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Entries in Legal (23)

Wednesday
Dec122018

Tribute Bands - Are They Legal?

Look through your local gig listings and chances are you’ll find as many tribute bands and singers as there are original acts. Their popularity continues to grow and not just in smaller venues. Some are able to fill the largest sites like Wembley Arena and the O2. The Australian Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin Experience, Bootleg Beatles and Hollywood U2 are examples of successful tribute bands that have performed thousands of shows across the globe, year after year. These acts have earned their success by replicating the original band’s music to a very high standard, as well as providing an exciting visual performance alongside the sonic conventions. 

Although the level of musicianship amongst popular tribute bands is exceptional, where does the law stand in regards to bands that make a living by playing another band’s music, and trading off their original name and image? 

Technically, a band that is still trading as a live act could have a case for legal action against a tribute act if it could be shown that they were losing audiences and revenue to the tribute act. An original band also has the right to preserve its brand from being undermined or devalued by the presence of a tribute act. Another legal issue is where an audience member believes he was duped into believing that a tribute act was the genuine original act.

In 2010, Lawyers for Universal Music in Sweden sent out legal notices to more than 15 Abba tribute acts demanding they stop trading off the name ‘Abba’. Well established tribute acts such as Abba Queens, Abba Mania and Swede Dreamz Abba Tribute were all ordered to change their names immediately, according to an Independent article published in June 2010. A spokesperson for Universal Music told the press: “We’ve had complaints from all over the world where fans feel they’ve been misled and we feel it’s our duty to protect the Abba brand from misuse.” A number of bands license out their name and ask tribute acts to pay to use it, but the spokesperson said Abba do not plan to do this.

Another relevant case that made newspaper headlines was when Bon Jovi sued an all-female tribute act called ‘Blonde Jovi’ in 2009. A legal letter from the law firm Blakely Sokoloff Taylor & Zafman to Blonde Jovi stated, “It has recently come to our attention that your band is using the mark and name BLONDE JOVI in connection with live musical performances; more specifically, a Bon Jovi tribute band. Unfortunately, and despite the fact that our client appreciates the reverence that your band pays tribute to Bon Jovi, as a tribute band, our client nevertheless is charged with the duty of enforcing its trademark rights. In this regard, BJP cannot allow your band to use the mark and name BLONDE JOVI (or any other BJP trademarks), as such use creates a likelihood of confusion with our client, and capitalises on the goodwill and reputation of its well-known marks.”

Here we can see two examples where bands do not approve of imitators making a living off of their original endeavours. As a musician and a member of a band, I can understand why bands such as Bon Jovi and Abba are protective of their brand name and music. Over the course of a band’s career, countless hours, days and weeks are spent crafting original music that has earned the band their place in the limelight. The music they have created is their own and holds an intrinsic value to the band members. It does not seem fair for an imitator band to capitalise off the immeasurable hard work of the original band.

However, some big acts are more than happy for tribute acts to ply their trade as it is offers free promotion for the original band’s records. Especially where the original group may have disbanded or no longer tour. Australian Pink Floyd was hired by none other than original Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour to play at his 50th birthday party. Clearly, Pink Floyd has no issues with a band imitating them and selling 3 million tickets to concerts worldwide. 

Tribute acts have to pay PRS (Performing Rights Society) fees for sound clips used on their websites. As for live performances, it is the responsibility of the venue (not the act) to pay the PRS fees. Most major live venues will be well used to paying their PRS fees, but for private performances such as weddings and parties, the PRS won’t usually pursue fees where it’s too difficult to police.

Summary:
As we have seen, original acts differ widely in their response to tribute bands. What is not in doubt is the popularity of tribute acts with the music listening audience. Tribute acts will claim that they are simply paying homage to the great originals that have inspired the millions of people worldwide. And they wouldn’t do it if there was no demand. There may be no malicious intent to make a living off of other peoples creativity, but the original band should always have the right to protect its trademark if they feel their hard-earned and cherished name is in danger of being tarnished.

About The Author:
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 13 years experience, and is the drummer of metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his tips at Drum Helper – a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.

Tribute Bands - Are They Legal?

Thursday
Nov082018

The Importance Of Record-Keeping For A Band

If you’re an active musician who enjoys payment in any way, you’ll probably have to do taxes eventually. Unless you’re giving all of your music and merchandise for free, you may have already missed an important amount of work that could get you in trouble with the government. That’s normal — musicians don’t always think about it, happy their art is finally making back more than what they’re putting in. But eventually, it needs to be addressed.

See, when you have a band, in a lot of ways you are running your own small business. You are selling a product, no matter how much integrity you have in putting it together. And where there’s a profit, there’s taxes to be done and records to be kept. If you don’t get this taken care of, it could ruin your band/music later.

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Thursday
Sep202018

Music Copyright Law And The Consumer: Understanding The Basics

When enacted, it serves to prevent the illegal sharing, misuse or distribution of that content through unauthorized mediums. But, what does that mean exactly and what or who does it cover? Let’s take a deeper look.

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Tuesday
Jun192018

The Legalities Of Touring

You’ve read these tour articles a thousand times — I’ve written plenty of them. By this point it’s no surprise that touring is hard. It’s no surprise that touring is expensive. And it’s no surprise that making your money back doesn’t often happen for DIY bands on their first couple of trips.

