In the world of the music industry, the scope of copyright law is often stretched and contorted in an attempt to answer legal issues that didn’t even exist when said copyright law was written. Often, the current law must be interpreted in ways that the writers of the law likely never imagined. For businesses whose main product is music or the use of music, it is important to keep up with the various case law that is being created based on how the courts are ruling on these copyright issues. One way that music business such SadSon Music Group, LLC (the studio of which I happen to be a part) can keep up with the ever-changing landscape of copyright law is to pay attention to the various legal blogs and podcasts that exist on the Internet. I recently reviewed two of these said podcasts, and found some examples that illustrate my point about copyright law.
The first podcast is from the Entertainment Law Update Podcast where several copyright issues were discussed. In the podcast, entitled No copyright, Sherlock?, where entertainment attorneys Gordon P. Firemark, Esq. and Tamera H. Bennett, Esq. discuss a variety of current legal cases. One of the cases that made my ears perk up was one where SiriusXM Satellite Radio is being sued by two musicians who are former members of the band called The Turtles. The Turtles recorded several songs in the 1970’s that are being played on satellite radio stations owned by SiriusXM. Tamera discussed how XM, prior to merging with Sirius, was paying royalties to SoundExchange in order to play pre-1972 songs. Once XM merged with Sirius (who hadn’t been paying said royalties), the new company that was formed no longer paid any money to SoundExchange for the broadcast of these pre-1972 sound recordings. Why are songs recorded prior to 1972 an issue, you ask? Well, February 14, 1972 was when recorded songs began to fall under copyright protection. Prior to that, there is no law to force a radio station or other entity to pay a royalty to a copyright owner. This is an ongoing case, where case law exists both in favor of and against the defendant, SiriusXM, so it will be interesting to see how the laws created in 1972 will be applied to the new technology that is now in place.
A second podcast from Entertainment Law Update Podcast titled 360 deals, rights of publicity, and more discusses the emerging practice of record labels and what is known as 360 deals. A 360 deal is a record deal that allows the signing record label to share profits not only from the artist’s record itself, but also ownership or profit sharing of the artist’s entire career revenues. In California, there is a Talent Agencies Act that exists that says that only a licensed agency can “procure” employment for an artist. There are similar laws in New York and Tennessee (due to Nashville and the Country Music Industry). It is currently a hot issue as to if these 360 deals are in violation of the Talent Agencies Act, because the record label is NOT a licensed agent. Obviously, these laws don’t apply in most states, but the fact that most music industry business occurs in either California, New York, or Tennessee, the legal issues that arise due to the 360 deals will be an important topic to stay current on if one is to be part of the music industry in general.
Suffice to say, if one is to stay current in the legal aspects of the music industry, one must devote time every day to educate themselves about current copyright and other intellectual property issues that surface EACH DAY. This complicated world of entertainment law is even more evidence that any artist or other music industry professional would do well to retain an entertainment attorney (not just any attorney) in order to protect themselves as the legal landscape continues to shift as technology and business practices continue to change.