams’ appeal of the $5.3-million judgment handed down against him and Robin Thicke in 2015.

The brief states:

“Quite clearly, the verdict in this case, if based upon the music at all, was based upon the jury’s perception that the overall ‘feel’ or ‘groove’ of the two works is similar, as songs of a particular genre often are. In essence, the Appellants have been found liable for the infringement of an idea, or a series of ideas, and not for the tangible expression of those ideas, which is antithetical to Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act.

“Such a result, if allowed to stand, is very dangerous to the music community, is certain to stifle future creativity, and ultimately does a disservice to past songwriters as well,” the brief states. [Los Angeles Times August 31, 2016]

It could be that what constitutes copyright infringement is changing. If the Blurred Lines decision is the new precedent, then it’s not only a melody line that’s copyrighted it’s a “feel.”

Eminem’s lawyer’s argument against the use of Eminem Esque is that the song taps into the collective associations and cultural connections that listeners’ have with Lose Yourself. It appropriates a listener’s cultural memory of a hit song, and that memory has a huge value. This is no longer about comparing musical notes on a page. It is about claiming infringement upon a musical work’s worth to the zeitgeist.

If using a similar “groove” or “feel” or “vibe” or 2 note, half step riff can be claimed as legal grounds to sue for infringement; we are into a whole new era of copyright jurisprudence.

Listen to this.  The linked page provides an A/B comparison of the 1970s band Chicago’s 25 of 6 to 4 with Led Zeppelin’s Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You. Same riff, same key, same notes, basically the same rhythm. Both of these songs have gone on to be Classic Rock standards.

As of this writing, there’s been no verdict in the case against the usage of Eminem Esque. The appeal of the Blurred Lines decision has also not been settled. Victories in these two cases would solidify a new precedent in copyright law.

The Public Domain – A Guide for Media Producers

What do these artistic works have in common?

  • Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
  • Hamlet
  • Moby Dick
  • Oh Susannah
  • America the Beautiful
  • Tarzan
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Answer: They are no longer protected by copyright law and are free for all to use. They are classified as being in the Public Domain.

These creative works, and thousands like them, are available for use by the public at no charge because their copyrights have expired or have somehow, been nullified.

The available public domain media include images, music, photos, illustrations, graphics, books, artworks and movies.

Generally speaking, US publications prior to 1923 are in the public domain. So you won’t find the latest bestsellers or any top ten hits. You will find the classic books from the start of this century and previous centuries, as well as the great musical masterworks from Bach to Tchaikovsky.

Copyright Limits
In the United States, works published with a copyright notice from 1923 through 1977 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. Those published in 1978 or thereafter are now protected for 70 years after the death of the creator, as are those in the European Community. In Canada and other countries, the period is life plus 50 years.

Misconceptions about Public Domain works
True or False…since Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, Swan Lake, was composed in the 19th century and is now in the public domain, it can be freely used as background music in video or multimedia presentations?

The answer is True AND False

It is true that Swan Lake is no longer under copyright and this public domain music can be freely used without seeking permission from a publisher. In other words, you don’t have to pay anyone to acquire synchronization rights to be able to use the music of Swan Lake.

However, if you use an existing recording of Swan Lake in your work, that recording is protected by copyright and you would need to get permission from the record company to use it.

So yes, Swan Lake is public domain music and you could use it for free if you assembled your own ensemble of musicians and recorded your own version of it. But if you use someone else’s recorded version, you would need permission from them to be able to use their recording in your production.

This is an example of a public domain piece of music –  Jeux D’eau by Maurice Ravel. Though the work itself is in the public domain, this recording is fully copyrighted and would require a license to use in your work.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb when using music, images, graphics, or texts in your productions… If you didn’t personally create it, then you need permission to use it in your work unless the media in question has entered the public domain. For a detailed article about copyright permissions, Master Use and Synchronization Rights, see the article How to Use Music Legally in Your Work.

