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DISClaimer: Train Teams With Ashley Monroe

Train's Pat Monahan and Ashley Monroe in video for "Bruises."

How interesting: The two best country platters of the week both come from bands who are considered to be outside the country format.

The British folk-rock combo Mumford & Sons has definitely earned its acoustic bona fides while rising to Platinum and Grammy-nominated status. Now it is knocking on country music’s door with “I Will Wait.” I, for one, would open it.

The San Francisco pop rockers Train have also attained Platinum and Grammy recognition. They’ve also appeared on CMT with Martina McBride. They perform super catchy songs and lead singer Pat Monahan blends fantastically well with mountain soprano Ashley Monroe. All of that is why “Bruises” is the Disc of the Day.

And since Mumford & Sons have never appeared in this column before, that qualifies them for a DisCovery Award.

Mumford and sons

HANNAH BETHEL/No Where Left to Roam
Writer: Hannah Bethel; Producer: Andy Sheridan & Hannah Bethel; Publisher: Hamywyn, BMI; Hannah Bethel (CDX) 
—She sings splendidly, with just the right blend of sweetness, ache and hillbilly heart. The softly brushed drums, scampering fiddle, plaintive dobro and stacked vocal harmonies are all pluses, even if the title seems buried in the lyric.

RANDY HOUSER/How Country Feels
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Stoney Creek (track) 
—The title tune to Houser’s upcoming CD is a solid stomper that places his bruiser voice right up front, where it belongs. The man can sure-nuff sing. Play it.

CLAYTON BELLAMY/Straight Into the Sun
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; MDM (ERG) 
—I think it’s meant to sound slow and sultry. It put me to sleep.

TRAIN & ASHLEY MONROE/Bruises
Writer: Pat Monahan/Espen Lind/Amud Bjorklund; Producer: Espionage & Butch Walker; Publisher: EMI April/Ptimon/Stellar, ASCAP; Columbia 
—Train writes such catchy tunes. No wonder it has a shot on country playlists. Especially when collaborating with a hillbilly angel like Hippie Annie. This little sparkler is an addictive audio delight.

JASON KIRKNESS/Leavin’
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; MDM (ERG)  
—This Canadian has a slightly folkie bent, but with all the earnest “heart” that good country singing requires. The mid-tempo song is loaded with hooks, and the production is stellar. In short, come on down.

MUMFORD & SONS/I Will Wait
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Glassnote (ERG) 
—It’s a frothy, banjo-and-guitar driven track with loads of energy. Their haunting vocal harmony work captures your full attention. I have been smitten with this folk-rock band for quite some time and think this format could do itself a big favor by inviting the Mumfords to the party.

WAYNE WARNER/The Journey
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; B-Venturous (ERG) 
—His quivering, quavering vibrato is either a welcome novelty or an audio irritant. Take your pick.

PAT GREEN/Even the Losers
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Sugar Hill (ERG) 
—His voice sounds as urgent and rousing on a semi-ballad like this as it does on his crowd-pleasing rockers. I remain a fan.

ELVIS BEFORE NOON/Best Year
Writer: Daylon Greer; Producer: Eric Racy; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP; EBN (track) 
—This Arizona four-piece jangles like The Byrds, twangs like The Eagles, rocks like Creedence and crafts tunes that sound as good as familiar oldies. A classic country-rock sound.

KEVIN DEAL/There Goes the Neighborhood
Writer: none listed; Producer: Lloyd Maines; Publisher: Piedrero, ASCAP; Blindfellow (track)
—This perennial Texas favorite is back with a new collection this year. Its bouncy, banjo-backed title tune and lead track lets you know you’re in for a good-natured ride. Ragged but right, as they say.

 

New B.o.B. Video Features Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift sings the hooky chorus in the new song by rapper B.o.B. The video for “Both of Us” premiered yesterday (6/27) on MTV.

Among the Nashville locations used in the video are Melrose Billiards and Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish. Director Jake Nava shot the video showcasing everyday triumphs and struggles of the working class. See the “Behind the Video” clip posted below.

The track is the third single from B.o.B.‘s Atlantic Records release Strange Clouds. The underdog championing lyric features Swift singing, “I wish I was strong enough to lift not one, but both of us.”

Swift and the rapper first met in October 2011 when he was a surprise guest at the Dallas Cowboy Stadium stop on her Speak Now tour. They dueted on his hit “Airplane.”

