The Pennsylvania House Makes the Economy Even Worse for Working Musicians

The Pennsylvania House passed HB561, which allows liquor licensees (hotels, bars, restaurants) to hire minors to perform as musicians, but the same bill expressly prohibits any payment to those performers for their services.

This Bill passed the House by a vote to 185-12 with 5 absent. You can find the roll call of the vote right here.

If this Bill becomes law, there are serious implications for working musicians:

  1. The performance fees that establishments are willing to pay are going to decrease;

  2. It institutionalizes the fiction that young/beginning performers should perform (read: work) for free and give away their labor;

  3. This is a boon for establishments that can now book minors for zero dollars rather than hire professionals;

  4. This also impacts DJs who work clubs, because my reading of this Bill includes DJs also.

One of two things is possible. One alternative is that the State Representatives who voted for this legislation are totally ignorant of the economic difficulties musical performers face. Alternatively, the State Representatives who voted for this legislation are aware of the difficulties that musicians face and are indifferent at best or at worst, dismissive or hostile to the needs of musicians.

You can read the text of HB561 below:

Tom Petty Estate Fight, Part I: Blended Family Issues

When musician Tom Petty passed away in 2017, he left behind a blended family. What is a blended family? Quite simply, a blended family is one consisting of a couple and their children from their previous and (possibly current) relationships. While many people make this arrangement work very well in life, things can get extremely contentious among the survivors when one parent passes away. This is especially true when there is a family business or other significant assets left behind to be administered on an ongoing basis.

In the case of the late Mr. Petty, there are creative properties, copyrights, trademarks and unreleased recorded music to be administered. These assets, if deployed in an optimal way, can create a lot of value for the survivors via a trust agreement. Obviously, it takes a person or a team with both creative and business acumen to maximize the value of these assets. Considering that the copyrights Mr. Petty has/had will continue in force until the year 2087 (remember the duration of copyright lasts seventy (70) years from the death of the copyright holder), the administrator of the estate and/or trust should be someone well versed with Mr. Petty’s catalogue and fan base.

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SCOTUS Show Judicial Restraint in Unanimous Ruling in Fourth Estate v. Wall Street.Com; Huge Impact for Copyright Law

Today the US Supreme Court handed down a 9-0 ruling in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall Street.Com, LLC. The issue in this case was whether a plaintiff who had filed for a copyright but not yet received their registration certificate from the Copyright Office was entitled to file a lawsuit and have all the protections of the Copyright Act.

The Court held that a party must have a registration certificate from the US Copyright Office in order to be entitled to the statutory protections of the Copyright Act.

This then begs the question as to what about all those people who have filed a registration certificate but who have not yet received their Registration Certificate?

Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, noted:

True, the statutory scheme has not worked as Congress likely envisioned. Registration processing times have increased from one or two weeks in 1956 to many months today. See GAO, Improving Productivity in Copyright Registration 3 (GAO–AFMD–83–13 1982); Registration Processing Times. Delays in Copyright Office processing of applications, it appears, are attributable, in large measure, to staffing and budgetary shortages that Congress can alleviate, but courts cannot cure. See 5 W. Patry, Copyright §17:83 (2019). Unfortunate as the current administrative lag may be, that factor does not allow us to revise §411(a)’s congressionally composed text.

This is an excellent example of judicial restraint. Congress may take action to address this issue, but the Court recognizes that it cannot legislate from the bench.

You can read the entire Court opinion here.

Copyright Law Update: Epic Games Sued by Rapper 2 Milly's for Turning one of his Dances into a Fortnite Emote

While the basics of Copyright Law are over a century old, the law evolves with the times. Unless you have been living in a cave for the few years, you have heard of Fortnite and its popularity, the gaming craze that has captured the imaginations of teens and older people alike. Consider this profile of the game in The New Yorker, one of the more genteel literary publications that has survived the internet age.

Epic Games, which is the company that produces Fortnite was sued yesterday in Federal Court in California by rapper 2 Milly for allegedly reproducing his likeness and dance moves in the game without a license.

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Bryan Tuk Appears on Building The Future

You can view Bryan’s recent appearance on Kevin Horek’s web series, Building the Future by clicking on the image below. This was a wide ranging conversation on the state of the legal practice, copyright and trademark law, startup issues and Bryan’s recent book: risk, create, change: a survival guide for startups & creators.

Building the Future also airs on terrestrial radio in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Kentucky, New Mexico, Minnesota, Colorado, North Carolina, San Diego, San Antonio, Australia, United Kingdom, and the Caribbean.

Morality Clauses, Part II: The Family Law Edition

When couples divorce, often the most difficult part is how the children are affected by the process and the behavior of the divorcing parents.  No one wants someone else raising their children.  However, that can be a very harsh reality to face for divorced people with minor children. 

Previously in this space, we looked at employment contracts for executives and high visibility employees or representatives, and how a company can manage the risk of illegal or otherwise improper behavior of those key persons.  With some foresight, and smart contractual drafting, the company can protect itself from bad behavior through morality clauses.   

Surprisingly, this very same issue - guarding against the poor judgment of others - appears in many, many divorce cases, particularly when there are minor children and custody issues involved. These issues can have a profound impact on many people, regardless of social status, wealth, religion or any other demographic category.

Even the most amicable divorce matter can be psychologically and emotionally challenging at times.  More often than not, those challenges can become extreme when mixed with the financial pressures that divorcing couples also face.  Add to that the difficulty of navigating custody issues, and the parties’ differing perceptions of what is in the child’s best interest, and you have a powder keg waiting for ignition.  Eventually, more often than not, this issue explodes into conflict.

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