Weekly IP Buzz for the week ending September 6, 2019

Weekly IP Buzz for the week ending September 6, 2019

In this week’s post, we look at streaming music platforms and the MMA.

Eight Mile Style, Eminem’s music publisher, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court last week against Spotify over royalty and licensing rights.  While lawsuits against Spotify have not been uncommon, the latest development is new because Eminem’s publisher’s claims that the Music Modernization Act (“MMA”), which Spotify used to avoid paying royalties, is actually unconstitutional on its face.

Also, music is unique in copyright law because music often requires two separate copyrights – one for the sheet music and a second copyright in the performance of the sheet music.  The recent Led Zeppelin “Stairway To Heaven” copyright registration protection case highlights the difference between these two forms of copyrights. 

New Lawsuit Alleges the Music Modernization Act (MMA) is Unconstitutional

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In the latest chapter of music industry versus streaming services, Spotify has come under fire again for allegations that it did not secure the proper licensing rights from popular rap artist Eminem before streaming his songs billions of times.  The music publisher claims the Music Modernization Act is unconstitutional. 

New Twist on Licensing & Royalty Rights – Is the MMA Unconstitutional?

Eight Mile Style, Eminem’s music publisher, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court last week against Spotify over royalty and licensing rights.  While lawsuits against Spotify have not been uncommon, the latest development is new because Eminem’s publisher’s claims that the Music Modernization Act (“MMA”), which Spotify used to avoid paying royalties, is actually unconstitutional on its face.

The complaint made by Eminem and his publisher is groundbreaking because this is the first time a famous artist has declared the MMA to be unconstitutional, which surprises many as the MMA was supported by many different stakeholders in the music industry.  While all sides agreed that the MMA was not a perfect piece of legislation that would solve all standing issues, the MMA enjoyed popular support because it was the first piece of legislation that actually began to tackle new copyright issues that had arisen due to the new technology platform and services that are known as digital streaming.   

In the particular case at hand, Eight Mile Style has alleged that Spotify has purposely used the MMA to skirt paying proper royalties because it has listed many of Eminem’s songs under “copyright control,” which means that the song has no known owner.  

Read more here.

“Stairway To Heaven” Leads Court Finding Copyright Protection Didn't Extend to Performance Elements

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Since 2015, the band Led Zeppelin and the estate of Randy Wolfe, late singer of the band Spirit, have been embroiled in a copyright lawsuit over “Stairway to Heaven.”  The music industry has carefully followed this litigation as it winds its way through the federal appeals process, the next hearing set to be argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  As the ruling would affect thousands of musicians, songwriters, and performers, much of the music industry have come out in support of one side or the other.  

In this particular case, many composers and musicians, numbering over a hundred already, have filed amicus briefs in support of Led Zeppelin, arguing that the copyright protection afforded by registration of sheet music with the U.S. Copyright Office should not extend to performance elements of the same song. The federal government so far has agreed with the amicus briefs filed, holding that performance elements that may or may not have been present during the recording or performance of a particular song are not automatically covered by the copyright registration of that song’s sheet music. 

Read more here.

Click to read the previous Weekly IP Buzz on Thriving Attorney.

For more posts, see our Intellectual Property Law Blog.

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Darin M. Klemchuk is founder of Klemchuk LLP, a litigation, intellectual property, and transactional law firm located in Dallas, Texas. He also co-founded Project K, a charitable movement devoted to changing the world one random act of kindness at a time, and publishes Thriving Attorney, a blog dedicated to exploring the business of the practice of law, productivity and performance for attorneys, and other topics such as law firm leadership and management, law firm culture, and business development for attorneys.

Click to learn more about Darin M. Klemchuk's law practice as an intellectual property lawyer.

Weekly IP Buzz for the week ending September 13, 2019

Weekly IP Buzz for the week ending September 13, 2019

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