Brothers of the Sun Tour Brings Hit Packed Show To LP Field

Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw are having as much fun as their fans. Their Brothers of the Sun tour set down at Nashville’s LP Field Saturday (6/23), bringing a 6-hour party—even longer for devoted tailgaters—that felt like a reunion between the superstars and country music lovers.

The night was a treat for longtime fans who have followed McGraw’s and Chesney’s almost two decade careers, as the singers delivered hit after hit from their mega catalogs. What’s fantastic about the Brothers experience is that while both performers have grown artistically since their debuts, they enjoy returning to the sometimes hokey hits that later allowed them the freedom to explore more thought provoking material.

The heat didn’t deter the parking lot full of tailgaters, many of whom gathered before noon to pre-party for the 4 PM show. They toted in games of cornhole, sets of speakers, and loaded-down coolers. In keeping with Chesney’s laid back beach-inspired brand, plastic leis draped many necks in the crowd of mostly 40-and-unders. Jake Owen kicked off the music inside the 68,000 seat stadium, followed by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

When McGraw took the stage around 6:45 PM, his opening numbers including newer hit “Felt Good on My Lips,” and older favorite “For A Little While” had couples dancing hand-in-hand in front of the concessions booths. And that’s how it went all night long, the perfect blend of new and catalog hits from two of country music’s greatest acts.

McGraw offered early career boosters “Down on the Farm,” “Everywhere,” “Just To See You Smile,” and “Where The Green Grass Grows” which brought the entire crowd to its feet. The sun was as bright as his all-white wardrobe as he continued, previewing “Mexicoma” and “Truck Yeah” from his upcoming release. Of course, his set also included monster smash “Live Like You Were Dying.”

“You can wake up every morning and put your best foot forward and try to be the best person you can be,” he said as he launched into recent hit, “Better Than I Used To Be.”

Fans received the added bonus of appearances by surprise guests—Faith Hill joined him for “I Need You,” and Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tossed footballs into the crowd.

Banners decorated the sides of the gigantic stage, featuring photographs of a warm orange coastal sunset sinking into cool aqua waves. Video screens were a key part of the experience in such a huge venue, and good camera work kept the projections interesting.

Upping the video ante, Chesney’s set benefited from the dark night sky which made the lighting and screens even more spectacular. The stadium was a sea of cell phone lights and colored beams slicing the air. His grand entrance included flying above the fans on a swing while singing “Beer In Mexico.” For the night, Chesney was the preacher to his devoted congregation. He and the crowd fed off each other’s energy, which was as thick as the humidity.

He partied right along with his fans, offering escapism-via-enjoyment favorites including “Reality,” “Living In Fast Forward” and “Out Last Night.” But all his hits aren’t about nights on the town, he does sentimental equally well, and slowed the tempo for moody angst on “Somewhere With You” and doting reflection on “Anything But Mine.” No matter the song, if he stopped singing, the crowd could carry the lyrics.

When Potter returned for “You And Tequila” it was one of the highlights, with the performers sharing a genuine moment, just as Hill and McGraw had earlier. Chesney, who has been playing stadiums for years but hadn’t stopped in Nashville since 2007, said the acoustic song reminds him of his early days playing for tips. He thanked songwriters Deana Carter and Matraca Berg, who last week won Song of the Year for “Tequila” at the MusicRow Awards.

To celebrate Potter’s birthday, the Franklin High marching band made an appearance and played “Happy Birthday” while the crowd sang along.

The finale was the most fun of an already eventful night. Rounding out the hit-packed show was a return to where it all started for the superstars, with McGraw coming back to the stage for their duet “Feel Like A Rock Star.” Then they traded verses on career making smashes “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and “Indian Outlaw.” Owen and Potter helped shut down the stadium with a cover of Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty.”

No. 1 Party: Jake Owen’s “Alone With You”

(L-R): Razor & Tie Publishing’s Lisa Johnson, RCA Records’ Keith Gale, producer Rodney Clawson, co-writer JT Harding, Jake Owen, co-writer Catt Gravitt, Songs MP3’s Kelly King, co-writer Shane McAnally, SESAC’s Shannan Hatch, ASCAP’s LeAnn Phelan, Little Blue Egg Publishing’s Robin Palmer, BMI’s Clay Bradley, and Kobalt Music Publishing’s Whitney Daane. Photo: Steve Lowry

RCA’s Jake Owen and songwriters, JT Harding, Catt Gravitt and Shane McAnally celebrated their recent No. 1 chart-topper, “Alone With You,” with a packed and sweaty crowd of Music Row friends and executives at Nashville’s Cabana on Tuesday (6/19).