UniqueTracks Public Domain Classical Music
UniqueTracks offers a quick and easy way to legally license classical music recordings of music works that are in the public domain. When you purchase a license from UniqueTracks, you are acquiring master use rights to use the recordings in your projects and products with no further licensing or payments to us.

The UniqueTracks Stock Music Library licenses public domain classical stock music recordings for a variety of media use.  Classical music offers the benefit of time-tested melodies that have moved listeners for generations. Included in our series are movements from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballets ” Swan Lake“, “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker (Suite)“, the famous “Blue Danube Waltz” by Johan Strauss, Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” Vivaldi’s brilliant “Gloria” for choir and orchestra, numerous solo Piano Waltzes by Chopin, the “Air on a G String” by J S Bach, and Schubert’s “Fifth Symphony”.

Public Domain Sites, More Information
Project Gutenberg – A great site of public domain literature, Project Gutenberg is the oldest producer of free electronic books (eBooks or etexts) on the Internet. All may be freely downloaded and read and redistributed for non-commercial use.

Copyright Confusion by Neil Wilkinson
Clear and concise discussion of copyright from WritersWeekly.com

United States Copyright Office – Library of Congress. Lots of copyright information, also tells how to register your own work for copyright.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising, and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results.  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.


Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

How To Use Music Legally In Your Work

When do I need a license to use music in my work?
You need to acquire a license when you want to take music that you have not personally created and use it as background music soundtrack in your production.  Acquiring a license gives you the legal right to include someone else’s copyrighted work as a part of your own work.

What is a Copyright?
Copyright is a federal law that protects creators by giving them exclusive rights to their works for a period of time.  Once a work is under copyright, it is considered copyright infringement (illegal) to use the work without the permission of the copyright owner.

How does copyright affect my decision to use music?
Music that has been recorded and issued on CD is protected by 2 copyrights.  To use a recording of a musical composition in your work, you need to get permission from both copyright holders.

The first permission you need is from the music’s publisher.  The music publisher holds the copyright for the actual written music – the melody, the lyrics, the accompaniment, the actual music as it would appear in sheet music.  This copyright is shown by using the familiar © symbol.

The second permission is for the recording itself.  To get this, you would approach the record company that released the recording.  The record company holds the copyright for the actual performance of the song captured and mastered on tape and released on CD.  The symbol for this copyright is the letter (P) inside a circle. (look on the back of your own Cds, you will see these symbols in use)

The fact that music is protected by copyright doesn’t mean you cannot use it, it simply means you have to seek permission to use it.  To receive that permission you will typically have to pay a licensing fee.

What licenses do I need?
Here are the licenses you need for the right to use music in your media project:

Synchronization License – This license is issued by the music publisher.  The Synchronization License (often abbreviated as “sync” license) gives you the right to “synchronize” the copyrighted music with your images and dialogue.

Note: Having a sync license means you have permission from the publisher to use the music but it doesn’t give you the right to use a specific recording of the composition.  For that, you need the following…

Master Use License – This license is issued directly from the record company. Fees can range from several hundred dollars to millions of dollars depending on the popularity of the music.

Once you have paid the music publisher for a Sync License and the record company for a Master Use license, you have the legal right to use the music in your production within the terms of the license you negotiated.

Sidebar
This article is about music that is under copyright and NOT in the public domain.  In the United States, music written before 1933 is in the public domain and can be used without having to acquire a synchronization license.  However, you will still need a master use license if you use a recording of a piece in the public domain.  Music written after 1933 is still under copyright according to US law.  Public Domain is defined and interpreted differently in Canada, Europe, and the UK. Here is an article with more detail about using public domain music.

How do I find out who owns the song rights?
If you don’t know the publisher of the song you want to license, you should contact the major Performance Rights Organizations like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.  These groups have large databases of composer and associated publisher song titles.  Another place to try is The Harry Fox Agency. This company mainly grants mechanical rights (for recording and existing song), but their database is also huge.

