Legal

What Did Richard Ashcroft Get For His Soul?

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Never in my life did I think Richard Ashcroft would open for the Rolling Stones or have anything to do with them:

Liam's good pal Richard Ashcroft (of Verve fame) will get things started in Manchester and Edinburgh and further support on the tour will come from the likes of Elbow, The Specials and The Vaccines.

The man who stole his greatest song was named Allen Klein, and he was the man who ripped off everyone because he knew how to do it. He ripped off the Beatles and he ripped off anyone foolish enough to get between him and an easy buck.

Klein and the man he mugged on the way to stealing Bitter Sweet Symphony are both dead, so maybe that's why Ashcroft has decided to take a lucrative solo gig and pretend like it's all water under the bridge.

For those who don't know, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are credited for, and have made millions from, a song they had nothing to do with:

When Jazz Summers, the manager of the British group the Verve, called in early 1997 to say the band wanted to get publishing clearance for a sample, Iris handled the situation. She told Summers that someone from the record company had already phoned and tried to low-ball ABKCO with an offer of 15 percent. “I’ve told him to f--- off, Jazz,” she said. “We don’t like people stealing our music. I’ve spoken to Allen. We’re not going to agree to this.”

Indeed, Klein was ultraprotective. ABKCO was happy to support writers who wanted to collaborate with other artists, but he saw sampling as a dilution of a work’s viability and didn’t want to encourage people to use samples and then negotiate retroactively.

That was precisely what the Verve’s musicians were trying to do. In this case, the sample, used in a song entitled “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” was taken from an instrumental version of the Rolling Stones song “The Last Time” that had appeared on an album by the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. The Verve had cleared the rights to sample the recording from Decca Records, but they hadn’t thought about getting permission for the underlying composition until after the fact. The irony was that the segment lifted from the Oldham recording didn’t sound a bit like the original Stones song, and the arranger who’d written the riff, David Whitaker, wasn’t even listed as a composer. As it stood, the credits for “Bitter Sweet Symphony” were shared between Verve vocalist Richard Ashcroft and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. But the record couldn’t be released without the permission of Jagger and Richards’s publisher, ABKCO Music.

At a loss, Summers let his record company take a whack at it. Ken Berry, the head of EMI Records, came to New York and called on Klein. He played Klein the completed Verve album, Urban Hymns, which EMI’s Virgin label was betting would be a big hit. And “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was its obvious lead single. So Allen could appreciate how imperative it was that he grant a license.

“There’s no sampling of our music,” he said. “We just don’t believe in it.”

“Oh, f---,” said the head of EMI Records.

Klein let a day or two pass before calling Berry. He realized EMI and the band were in a bind, he said, and he was willing to make an exception to his rule and grant a license — if Ashcroft sold ABKCO his rights as lyricist and the company became the sole publisher of “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” The bargain was made; Richard Ashcroft was paid a thousand dollars.

The deal was as unsparing as any in Klein’s career; he held all the cards, played them, and raked in the pot. When music photographer Mick Rock happened to call Klein that day to see how he was, it was obvious to him that Allen was enjoying himself. “I was very bad today,” he said.

Klein was human scum, and he exploited artists and stole their money as easily as he breathed in the morning air. I have no idea why Ashcroft would do this. Money makes people do horrible things, I guess.

David Lowery vs Spotify


Right when I was in the middle of blowing up all the blogs, this happened:
Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker frontman David Lowery, retaining the law firm of Michelman & Robinson, LLP, has filed a class action lawsuit seeking at least $150 million in damages against Spotify, alleging it knowingly, willingly, and unlawfully reproduces and distributes copyrighted compositions without obtaining mechanical licenses.
The lawsuit comes amidst ongoing settlement negotiations between Spotify and the National Music Publishers Assn. over the alleged use of allowing users to play music that hasn’t been properly licensed, and also without making mechanical royalty payments to music publishers and songwriters. According to sources, Spotify has created a $17 million to $25 million reserve fund to pay royalties for pending and unmatched song use.
The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 28 in the Central District Court of California.
According to the complaint, Spotify has unlawfully distributed copyrighted music compositions to more than 75 million users, but failed to identify or locate the owners of those compositions for payment, and did not issue a notice of intent to employ a compulsory license.
"We are committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny," says Spotify global head of communications and public policy Jonathan Prince in a statement. "Unfortunately, especially in the United States, the data necessary to confirm the appropriate rightsholders is often missing, wrong, or incomplete. When rightsholders are not immediately clear, we set aside the royalties we owe until we are able to confirm their identities. We are working closely with the National Music Publishers Association to find the best way to correctly pay the royalties we have set aside and we are investing in the resources and technical expertise to build a comprehensive publishing administration system to solve this problem for good."
The complaint states that Spotify has "publicly" admitted its failure to obtain licenses and created a reserve fund of millions of dollars for royalty payments which have been "wrongfully withheld from artists." The use of songs not lawfully licensed "creates substantial harm and injury to the copyright holders, and diminishes the integrity of the works," the complaint states.
The songs alleged to have been Illegally reproduced and/or distributed by Spotify include "Almond Grove" (copyright registration No. PAu003764032); "Get On Down the Road" (No. PAu003745342); "King of Bakersfield" (No. PAu003745341); and "Tonight I Cross the Border" (No. PAu003745338), according to the complaint.
The complaint further notes that statutory penalties allow for judgments between $750-30,000 for each infringed work, and up to $150,000 per song for willful infringement.
The complaint claims the lawsuit qualifies as a class action because there is a well-defined community of interest in the litigation and that members of the proposed class, which will exceed 100 members, can be easily identified via discovery from Spotify's database files and records. A class action is more efficient than letting the courts be burdened with individual litigation, if every member of the class could afford to pursue action (which is highly unlikely). Class actions conserve the resources of the parties and the court system and protects the rights of each member of the class.
In addition to entering an order appointing Lowery as the class representative and the plaintiff's counsel as class counsel, the complaint asks the court to enjoin Spotify from continued copyright infringement; from further violations of California Business & Professions Code § 17200; injunctive relief that requires Spotify to pay for the services of a third party auditor to identify the works reproduced and distributed by Spotify without first obtaining a mechanical license; and requires Spotify to remove all such works from its services until it obtains the proper licenses.
Lowery, who also teaches at the University of Georgia, and the class seek restitution on Spotify's unlawful proceeds, including defendants' gross profits; for compensatory damages in an amount to be ascertained at trial; statutory damages for all penalties authorized by the Copyright Act; reasonable attorneys' fees and cost; and pre-and post judgment interest on monetary awards.
I am a proud supporter of Lowery's efforts to hold business models like Spotify's up to some level of scrutiny. At this very moment, artists are being ripped off while large companies see their valuation skyrocket. A streaming music service can be worth an implausibly large amount of money because there will always be an "endless" supply of "free" music that can be marketed and delivered to people without having to pay the artists. Spotify is worth an estimated $8 billion dollars. That number will plummet if they're forced to actually pay people what they're owed.

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