Produced by Joey Moi and Rodney Clawson, the song marks Owen’s second trip to the top of the chart and Gravitt’s first country No. 1. McAnally and Harding previously had success together in 2011 with Kenny Chesney’s No. 1 hit “Somewhere With You.”

Plaques and awards were handed out in spades honoring the creative team. Presenters included BMI’s Clay Bradley, ASCAP’s LeAnn Phelan and SESAC’s Shannan Hatch. Bradley was quick to point out “Jake has redefined his career with this record,” and the audience was in full agreement.

RCA Records’ Keith Gale joined the presenters and acknowledged, “This album should be called ‘Greatest Hits.'” The accolades continued with Razor & Tie Publishing’s Lisa Johnson, Songs MP3’s Kelly King, Little Blue Egg Publishing’s Robin Palmer, Kobalt Music Publishing’s Whitney Daane, Avenue Bank’s Ron Cox, CMA’s Brandi Simms and CRB’s Keith Kaufman.

Jake Owen took the stage and admitted, “It took awhile to get here and a lot of people to help me get here.” He gave a special thanks to Renee Bell for sending him the song two and a half years ago. He also thanked his new beautiful bride, Lacey who was among the attendees. Looking at the writers, he added, “You allow me to have a pretty awesome life.

The No. 1 celebration quickly began to resemble a night at Zanies as JT Harding gave a heartfelt thanks to his mom in the audience for never complaining about his loud music or coming to breakfast on a regular basis with KISS makeup on. Describing the writing session, Harding recalled that Gravitt “wanted to feel it” before agreeing the song was finished and made a graphic gesture that shocked he and McAnally into looking like “two cub scouts looking at a Playboy for the first time.” Giving much credit to Owen, Harding added, “He has to work ten times as hard with this song because its a booty call song, and no one as good looking as him has ever been someone’s booty call.”

Gravitt confessed, “I’m just lucky that I don’t have a pee bag and a wheelchair attached to my body ’cause it’s taken me so long get here. I am more grateful to Jake Owen than he knows.” After the laughter had settled, she then looked out over the audience; getting choked up admitting it has “taken a village for me.” Starting with her parents, she thanked the many people who had been influential in her career.

Taking his turn, McAnally also got emotional thanking his family who were in attendance. “I’m grateful to many people in this room,” he added. Addressing Owen, he said, “These are life changing events for us,” thanking him for taking a bold position and a risk in doing a song like this.” Calling his fellow co-writers “a wall of optimism,” McAnally thanked them bringing joy to his life.

Somethin’ ‘Bout The First No. 1

Pictured (L-R): Red Light Management’s Shawn McSpadden, BMG Chrysalis Music’s Kevin Lane, Cornman Music’s Brett James, Kip Moore, co-writer Dan Couch, BMI’s Jody Williams, and MCA Nashville’s Mike Dungan. Photo: Steve Lowry

The show must go on, and the late Frances Preston wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. BMI toasted the No. 1 hit “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck” yesterday (6/13), the same day as the passing of its legendary leader.

Jody Williams discussed her devotion to songwriters at the opening of the ceremony. He explained, “The first thing Frances would say about today is, ‘get that party started and honor those songwriters.’” Flags flapped at half-staff above the crowd gathered on BMI’s sunny rooftop.

Penning a charttopping song is a grand achievement for any writer, but the first time is often the sweetest. “Truck” is the first No. 1 for songwriters Kip Moore and Dan Couch, and is also Moore’s first No. 1 as an artist. BMI presented him with a guitar to mark the occasion. The song, which hung out at the radio pinnacle for two weeks, is well on its way to Platinum download status.

Mike Dungan was also celebrating a first. “Truck” is his first No. 1 as leader of UMG Nashville. “I’m getting lots of nods, but I’ve had nothing to do with it,” he said, turning the spotlight to his label team. Ever the colorful character, Dungan took the opportunity to hand out his own unique prizes. Moore received a tie-dyed T-shirt that said “Get F*&%@d,” Couch’s trophy was a Richie Sambora figurine, and producer Brett James was honored with a lifesize Jonas Brothers cardboard stand-up.

James has shepherded younger tunesmith Moore for years. “He’s my little brother and he’s one of my best friends,” said James before presenting Moore with a small body road guitar. James took the usual honors one step further, giving plaques to engineers Nick Brophy and Ben Fowler, as well as Nate Lowery, who operates his publishing outfit Cornman Music.