Music Clearance
As you can see from the process described above, licensing music can be a time-intensive, form-laden, and expensive process.  There are companies that just specialize in finding and processing the paperwork to get you the rights to a song. If you enter the term “Music Clearance” in a search engine, many music clearance companies will appear.  If you have a music supervisor on your project, he or she will also be experienced in music clearance.

A Licensing Alternative – Production Music
Using Production Music (also referred to as Stock Music), is the easiest way to quickly license music to use legally in your work. Production Music fills a niche for producers who don’t have a million dollar music budget and can’t afford to license a major hit song.  Production Music gives the smaller, independent producer the ability to use music soundtracks in his or her production.

Is Production Music under copyright?
Production music is protected by both the (C) and (P) copyrights.  When you buy a track from a production music library, you’ll receive a license agreement which grants you both synchronization and master use rights. It’s simple and easy to do.  For instance, at the UniqueTracks Stock Music site, your license and recorded master track can be downloaded right to your computer upon purchase.

Stock Production Music is not copyright-free as some have termed it.  It is fully protected by copyright law. With production music, you get the ease of licensing.  You don’t have to contact several sources to seek sync and master use licenses.  These licenses come bundled together and the rights granted are very wide.  A typical stock music license grants you permission to use the music in TV broadcasts, TV & Radio advertising, Internet streaming (great for YouTube videos) music-on-hold, apps & video games, in-store broadcast, and as corporate trade show products and giveaways.  Here is an example of a typical stock music license agreement.

Can I license a famous song from a production music library?
There are no production music pop hits.  You won’t find an Eminem track in a royalty free production music library.  To use an Eminem cut you would have to negotiate a license with Interscope Records.  That’s not to say you can’t find Hip Hop tracks in production music libraries but you won’t find current or past pop hits.

Unlike a pop song, production music is composed to be used specifically as background music. It is usually instrumental, with no vocals or lyrics, and is similar to a film soundtrack.

The simplicity of licensing makes it a perfect choice for corporate videos, Flash animations, Game apps, Music-On-Hold, PowerPoint presentations, independent film, multimedia applications, – virtually anywhere where music is helpful but where the project budget doesn’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars to license expensive songs.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.


Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

DMCA needs to actually enter the millennium

The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) of 1998 sought to give Internet Service Providers legal protection (a “safe harbor”) against copyright infringement claims should one of their users upload copyrighted material. The act made sense at the early stages of the Internet before broadband expansion lead to companies like YouTube and sites like the Pirate Bay.

The DMCA puts the burden of enforcement squarely in the hands of content providers by way of the “takedown notice” which is essentially a form sent to the ISP owner stating that there is some type of media or software on their site which they do not have the rights to be hosting. The takedown notice informs the ISP owner that further legal action will be taken if they don’t comply by removing the sited item(s).

The problem with the DMCA today is that content owners can’t keep up with the volume of takedown notices they have to file. YouTube has received over 100 million DMCA notices from the recording industry in just the last few years. Google’s own statistics show that 97% of these claims are valid.

The DMCA’s safe harbor is also the main defense used by pirate sites like The Pirate Bay, KickAssTorrents and Torrentz. These sites have earned millions by illegally hosting content for which they have no rights or licenses.

Unfortunately, rather than manage copyright, it [the DMCA] has provided a huge loophole through which a number of online pirate entrepreneurs sail blissfully through. Known as the “safe harbor” provision, this oft-abused language has served to shelter digital thieves at the expense of rights holders. ”Safe Harbor” has enabled the growth of a criminal cancer and it’s a cancer–that as of now–cannot be beaten, only kept (marginally) at bay. – See more at VoxIndie.org

The DMCA is Broken from fastgirlfilms on Vimeo.

Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business

In 2013, Digital Citizens Alliance set out to understand how content thieves operate and profit from the works of others. In an effort to determine how much bad actors earn through advertising, Digital Citizens commissioned MediaLink LLC to undertake a research project focused on the ecosystem’s revenues and profitability.

The findings, published in the report “Good Money Gone Bad: Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business” show that these sites are making incredible profits off of the works of others.

The highlights include:
• Content theft sites reaped an estimated quarter of a billion dollars in ad revenue alone in 2013.
• The 30 largest sites that make revenue exclusively through ads averaged $4.4 million in 2013.
• The most heavily trafficked BitTorrent and P2P sites, which rely exclusively on advertising revenue, averaged a projected $6 million per year in 2013.
• 30% of the most heavily trafficked content theft sites carried premium brand advertising and 40% carried secondary brand advertising
• The sites studied in the sample had a estimated profit margin of 80-94%.
This presentation includes screenshots from many of the sites reviewed by MediaLink.

Download Digital Citizens Alliance Report

Download More information (Media Packet)
mediapacket

digitalcitizensalliance-infographic

Postcards to Defend Copyright

We at UniqueTracks want to pass along this link to a very smart messaging program from copylike.org (Defend Copyright). These are online postcards displaying easy to understand statements about the damage to artists caused by piracy and file-sharing. The postcards can be sent directly from the copylike.org site.

See some examples below…

copylike.org_postcard_rightsandtheft

copylike.org_postcard_money

copylike.org_postcard_musicisfree

 

Spread the word at
http://copylike.org

Wikipedia leverages user-generated content for its own politics

Information wants to be free… (or so the Web gospel reads)

Wikipedia apparently has entered the political arena, closing the site for one day to protest the SOPA bill.

What’s interesting to me is the notion that the knowledge collected by Wikipedia, freely given by volunteers spending untold hours contributing to the site, can be leveraged by the site’s owners to support their own politics.

I’m not sure if that would meet the approval of the many, varied, unpaid writers who contribute freely to Wikipedia or so-called crowdsource or “open source” platforms.

In an article titled The importance of Wikipedia published Nov 30, 2011 on opensource.com, Susan Hewitt, a 63-year old contributor to Wikipedia says

“Wikipedia is self-organizing and self-correcting,”. “There is no boss and police force, yet at this point in its development it’s perfectly clear that it works really well.” Wikipedia calls to the better angels of people’s nature, and those angels respond.

No police force, but apparently a higher power.

It’s the downside of the concept of a free web. The truth is there are powers behind the free web and they can use their power when it suits them. Now it’s free, now it’s not. Who decides? Well, we saw this week who decides.

Interestingly, a paid product, Encyclopedia Britannica, for instance, could not be so leveraged. Once you purchase it, it is yours. It can’t be removed from your home by the publishers because they don’t agree with your politics. Is that what we pay for? Ownership? Control? Privacy? Autonomy?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris

Charlie Crist Apologizes to David Byrne for Copyright Infringement

Charlie Crist has issued a formal apology for using the Talking Heads’ song “Road to Nowhere” in his 2010 campaign for governor of Florida.

Byrne sued Crist for 1 million dollars after Crist’s campaign used the song illegally. Byrne and Crist settled out of court. This video apology by Crist was probably part of the settlement.

Crist lost his election bid. During the campaign, he left the Republican party to run as an independent after a strong push from Tea Party-backed candidate Marco Rubio. Rubio went on to win the election.

Road to Nowhere was released on Talking Heads 1985 album Little Creatures.

Independent Filmmaker fights online piracy

I have noticed recently that, when one reads the comments from folks who participate in online piracy, their language is often filled with a kind of virtuous, take-from-the-rich Robin Hood-ism, where piracy is actually seen as the moral high-ground. Pirates are merely taking from overly rich global corporations that, in the case of music at least, are exploiting their artists anyway. The premise seems to be that piracy is good because it is fighting the good fight against fat, capitalist, power-brokers who are out there bilking the consumer.

