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First off today, Emma Woollacott at Forbes reports that filmmaker Jennifer Nelson has filed a lawsuit against Warner/Chappell, the publishing arm of Warner Music Group, seeking a declaration that the popular song “Happy Birthday to You” is in the public domain and an order that Warner return all license fees paid to it over the past four years, including the $1,500 she paid to use it in a documentary.
The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, argues that the song has its roots in the late 1800s, where the melody started as the song “Good Morning to All”, which was written by two sisters, Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill. The song then morphed time into the better-known version. Warner, through a purchase in 1988, acquired the rights to a set of lyrics to the song printed in 1924 and a piano arrangement published in 1935.
Nelson, however, claims that she can prove the song and the lyrics were around well before that and have long since fallen out of copyright. Warner currently earns an estimated $2 million per year in license fees from the song meaning, if successful, it could have to return approximately $8 million on licensed paid to it.
Next up today Tom Cheredar at VentureBeat reports that Broadcast Music Inc (BMI), which collects and negotiates license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers, is preparing to sue Internet streaming service Pandora over licensing fees.
At issue is Pandora’s recent purchase of a South Dakota terrestrial radio station. Pandora bought the station so that it could piggyback on a deal BMI brokered with other terrestrial radio stations for lower royalties on Internet radio. Reports are that Pandora and BMI were negotiating to reduce Pandora’s royalty rate but, following the sale, those negotiations have broke off.
Pandora also recently backed the “Internet Radio Fairness Act” in Congress, which would have had a panel of judges set royalty rates for Internet radio stations rather than contractual negotiations. That bill failed to gain much support though Pandora is expected to push for a follow up this year.
Finally today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that Paramount Pictures has won its lawsuit over the classic film “La Dolce Vita” and is the owner of the exclusive rights to the film.
Paramount sued International Media Films (IMF) after the latter asserted rights and authorized DVD releases of the film upon its 50th anniversary. Paramount sought a judgment of ownership as both sides presented competing chains of ownership for the film.
In the end, the judge ruled that IMF failed provide evidence for its claims and ruled against them on a summary judgement. The judge also ruled that IMF committed contributory copyright infringement with a damage assessment phase to come.
That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.
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