WWE Hit With Class Action Over Streaming Royalties

As World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) transitions from a time when it earned a good chunk of its revenue from pay-per-view telecasts to one where streaming platforms dominate, one of its former professional wrestlers is now asking a federal court to interpret an old contract that spoke of “technology not yet created.”

On Wednesday, Rene Goguen (known in the ring as “Rene Dupree” as part of the group “La Resistance”) brought a putative class-action lawsuit alleging he and others haven’t seen money from the much-ballyhooed over-the-top channel, WWE Network, as well as videos put on Netflix.

According to the complaint filed in Connecticut federal court, Goguen signed a “booking contract” in 2003 where WWE took ownership over a wide swath of intellectual property including his nickname, personality, character, costumes, props, gimmicks, gestures, routines and themes.

Source: Hollywood Reporter


What Happens to the NFL’s Battle against GIFs when Thursday Night Football Streams Live on Twitter?

According to the press release, users won’t have to register in order to stream the game, but surely some portion of football fans will wind up signing up for an account. This may be a Hail Mary move for Twitter which needs to boost its flagging growth in user numbers. According to the NFL, Thursday Night Football’s TV broadcasts averaged 13 million viewers over the 16 games broadcast last year.

One thing that remains to be seen is how they’ll treat GIFs. I don’t mean that in a glib way. Sports GIFs after games are a huge social media phenomenon; after an amazing catch, touchdown, or buzzer-beating shot, short clips from the broadcast flood social media streams. And broadcasters and sports leagues have signaled they don’t like it, coming out aggressively against the use of their copyrighted material.

Last year the NFL, along with the NCAA and UFC, filed a number of DMCA requests to get GIFs and Vines of games taken down. Those requests led to the suspension of several Twitter accounts, including those of Gawker Media sports blog Deadspin and an SBNation account

Source: Fusion

SoundCloud’s Next Move Will Change the Streaming Game (Again)

While the label control over the paid tier is a play to rights-holders, perhaps more crucially, the user-generated remixes help preserve SoundCloud’s status as a music community. “The ­audience that is buying electronic albums and festival tickets is hanging out on SoundCloud,” says James Collinson, head of Ninja Tune North America. “It’s an artist tool and an artist community.”

Still, the question remains: “Does the world need another streaming service?” as Russ Crupnick, managing partner of the MusicWatch consultancy, puts it. “It’s going to be hard.”

And despite SoundCloud’s enviable reach, how much of its generally young and tech-savvy audience will pay for music they mostly have been ­enjoying for free? “Looking at conversion rates, it’s likely they’ll end up with low single digits,” says Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Midia Research, based on comparisons with other free services. But even a 5 ­percent ­conversion rate from SoundCloud’s 175 million users — 8.7 ­million — would make it a serious player.

Source: Billboard

Streaming Deal Between ABC, Warner Bros. Signals Change for SVOD Rights

In the trench war between TV networks and streaming services over series stacking rights, ABC has broken through enemy lines.

On March 18, the network announced a deal with Warner Bros. Television that will make all in-season episodes of any future series from the studio available on ABC digital platforms. Networks tend to stack five rolling episodes for most shows.

The ABC-Warner Bros. deal acknowledges the continued shift toward time-shifted viewing and binge watching.It also gives ABC a victory over the digital competition — in particular Netflix. The streaming service has asserted often that it will not pay top dollar for shows that don’t come with exclusivity, making it difficult for networks to secure stacking rights.

Source: Variety

Spotify Inks “No Copyright Claim” Royalty Deal with Music Publishers

money-protest-power-fist-biz-2015-billboard-650Spotify has agreed to do a better job at allowing music publishers and songwriters to claim and receive royalties from the streaming service. However there’s a caveat: to strike the settlement deal with Spotify, copyright holders cannot make an infringement claim against the company.

In recent months, Spotify has faced a number of lawsuits from musicians who have challenged the Sweden-based firm’s alleged failure to licence artists’ works before making them available for streaming.

On Thursday, US trade body the National Music Publishers’ Association said that the settlement deal it had struck with Spotify represented a “landmark industry agreement.”

Source: Ars Technica UK

Bad Data Is The Worm In The Apple For Streaming Music

2016 is proving to be tricky year for streaming rights. No sooner did it start to look like artists and labels were beginning to feel comfortable with streaming then along come a veritable flood of songwriter class action suits in the US, against TIDAL, Rhapsody and Spotify, twice.

At the heart of the legal action is the issue of streaming services not paying mechanical rights to songwriters because they have not identified and / or not been able to identify, all of the the songwriters.

The streaming services counter that they a) have been adhering to the rules as they stand and b) that it is difficult / impossible for them to track everything. It is a complex issue that may even have some of its underlying assumptions turned upside down (in favour of streaming services). For a good introduction to the issues see this balanced MusicAlly piece. Whatever the legal intricacies though, there is a crucial underling issue: bad data.

Or, to be more precise, a complete lack of data.

International music licensing is highly complex and anyone who tries to tell you differently is either wrong or lying. That is not to suggest for a moment that music services should somehow not have an obligation to invest time, effort and resource into licensing music, far from it. But it does mean that the current system is not fit for purpose.

Source: MIDiA Research

Between Rock and a Database: Streaming Services, Artists and Music Publishers Are Colliding

Streaming services say that they can’t identify or find some songwriters in order to pay them.

That may be true — although Lowery can be found easily enough online — but the Copyright Act requires streaming services to get a mechanical license before they use a song. Indeed, in the event that Lowery’s case goes to trial, Spotify’s decision to set aside money for future royalty payments could potentially demonstrate either that the company has been acting in good faith or that it knew it did not have mechanical licenses for at least some of the songs it was streaming.

“The law is pretty black and white,” says Donald Passman, a veteran music business lawyer and the author of All You Need to Know About the Music Business. “If you’re using someone’s songs, you have to pay them.”

Rather than argue these cases in court, streaming services will probably try to prevent classes from being certified — Spotify already filed a motion to dismiss Lowery’s case on jurisdictional grounds. The high cost of federal litigation would make it impractical for the vast majority of songwriters to pursue legal action on their own.

Source: Billboard