Several others took the stage to honor the writers. Avenue Bank’s Ron Cox presented a donation to the Muscular Dystrophy Association on their behalf. Brandi Simms represented the CMA.

The mood turned emotional when Couch and Moore swapped turns at the mic, choking back tears as they savored the hard earned moment. Couch recalled his 16-year journey and how his family supported his career. His hometown even cheered his success recently when the mayor of Logansport, Ind. declared it “Dan Couch Day.”

“I’m more nervous now than when I played the stadium the other night,” exclaimed Moore, who performed last weekend at CMA Music Festival. He acknowledged James’ patience while helping him develop as an artist and writer. “In an instant world, Brett has stood by me,” he said gratefully.

Partygoers munched on a spread of mini hot dogs, black bean burgers, chips and canned beer—perfect food for a “Truck” tailgate party.

O’Neil Hagaman Names Three Principals

(L-R): Ellen Porter, Craig Owens, and Lillian Williams

Respected business management firm O’Neil Hagaman today announced the promotion of three senior professionals to Principal. Receiving new titles are Craig Owens, previously Consulting Manager; Ellen Porter, previously Business Manager; and Lillian Williams, previously Business Manager.

“Craig, Ellen and Lillian are dedicated, veteran employees of O’Neil Hagaman who have helped build our reputation for exceptional, comprehensive service to the entertainment industry over the years,” said co-founder Kerry P. O’Neil. “We are pleased to elevate them to the well-deserved designation of Principal and know they will provide our clients with unparalleled service in this capacity.”

“Craig has run our Special Projects department for over five years and proved his leadership in keeping our firm at the cutting edge of technology and intellectual property issues,” added O’Neil. Owens has been with O’Neil Hagaman for more than 15 years and is a CPA and has been published in MusicRow magazine. As Principal, he will handle royalty tracking, compliance examinations, intellectual property valuations and investment analysis.

“Ellen is an invaluable talent that understands the essence of our clients, their families, and the complexity of building successful careers,” said co-founder Al Hagaman. “She has worked tirelessly to help our clients meet and exceed their goals.” Porter has been with O’Neil Hagaman for 28 years. As a Principal she will focus on financial management through financial accounting, contractual evaluation, negotiation and monitoring, and risk management. She is an alumna of Leadership Music, a member of the CMA and ACM, and has been published in MusicRow.

“Lillian has developed into a very tenacious and thoughtful business manager who represents her clients and our firm with integrity and it is an honor to be able to recognize her for her exceptional work with our clients,” said co-founder Cheryl Harris. Williams has been with O’Neil Hagaman for more than 20 years and is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Specifically, she will focus on financial accounting, contractual evaluation, negotiation and monitoring and risk management. She is an alumna of Leadership Music, a member of CMA and GMA, and has been published in MusicRow.

Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Revealed

The 2012 class of inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame were revealed this morning during a press event at the Hall. For more in depth coverage keep an eye on musicrow.com for Bobby Karl’s insider report.

Modern Era: Garth Brooks

Billboard and the Nielsen Company have named Garth Brooks “the Best-Selling Artist of the SoundScan Era” with more than 128 million albums sold. The Oklahoma native signed with Capitol Records Nashville, and his self-titled debut album featuring the No. 1 hits “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance” was released in 1989. It went on to become the top-selling country album of the ‘80s and has since sold over 10 million copies. Brooks’ second album No Fences arrived in 1990 and cemented his superstar status with the smashes “Friends in Low Places,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “Two of a Kind (Workin’ On a Full House),” and “The Thunder Rolls.”

Brooks’ third album Ropin’ The Wind made history when it became the first Country album ever to debut at No. 1 on both the Billboard Top 200 and Top Country Albums charts. It went on to win the 1992 CMA Album of the Year Award and earn Brooks his first Grammy Award. His status as an entertainer is legendary, and his four CMA Entertainer of the Year wins has been matched only by Kenny Chesney. In 1997, he took over New York City and drew the largest-ever concert to Central Park. “Garth – Live From Central Park” was HBO’s most-watched and highest-rated original program of the year. In 2007, he made history again when his single “More Than A Memory” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Singles Chart. In 2008, he performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and began performing his acoustic residency at the Wynn Las Vegas. In 2010, Brooks performed nine sold-out shows at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to raise money for The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for flood relief. The concerts raised $5 million and set a record in Tennessee for ticket sales by a single performer.

