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file000123053959Authors now have more options than ever to publish their works, ranging from self-publishing, through the hybrid “pay-to-play” publishers, to traditional publishing houses. So, what are the Pros and Cons of each?

Self-publishing. With online publishing, it’s now simple to publish your own book. Among the Pros of self-publishing:

  • The sale price, the cover art and the content are up to you.
  • You control the number of books printed, so there are fewer returns – you can print on demand.
  • You can alter your manuscript and reprint it, anytime you want. Did you find a typo when you were glancing through (for the 200th time)? Make the change and print it correctly for the next sale.
  • Your net financial return is greater on each sale. Of course, you will have printing and shipping costs and marketing/promo expenses, but after you pay these, the rest of the money is yours.
  • You get paid more frequently, maybe even monthly from sellers like Amazon.

Of course, the world of self-publishing is not all sweetness and light. Here are some of the Cons: Continue reading

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Everybody wants to be the Next Big Thing. Right? The Voice, American Idol, Rap Wars. The Network chose you, from millions of potential contestants, to appear in this season’s series. That’s flattering. Right? Your appearance on the show guarantees you a successful career, even if you don’t win. Right? It’s really tempting. But who truly benefits from your services on the show?11239528094_8bf12333c5_n

Two words: The Network. The Network will require you to sign a series of contracts that are essentially non-negotiable. So, you want to be on the show? Here it is, take it or leave it. For example, with a music-based series, such as the Voice, the Network will require your exclusive services for the duration of the series season in which you appear, plus a period of time following the conclusion of the series. You’ll be obligated not only to appear in the series (to the exclusion of most every other entertainment enterprise), but to also be available for promotional activities and sponsor-related commercials (if Tide sponsors the show, you can be required to do Tide commercials playing upon your fame as a participant on the show); you will waive any recourse you may have for pretty much anything that happens to you while on the show, including the right to sue for damage to your reputation on account of how the Network presents you to the world. In real life you’re not really an adulterous leprosy carrier? Too bad for you if that’s the way the Network decides to portray you.

Whether or not you win the competition, the Network will own all rights to all of your performances. If you perform original musical material, you will likely be required to assign a portion of your publishing rights, and the Network, of course, owns the rights to your master recordings produced on the show. Often, though, you will retain your rights to material you wrote before being selected for the show; material that you write for the show will typically belong to the Network, as a work for hire. Continue reading

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A few months back, we wrote of the challenges of traveling with a musical instrument. Since then, we received a request to publish a guest blog post, which, as you may imagine, had a commercial motivation: you see, the Flight Case Company, an English enterprise, makes bespoke musical equipment cases. allen_heath_xone_42_xone_62_and_xone_92_mixer_flight_case_1_2_1While I cannot personally vouch for the quality or suitability of these cases, they sure look top notch. And their blogger provided this really cool infographic of the Ultimate List of Tips for Travelling [sic – they’re English] Musicians.

Here’s their pitch: “Forget the stress of flying long hours with your whole crew and luggage, you also have to make sure that your priceless musical instrument makes the journey safe and sound. Well, here is some good news for you! The Flight Case Company has an entire line of bespoke equipment cases that has been built just for musicians. So whether it is a simple guitar case that you need or a Mackie DL 1608 Digital iPad Mixer flight case, they’ve got just what you’ve been looking for. Check it out!”

I considered demanding one of these bespoke travel cases for my D-28, as quid pro quo for this shout-out. Ah, bloody commerce.

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scales of justiceI’m not a judge. And I don’t play one on TV. And despite what I believed was a strong memorandum in support of summary judgment, District Judge Klausner denied the defendants’ motion and set the case for trial.

Recall that defendant’s motion set forth several bases to support the grant of summary judgment. Following is a summary of the Court’s analysis of the motion for summary judgment, and the reasoning applied in denying the motion. Remember that in ruling upon a motion for summary judgment, the Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the plaintiff here.

The Court first reviewed the parties’ expert testimony as well as deposition testimony of other witnesses to address defendants’ three principal defenses: (1) abandonment/waiver, (2) laches, and (3) defective deposit copy.

Defendants argued that Randy Wolfe had clearly abandoned/waived any claims to infringement, as evidenced by a magazine interview he gave many years ago. But the court found evidence that Wolfe’s waiver may not have been heartfelt. For example, the journalist who conducted the interview testified that Wolfe never received or reviewed the interview notes before the article was published. Plaintiff also pointed to the tenor of the interview, which indicated that Wolfe felt cheated by Led Zeppelin and was merely trying to save face and made light of a bad situation.

NOTE: HEAVY LEGAL ISSUES AHEAD, INCLUDING SOME (OK, COPIOUS) VERBATIM TRANSCRIPTION OF THE ORDER. PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION TO THE JUMP PAGE.

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treble staffI’ve been on Blog Sabbatical for a few months, but I’m back and jazzed to talk about that Stairway to Heaven copyright infringement lawsuit.

You remember, Randy (“California”) Wolfe’s trustee sued Led Zeppelin, claiming Zep copped the intro section of Stairway from the song Taurus, performed by Spirit. Things have been moving right along.

When we last checked in on the case, the trial judge, Hon. Juan R. Sánchez, had permitted venue to remain in Pennsylvania. But in May 2015, Judge Sánchez entered a final order on defendants’ motion to transfer venue, and found that the individual defendants (Messrs. Plant, Page and Jones) lacked sufficient minimum contacts with Pennsylvania to justify retaining venue. Judge Sánchez transferred the case to the Central District of California.

