Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not So Fast

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about what I perceived to be a turning in the tide of the RIAA’s litigation against file sharers. I was probably a bit naive in my thinking. While the RIAA may have changed its strategy, the cases that it filed originally continue to evolve through the court system. Most recently, in the case of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, et. al. v. Tenenbaum, the U.S. Court of appeals reinstated the jury verdict of $675,000 against graduate student Tenenbaum, who had admitted to downloading 31 songs from Kaaza. The trial judge had reduced the statutory damages awarded against Tenenbaum to $67,500 (that’s still $2,177.41 a song) on constitutional grounds. Apparently the Appeals Court ruled that the issue of constitutionality was premature. Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Charles Nesson had convinced the District Court Judge that the high statutory damages provided by the Copyright Act violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. There may yet be some viability to that argument. However, liability in this case and others like it remains a slam dunk.

The moral to all of this is that despite the fact that suing single mothers and college students is not the way for the music industry to win the hearts and minds of the public and stop illegal downloading and file sharing, it is still illegal, and potentially expensive.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Health Insurance for Artists.

The Arts and Business Council in Nashville is sponsoring a seminar on November 14 on the topic of health insurance for artists. I know so many people who struggle with the issue of obtaining and maintaining health insurance. It's an issue for me every October when my insurance company jacks up its rates.

Anyway, this seems like something that could be helpful for a lot of people, so here's the link:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

National Estate Planning Awareness Week

The folks at the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils have alerted me to the fact that this is National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Ordinarily, I am a bit wary of these things but because I believe that good estate planning is essential for everyone, I am happy to remind people of the following facts.

1. Young people with small estates and no dependents need, at the very minimum, a health care directive (or durable power of attorney for health care as we call them in Tennessee) so that they have someone selected to handle health care decisions for them in the event of an emergency.

2. For families with minor children, wills are essential, to appoint a guardian and provide for the children in case something happens to both parents.

3. For anyone with an estate of any value, planning is essential to avoid probate where possible, to avoid state and federal estate taxes, and to have some control over where your property goes.

4. Protection of assets may also be important, especially in dealing with heirs who may have ‘issues” (ranging from bad marriages to financial mismanagement to drug or alcohol problems).

The more I get involved in this area, the more I see how simple planning can be so beneficial for people at all stages of life. I also know, from firsthand experience, how easy it is to put this stuff off and be in denial about the inevitable.

This stuff is essential. If you have any questions regarding these issues, feel free to contact me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Bob Dylan continues to fascinate me on so many levels. Several years ago I wrote about (and tortured my Copyright Law students with) the story of how Dylan had apparently ‘appropriated’ large chunks of the lyrics to some of the songs on his 2001 album Love and Theft from Japanese writer Junichi Saga.( A couple of weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Times that revealed that several of Dylan’s paintings in his current gallery show at New York’s Gagosian gallery were actually copied from photographs taken by such well know photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Leon Busy.

As always with Dylan, I am not sure what to make of this. Is it copying? It is plagiarism? Is it copyright infringement? Is it all protected fair use?

It turns out that the Gagosian Galley which is hosting the Dylan show is the same gallery that was sued along with artist Richard Prince, another artist whose work fascinates me, for copyright infringement based upon Prince’s work. Apparently, the defendants lost a summary judgment but the case will surely be appealed. (Cariou v. Prince, et. al., no 08-civ-11327).I have been really interested in this and the whole debate between attribution and copyright infringement in art and I wish I had more time to study it. This is endlessly fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Technological Nostalgia Part II

Once I had an assistant who obsessively saved every scrap of paper we produced. I recently found a notebook full of telephone call logs from 2002. Being a conservationist (i.e. cheap) I am using these old telephone logs as scrap paper, yet I am also fascinated reading the the messages I received back then. It’s like a quick trip back in time. These are a few observations.

1. I used to get a lot more phone calls before the eventual domination of email. On the day I am looking at I had over 30 calls.
2. I had a number of calls from a client that I did a lot of work for who eventually filed bankruptcy, leaving me with a large amount of unpaid fees.
3. I had several calls that day from a good friend who passed away shortly thereafter.
4. The international side of the music business used to be a lot more fun. A bunch of the calls that day dealt with a client’s record deal in England.
5. I am still unnerved when I see the message “needs to speak to you TODAY”.
6. At the time, I had several calls from a client who had discovered several unpublished photographs of Elvis Presley—that was fun.
7. I am gratified to see 7 or 8 names on that list of clients I still do work for today. I am grateful.
On the whole, I don’t know what’s more efficient, email or the phone. Getting a lot of phone calls and/or emails is evidence that your business is heading in the right direction but it can still be overwhelming and it can be a challenge to respond to everyone in a timely manner.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Let Us Now Praise Dennis Scott and Fab Fan Memories the Beatles Bond

My friend and client (and Grammy Award Winner) Dennis Scott has had a long and storied career, but obviously, his first love is the Beatles. For the past few years, in addition to his successful career writing and producing children’s music, Scott has led a great Beatles tribute band called the WannaBeatles.

A while ago, Dennis told me he was creating a CD of Beatles’ fans talking about their memories of the fabs. My Beatles obsession knows no bounds so I was both encouraging and somewhat apprehensive about the project. After all, Beatles projects have varied from the sublime to the awful. I shouldn’t have worried, Dennis' album, Fab Fan Memories, the Beatles Bond brings together the sincere memories and observances of both ordinary fans (first generation and onwards) and celebrities such as Janis Ian, Melissa Manchester, Billy Swan and Phil Keaggy. I even learned something new about my friend Ed Salamon from listening to the disc. However, it is the collective experience of listening to the entire disc-from a fan recalling riding from Nashville to Memphis on a bus to see the Beatles in 1966 to Janis Ian talking about how excited she was as a teenaged recording artist to discover that Paul McCartney had ordered her records.

The disc is divided into sections and narrated by George Harrison’s sister Louise (who once refused to autograph my copy of her album “All About the Beatles”-but that’s another story…). Ms. Harrison’s habit of introducing each section with a question becomes a bit monotonous, but, hey’ she’s George Harrison’s sister. Background music is supplied by the WannaBeatles and the Liverpool Legends.

On the whole, this is a really well done piece of work and well worth searching out. Congratulations Dennis.