That said however, there are legalities to consider. A band is a business, whether you want it to be or not. A tour is a venture. And musicians are people who bring their own lives and difficulties to the table. So when you’re looking to tour, consider some of the legal problems that could stop you from being able to fully experience or continue to tour in the future!

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Wednesday
Feb142018

Hosting A Concert Soon? Keep These Security Tips In Mind

In light of the tragic outdoor concert shooting in Las Vegas, many concert planners are taking additional precautions when planning large events, both outdoors and indoors. But even small concerts need some kind of security plan to ensure the safety of concert goers, bands and event staff. Below are four things to consider when planning your next concert.

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Tuesday
Feb062018

Songwriters Beware Of The Music Modernization Act (H.r. 4706)

The stage is set for a brutal tug-of-war over tens of millions of dollars between individual songwriters and their publishers. H.R. 4706, also known as the Music Modernization Act, provides many benefits and updates to the arcane royalty structure of US copyright law. However, there are some provisions concerning unclaimed and unmatched monies which, as currently drafted, could lead to a myriad of problems for creators.

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Thursday
Jan252018

Urgent Warning!: Time Is Running Out For Artists & Writers To Exercise Their Termination Rights Under U.S. Copyright Law

 1976 Copyright Act provides for the termination of copyright transfers – but authors need to act within a limited timeframe. Creators are entitled to reclaim their copyrights regardless of any contract stating otherwise after certain time periods. Therefore, even if an author, artist, musician, photographer or songwriter signed a contract which purports to transfer all rights in a work for perpetuity, the Copyright Act provides that the author of the work can terminate that grant and demand that the rights revert. Authors and creators are now entitled to terminate their contractual transfers and demand back control of their copyrights; authors can terminate their book publishing contracts, songwriters can demand return of their musical compositions from music publishers and recording artists and record producers can demand return of their sound recordings from the record companies.

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Friday
Oct202017

Concert Backlash: How To Deal With A DWI Charge When You’re Innocent

Imagine you’re leaving the stadium or arena, after having enjoyed a performance from your favorite singer or group. The police pull you over and put you through the process of testing your sobriety. Even though you haven’t had any alcohol, or perhaps had just a small drink that wouldn’t put you over the legal limit, the police charge you with either a DWI or a DUI.

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Thursday
Oct052017

Did Led Zeppelin Steal Stairway To Heaven? 

I don’t think that any respectful musician should be proud of violating the copyright of another one. With all the social networks that exist nowadays, if someone makes a plagiarism, the news will spread worldwide in a matter of minutes. It is far too embarrassing of a place to put yourself in.

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Friday
Sep152017

Moshpit Mashup: 4 Applicable Tips For Injuries Acquired At A Concert

Whether it’s a headline concert or a full blown festival, there’s nothing like a live concert to help you appreciate — and experience — your favorite bands. Unfortunately, concerts and festivals are also great places to get injured, whether it’s a mosh pit, an equipment malfunction, a grounds safety issue, or any of a long list of things that could go wrong. Of course if you’re attending a concert, it’s important to stay safe and protect yourself as much as possible from potential injuries. But if you do get hurt at a concert, here are a few tips you should keep in mind from a legal standpoint.

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Friday
Sep012017

Fight For Your Rights: What To Do After Being Arrested At A Concert

Going to a concert is supposed to be a fun way to enjoy an evening. However, if you are unruly or otherwise break the law, you could be taken into custody. It is important to remember that being arrested doesn’t mean that you are guilty. What can you do to protect your rights after being arrested at a concert?

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Friday
Jul282017

How Singer/Songwriters Can Save $100K Right Now - Today! 

$100 K. I thought that would get everyone’s attention. And it’s the first thing I say when I meet with young singer/songwriters and their parents as we start the educational process of moving up from the basic performance skills of singing their own songs and playing guitar or piano to the rarefied air of the art of entertaining. That’s what I do these days as a live music performance coach.

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Monday
Apr242017

Legal Basics For The Diy World: Artists, Authors, Creators And Musicians

Under US copyright law, copyright (literally, the right to make and sell copies) automatically vests in the creator the moment the expression of an idea is “fixed in a tangible medium” (in other words, the moment you write it down, type it or record it on tape). With respect to music specifically, there are really two copyrights: a copyright in the musical composition owned by the songwriter and a sound recording copyright in the sound of the recording owned by the recording artist (but usually transferred to the record company when a record deal is signed). It is important to remember that you own the copyright in your work the moment you write it down or record it, and you can only transfer those rights by signing a written agreement to transfer them. Therefore, you must be wary of any agreement you are asked to sign. 

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Friday
Jan202017

McCartney's Sony/ATV Lawsuit More Of The Ripple Effect Of The Issue Of Copyright Terminations Under U.S. Copyright Law

Just as the music business has been staggering back to its feet after the digital assault started by Napster over a decade ago, another hard blow to the industry business model is starting to have ripple effects. Recording artists and songwriters from 1978 and after are now entitled to start terminating their contractual transfers and demanding back their copyrights. The 1976 Copyright Act, in a provision that has generally been overlooked until now, provides for the termination of copyright transfers. Even if an artist or songwriter signed a contract that purports to transfer all rights in a work in perpetuity, the Copyright Act provides that the author can terminate that grant and demand that the rights revert to the author in a shorter period of time. This is a great opportunity for artists and songwriters to get a second bite at the apple, so to speak, and get a better share of the income earned from their creative works.

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