Veterans EraConnie Smith

Connie Smith, born Constance June Meador in Elkhart, Ind., was signed to RCA Victor Records in 1964 by Chet Atkins. Her recording of Bill Anderson’s “Once A Day” was rushed to radio and went on to become the first debut single from a female artist to hit No. 1. Following the song’s success, she was named Billboard’s Most Promising Female Country Artist and was nominated for three Grammy Awards.

Her self-titled debut album spent seven weeks at No. 1, and its second single “Then and Only Then” (also penned by Anderson) hit No. 4. In 1965, Smith fulfilled her childhood dream of joining the Grand Ole Opry. A member of the Grand Ole Opry for over 45 years, she also released hits like “If I Talked To Him,” “Ain’t Had No Lovin’,” “The Hurtin’s All Over,” and more. She began recording more gospel oriented material in the late ‘60s, and went into semi-retirement in 1979 to concentrate on raising her five children. In the early ‘90s, she signed with Warner Bros. and worked with Marty Stuart as her producer. The two were married in 1997, and have proven to be great musical collaborators. Smith’s 2011 album Long Line of Heartaches (Sugar Hill) was produced by Stuart and hailed as one of the year’s best country recordings.

Recording or Touring MusicianHargus “Pig” Robbins

Robbins is one of the most accomplished Nashville session piano and keyboard players in history. He was born in Spring City, TN in 1938. An accident blinded him in one eye at the age of two, and by age four he lost his vision completely. While studying at the Nashville School for the Blind, he learned to play classical music on piano and began to play country songs by ear after hearing them on the radio.

He has recorded with legendary country artists such as Bobby Bare, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, Charley Pride, Connie Smith, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and more. His work can be heard on Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall To Pieces.” He also played on Bob Dylan’s landmark 1966 album Blonde on Blonde, and classic country recordings like Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors.” He released eight solo albums in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and remained in demand as a session player through the ‘80s, ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 1976 he won CMA Instrumentalist of the Year. Thirty-four years later in 2000, he won the CMA Musician of the Year Award.

Fans were able to watch the live announcement online at www.livestream.com/CMA.

MusicRow Reveals Rising Women Honorees

MusicRow is proud to announce the inaugural Rising Women on the Row honors will be presented to Mary Hilliard Harrington, Shannan Hatch, Heather McBee, Denise Stevens and Carla Wallace.

“It’s an honor to recognize these five accomplished women who have made such substantial contributions to the Nashville music industry, and continue to rise in their achievements,” says MusicRow Publisher/Owner Sherod Robertson. “We are fortunate to be able to offer an event where we can gather to celebrate these honorees, as well as salute all women in our industry, whose efforts greatly contribute to its success.”

This year’s honorees will be feted at a private sit-down breakfast and ceremony set for Friday, March 16, 2012, 8:30 a.m. at Maggiano’s Little Italy. Due to high demand, no additional tickets are available at this time. To be put on a waiting list, email [email protected].

The Rising Women on the Row breakfast joins other annual events hosted by MusicRow, including the CRS Meet & Greet and CountryBreakout Awards, and the reader-voted MusicRow Awards.

Mary Hilliard Harrington

Mary Hilliard Harrington—President, The GreenRoom
Harrington’s self-built publicity company reps major stars including Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, and many more. Her multifaceted office also handles day-to-day management for Bentley. She serves on the Country Music Association board of directors, and the Academy of Country Music board of directors.

Shannan Hatch

Shannan Hatch—Senior Director, Writer/Publisher Relations, SESAC
During her tenure with SESAC, Hatch has signed hit songwriters including Monty Powell, Craig Campbell, Jon Stone and Rob Hatch. She joined the organization in 2002 and was promoted to her current post in January 2011. Hatch also handles SESAC-sponsored events including Tin Pan South, and the Key West Songwriters Festival. She is involved with the Miller Harris Foundation and Musicians On Call.

Heather McBee

Heather McBee—Vice President, Artist Development/Marketing & Web Initiatives, Sony Music Nashville
McBee strives to find innovative ways to market Sony Music artists, and works to guide the label group through the digital music space. She interned with the label while attending Belmont University and has risen through the ranks. McBee was promoted to her current post in December 2011. She is also a Leadership Music alumna.

Denise Stevens

Denise Stevens—Senior Counsel, Loeb & Loeb
Stevens’ legal work includes drafting The Songwriters Capital Gains Tax Equity Act for client NSAI, as well as due diligence review and analysis of Warner Music Group’s sale to Access Industries. Her clients include Carrie Underwood, Wynonna, Loretta Lynn, Amy Grant, Third Day and Switchfoot. She is a Leadership Music alumna, and serves on the GMA Foundation board.

