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Music Publishing News Weekly Roundup: November 1, 2013

The legal dispute between Marvin Gaye’s estate and the writers and publishers with stakes in Robin Thicke’s smash summer hit “Blurred Lines” has escalated in a major way. The Gaye family has counterclaimed that Thicke’s “Marvin Gaye fixation” extends beyond “Blurred Lines”, drawing connections between other Gaye’s and Thicke’s works. The Gayes have also targeted EMI (now owned by Sony/ATV), which co-publishes “Blurred Lines” and administers part of Gaye’s catalog. According to the coutnersuit, this conflict of interest caused EMI to breach its legal, contractual and ethical obligations to protect Gaye’s copyrights. The counterclaimants propose that EMI lose all “Blurred Lines” profits and the administration rights to Gaye’s catalog.

Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris, Jr. filed a lawsuit back in August requesting a ruling that the trio’s “Blurred Lines” does not infringe on Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” following public claims to the contrary by Gaye’s estate. Shortly after, the Gayes reportedly rejected a six-figure settlement to drop their claims, but the family has denied that such an offer was made.

Georgetown University played host to the 2013 Future of Music Summit this Monday and Tuesday. As anticipated, Congress’ review of current copyright laws was a hot topic of debate. Notable speakers from the FCC, Google, NPR, New Music Seminar and more shared their views on the “digitization of everything”, the uncertain role streaming services will play in the future and the potential broadening of public performance rights for performers.

Support emerged for “broader performance royalties”, extending the performance right of performers in the US beyond the digital realm to include sources like terrestrial radio, which currently pay royalties to songwriters and publishers, not performers and labels. This broader performance right, as laid out in the Rome Convention of 1961 (which was never ratified in the US), is supported in most other major music markets. About a month ago, Congressman Mel Watt introduced the Free Market Royalty Act to Congress, which would move US copyright law in this direction.

APRA, Australia’s PRO, reported a record distribution of Australian $177.4 million ($168 million), up 4.2% from the previous year. Domestic distributions are up 3.1% to Australian $117.4 million ($111 million) and international distributions are up 6.6% to Australian $60 million ($56 million). Its sister mechanical society, AMCOS, saw distributions drop from Australian $66.7 million ($63 million) to Australian $65.1 million ($61 million).

Lou Reed, the legendary songwriter and rock icon who brought us “Walk on the Wild Side and the Velvet Underground, passed away this past Sunday, October 27th at the age of 71.

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