Though this position is, I’m sure, both convenient and beneficial, it is also incorrect, as the following account of an independent filmmaker’s piracy travails will show.

Filmmaker Ellen Seidler and her partner poured $250,000 into their independent film, And Then Came Lola. The movie saw a good deal of success early on. Unfortunately, much of that success was achieved by content thieves.

Within 24 hours of the release of the DVD of “And Then Came Lola,” digital pirates had ripped the DVD and uploaded it to an internet distribution site where it was distributed for free download. Supported largely by AdSense ads, the site immediately began earning money off the movie.

Despite the fact that Google has a very strict policy against copyright infringement, they also apparently have an unwritten see no evil, hear no evil policy as Google’s AdSense ads are a recurring theme on sites that are pirating music and movies. Google claims that they cannot possibly root out every site that’s pirating copyrighted material and shut down their AdSense ads. Still, the frequency with which AdSense appears on sites completely dedicated to piracy, indicates that Google gives a cursory initial glance at a site before authorizing the site for AdSense and then never looks back.

And, Google isn’t the only advertiser that turns a blind eye to piracy issues. A number of major corporations (Walmart) continue to allow their ads to run on pirate sites.

So, Ellen decided to take matters into her own hands. She started filing take-down notices with every site she could find that was illegally distributing “And Then Came Lola.” Unfortunately, the task quickly became an overwhelming one.

Thousands of cyber lockers already offered her film for free download. Many of the sites have simply ignored her take-down requests. Several have complied with the take-down requests as they are afraid of having their entire site shut down (see End of 2010 sees crackdown on copyright infringement and online piracy), but many just don’t seem to care.

Add to this the fact that for every download link Ellen has disabled several more pop up. So, it seems that most of Ellen’s requests simply sail across the bow of pirate sites and fall harmlessly into the water.

In the end, Ellen (and all independent filmmakers) will need someone with some economic muscle to gather their navy and set sail against the digital pirates of the world. It doesn’t appear that will happen soon (read more on NPR or hear the story directly from Ellen), but independent filmmakers like Ellen Seidler have little choice other than to remain hopeful.

Ensuring Copyright Compliance the Easy Way

Here’s two online videos that describe copyright and how to re-use content in a legal manner. Though the videos deal mostly with using printed materials, they are good as a guide for using music as well.

The videos were produced by the Copyright Clearance Center.

Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) is a global rights broker for millions of the world’s most sought after materials, including in- and out-of-print books, journals, newspapers, magazines, images, blogs, ebooks and more.

CCC’s six minute Copyright Basics video is a great way to get an overview of copyright. It covers everything from the origins and reasons for copyright laws to what is not protected under copyright laws.

The second video gives more specifics on how copyright laws can be inadvertently violated in your workplace. Watch CCC’s video Copyright @ Work. This video introduces you to the typical ways employees unintentionally (or intentionally) ignore copyright laws in the workplace and how you can easily resolve the problem to ensure you and your employees are within the law.

About the Copyright Clearance Center
Copyright holders simply enroll at Rights Central and they’re ready to earn royalties on the creative content for which they have copyrights. CCC makes the content easily searchable and then sends the copyright holder a single check for all royalties on all content the holder has in the CCC system. This saves companies from managing hundreds or thousands of royalty checks and working out details with hundreds or thousands of people who wish to use their content. Musicians will recognize this organization as similar to Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) ASCAP, BMI, SESAC

On the content user’s side, CCC eliminates the hassle of contacting copyright holders and waiting days, weeks, or even months for a reply that authorizes use of copyrighted content. Too often even people who are aware of copyright laws ignore them because getting permission is extremely time consuming.

With CCC, businesses or educational institutions can simply pay an annual fee that gives them authorization to use anything in the CCC database. No longer do you have to wait weeks for a response and pay out numerous checks to get authorization to use copyrighted material. With CCC you can pay once and help yourself to copyrighted materials all year long.