The parties skirmished back and forth through the discovery phase. On February 25, 2016, the Led Zeppelin defendants fired off a motion for partial summary judgment. The memorandum in support of the motion sets forth some pretty persuasive arguments for granting summary judgment in their favor. WARNING: REVIEW OF DENSE LEGAL THEORIES FOLLOWS. BUT IT’S STILL INTERESTING. Continue reading

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I get calls from artists telling me that they’ve made a recording of one of their songs and have let others hear it. Then, one day they hear something on the radio by a popular artist that is remarkably similar to their song. What do you do?neon sign copy MGD©

For starters, always copyright your songs before you let anyone have a copy of it. The process is straightforward and may cost as little as $35. Here’s a rundown of how the registration process works. Until you’ve copyrighted your song, you do not have federal protection and cannot sue in federal court because of the infringement. What’s more, unless you register your copyright within three months after the infringement occurs (or when you first learn about the infringement), then you will have no right to sue for damages in federal court.

To prove infringement, you must show both (1) copyright ownership (see above regarding registration) and (2) proof of copying. Proof of copying is shown by either direct evidence – the infringer admits it – or indirectly by showing (a) the infringer had access to the work and (b) there is a “substantial similarity” between your work and the allegedly infringing work. Continue reading

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NBC’s The Voice is in its eighth season, with few signs of letting up. So what are the pros and cons of being a contestant on the show? I talked to a couple of former participants – Emily Earle from Season 3 and Clara Hong from Season 7 – for their takes on the experience.file0001848982250 edit

Both musicians agreed they got a positive bounce from the show. Not only did the national exposure provide a boost of self-confidence and dose of professional validity, it has also helped them get gigs. Emily says that in her adopted hometown of Nashville, she’s often recognized by a younger demographic than you might expect, and when she performs at the Opry Mall (hey! this is Nashville) it’s often younger kids that hang out to listen. Clara’s experience has been similar, and includes getting messaged by young people looking for career advice. And because both women were in the crucible of a national TV show and very much in the public eye, it’s perhaps a bit easier to meet people. Plus, they got to meet and know many really good musicians. Continue reading

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We’ve previously discussed the necessity of club owners and restaurateurs to pay the Performing Rights Organizations (“PROs”) for use of live and recorded music. Depending upon the egregiousness of the failure to pay, the obligation might not be dischargeable in bankruptcy. So, if you’re not licensing the music, what can you do when you get the dreaded demand letter and threat of litigation from ASCAP, BMI or SESAC? You may have some room to negotiate.file0001631184133

Of the three PROs, ASCAP is the most litigious. For example, in May 2015, ASCAP filed copyright infringement suits against seven recalcitrant clubs and restaurants across the country (including one in Atlanta, GA). And while, as a club owner, it may seem unfair to have to obtain licenses from each of the three PROs, bear in mind that by playing unlicensed music, the club is getting a free ride at the expense of the songwriter.

ASCAP President and Chairman, songwriter Paul Williams (check out Paul Williams in the high-camp bomb, Phantom of the Paradise) noted: “We want every business that uses music to prosper, including bars and restaurants. After all, as songwriters and composers, we are small business owners, too, and music is more than an art form for us. It’s how we put food on the table and send our kids to school. Most businesses know that an ASCAP license allows them to offer music legally, efficiently and at a reasonable price – while compensating music creators so we can earn a living from our work and keep doing what we do best – writing music.”

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the wordThe First Amendment is a mighty shield, protecting all sorts of offensive speech. No matter how disgusting I might find the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church, in 2011, the Supreme Court found a First Amendment protection in its favor allowing the church to spew its hateful ideology in public. In Snyder v. Phelps (yes, Fred Phelps, the late leader of the Westboro cult), the Court held that a speaker on a public sidewalk, speaking about a public issue, cannot be held liable for the tort of emotional distress, even if the speech is ‘outrageous.’ But the Snyder Court also distinguished between hateful speech directed to issues of public importance, like homosexuality and abortion, and speech of a personal nature, like insults and lies, directed to a private person.

Hubert Crouch’s new book, The Word (2015), practically yanks the Westboro headlines from today’s paper. In his sophomore novel, the second installment of the Jace Forman series, Crouch brings together three main characters from his first book (Cries For No One (2013)) for a wild ride through a world where religious zealots hide behind the First Amendment to cover their virulent hate speech, high-powered attorneys hire thugs to intimidate magazine reporters from exposing their misdeeds, and an entire family – the McGuffin, if you will, for the story -– is killed off, one-by-one, until only their lawyer is left standing. Hey, The Word is set in Texas, after all! Continue reading

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Cousin Billy (L-R: Charles McNair, Tom Junod, Mark Baker, Bo Emerson) Photo credit: Bill Worley and Annalise Kaylor, Mother Nature Network

How did I find myself standing on stage at the Washington Correspondents’ Jam playing beside Rolling Stones keyboardist, Chuck Leavell last Friday night? Well, it was one of those rare cases where ‘don’t quit your day job’ turned out to be music to this amateur musician’s ears!

If you’re as big a fan Tom Junod’s writing as I am, then you’ve read his piece in Esquire, Start A Band, about how a group of guys (all professional writers and me) formed a band and sang for our supper in the New York City subway on the coldest day of winter.

The Esquire story led Chuck’s media company, Mother Nature Network, to ask Cousin Billy to perform a 30-minute set at the very first White House Correspondents’ Jam, a party held in conjunction with the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The gig was like a Battle of the Journalists, with bands composed of writers from the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Fortune, and one band with an on-air personality at CNBC. Cousin Billy was up first on the line up and, miracle of miracles, Chuck had agreed to sit in and jam on a song with each of the bands.

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