Lady Gaga sued the songwriter who sued her for plagiarism to recoup legal fees. And the music industry filed another class action lawsuit demanding artist royalties from Pandora. Also, the new ad-free social network Ello picked up steam.
Lady Gaga Suing Songwriter for Millions in Legal Fees after Plagiarism Win
Lady Gaga filed court documents last week in order to recoup $1.4 million in legal fees from Chicago-based singer/songwriter Rebecca Francescatti, who sued her for plagiarism, reported the Daily Mail. Francescatti sued the pop superstar in 2011, alleging her hit song “Judas” was a copy of her own 1999 song “Juda.”
Gaga said she paid almost one-and-a-half million dollars to her lawyers and spend three years defending her reputation. The plagiarism case against her was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen, who decided the two songs are not “substantially similar.” The judge ruled the songs were not similar based on “qualitatively important elements” or “a unique combination of elements.”
He also ruled that the songs’ similar titles and their similar pattern of 16th notes “are not sufficient to give rise to a finding that the Gaga Song has captured the total concept and feel of the Francescatti Song.”
Francescatti stated, in a post about the ruling posted last summer on her website blog, that she noticed recent plagiarism cases have often gone defendants’ way:
“Access to a person’s work […] usually holds a lot of weight in copyright infringement suits, even more so than similarity of songs … But a new trend is upon us. Judge Aspen, and the rest of the Seventh Circuit court, don’t consider direct access very important anymore in copyright claims.”
She added, “Their most recent rulings stand as a body against individual creators (me) and in favor of corporate structures that put out music today (i.e. Lady Gaga, Inc.) by ruling that it doesn’t matter if your friend gave it to Lady Gaga: An ‘ordinary observer’ (whatever that means) would have to be able to hear that the songs are the same.”
Music Industry Suing Pandora in Wake of SiriusXM Victory
The music industry decided to turn up the heat in its class action lawsuit against digital radio service Pandora this past week, said Gigaom. Industry leaders were heartened by a major court victory against SiriusXM, who was forced to pay back royalties to 1960s group The Turtles for playing their pre-1972 recordings.
A new class action complaint was filed in Los Angeles federal court on September 30. The 1960s duo Flo and Eddie – who performed songs like “It Ain’t Me Baby” with The Turtles – demanded Pandora should pay more for playing their songs and others recorded prior to 1972.
The details of these types of lawsuits hinge on a legal theory rooted in state copyright laws that many music industry experts feel were not made null and void by recent updates to the federal Copyright Act. A judge bought this theory recently when he ruled that SiriusXM had to pay federal and state copyright royalties for a collection of recordings by The Turtles, including some that involved Flo and Eddie. Copyright lawyers continue to predict that thanks to this ruling, more lawsuits from artists will follow in the coming weeks, months and years.
The “sound recording” royalties currently under scrutiny represent payments for record labels and musicians who perform the song. If Pandora and other digital radio services are forced to pay these royalties, they will be added to the royalties they already pay to songwriters and publishers.
Pandora was already sued for similar infractions in New York in August. That lawsuit is still pending. All this litigation is coming alongside a campaign by the music industry for Congress to pass a “Respect Act” bill that would expand copyrights on sound recordings.
Will Ello Revolutionize Social Media Marketing?
The new social network platform Ello has been picking up steam this past month, and according to an article written by writer Alexandra Samuel published in the Harvard Business Review, it could change the way companies and individuals – including musicians and bands – experience social media marketing.
The currently invitation-only network grew from 90 members in August to 30,000 new users per hour in September. Its highly-personal manifesto, claiming its goal is to “empower” its users instead of making them slaves to advertisers has drawn many to the platform:
“Your social network is owned by advertisers.
Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.
We believe there is a better way…We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate—but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.”
However, as Samuel pointed out, change will not come easily, especially for those whose income is partially based on social media advertising. Still, sites like Ello could be a “wake-up call” for those that reach their customers/fans through social networks. The manifesto provided by Ello is a reminder to many of the reality of the “professional” relationships people have with social media platforms.
People’s distrust of ad-based social networks is growing, said Samuel, and the emergence of ad-free, invitation-only sites like Ello and Diaspora reinforce a trend towards more anonymity and privacy online. Many Internet users – among them customers of businesses that advertise on social media platforms – are even trying to “obscure their digital footprint” and stay off the radar by getting off Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites that use their information.
Samuel pointed out that while Ello is not likely a direct threat to large social media platforms, it still provides valuable insight into how customers are feeling about the current Internet climate: “… Companies still need to pay attention to the growing public discomfort with advertiser dominance and algorithm-driven user experiences.”
This could mean rethinking the whole purpose of social media and “stepping back from the relentless quest for followers, clicks, and mentions, and instead thinking about why brands got involved in social media in the first place. In its early days, the promise of the social web lay in the ability of companies to have direct and ongoing relationships with their customers — to become more responsive, more accountable and more attuned to the things their customers really cared about.”
Samuel concluded that customers are clearly asking for more direct engagement with businesses, artists and others they follow online instead of just a constant sales “pitch”: “That could mean inviting customers into your product development process through co-creation. It could involve convening meaningful conversations on topics that resonate with your customers and your brand. It could look like partnering with your customers to make the products they want, or offer the services they need, or help them sell their stuff to other people like them. All of these are ways to engage with your customers that align with the spirit of the social web, instead of treating it as a billboard.”