Carla Wallace

Carla Wallace—Co-Owner, VP Creative, Big Yellow Dog Music
Wallace oversees day-to-day operations of this publishing company, which she launched in 1998 with co-owner Kerry O’Neil. In recent years, the company scored big with landmark hits “Need You Now” and “Before He Cheats.” Big Yellow Dog received ASCAP’s Global Impact Award in 2011. Wallace is a Leadership Music alumna, and is involved with NARAS and the Nashville Humane Association.

Debate Over Piracy Acts Continues With Wikipedia Blackout

A message posted on Wikipedia.com.

Internet and tech companies are in an uprising against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), bills making their way through Congress which have drawn support from copyright holders in the music and film industries.

Wikipedia is instituting a self-imposed blackout tomorrow in protest. Designed to draw attention to the bills, Wikipedia will go offline at midnight ET tonight (1/16) and resume operations 24 hours later.

Other sites joining the blackout include user-submitted news site Reddit, tech blog Boing Boing and the Cheezburger network of comedy sites. WordPress, a platform which helps bloggers build websites, is offering users a protest-SOPA widget to be place on their own blogs.

Other internet giants who have spoken out against the legislation include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, eBay, and AOL.

The RIAA announced its support of the bill when it was introduced to the House of Representatives in October.

Last week a panel of experts assembled at Nashville’s Ocean Way Studios to discuss SOPA’s implications.

The Obama administration released its first statement about the bills on Saturday (1/14), noting that it would not support legislation that mandates “tamper[ing] with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS).”

DNS blocking is no longer part of SOPA or PIPA.

Currently, SOPA is in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PIPA is under consideration in the Senate. The
 Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act) has been proposed as an alternative.

SOPA Separates Technology and Content Factions

(L-R) Ken Paulson, CEO of the First Amendment Center; Mitch Glazier, Sr. Exec. VP RIAA; Congressman Howard Berman (CA); Fred von Lohmann, Sr. Copyright Counsel Google; and Mark Montgomery, CEO of FLO thinkery. Photo: Donnie Hedden.

For songwriters, publishers and intellectual property owners, piracy and theft is an issue of paramount importance. This week’s discussion of the pending legislation, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), hosted by the Copyright Forum at Belmont University and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) showed the seriousness of the issues and the strong emotions which surround them. SOPA attempts to build a framework of legal remedies against rogue sites that are located outside U.S. borders. (At the end of the article please click on some of the links with more information.)

Participants included Moderator Ken Paulson, CEO of the First Amendment Center; Mitch Glazier, Sr. Exec. VP RIAA; Congressman Howard Berman (CA); Mark Montgomery, CEO of FLO thinkery; and Fred von Lohmann, Sr. Copyright Counsel Google. Also in the audience was Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper. The well-attended event was held at Ocean Way Studio on Music Row on Jan. 10.

Content owners and the tech community find themselves on different sides of the aisle with respect to SOPA. Both agree that intellectual property owners need to be compensated. But will the act ultimately stop piracy or will an unintended consequence be that it hinders the kinds of innovation that could solve the problem organically if left to the marketplace?

Let’s take a seat and join the session, in progress…. (remarks have been slightly edited for print)

Ken Paulson: The copyright issues explored here today were formulated during a two-year period in American history. In 1789 we ratified the U.S. Constitution and it contained a provision that essentially said if we are going to be a great nation and encourage creativity and inventiveness we need to make sure that people who do that kind of work are rewarded for it. The principles we are discussing today go back to the very birth of the republic.

Mitch Glazier: We currently have a law, the Pro IP act, that allows the Justice department to use its power to take down a website that is dedicated to theft if that site is in the U.S. So the next question is what happens when the Attorney General (AG) seizes a site but it then moves to the Ukraine and changes its URL? The site jumps to a foreign country, but is still stealing American product and peddling it back into the U.S. market. SOPA is about stopping their access to the US market, the biggest market in the world. The AG can’t seize a foreign site, but it can serve the order to the U.S. ISPs, ad services and payment providers and to cut off all affiliations with the site, effectively denying them access to the US market and/or payment through US intermediaries.

There are some differences between the house (SOPA) and senate versions (PIPA, Protect IP Act). The senate bill is domain name centric, the house bill is site centric bill so arguably if something is not applicable to a domain name, but it is for an FTP site it could still be covered. They are fairly similar, but have a few important differences. Only the U.S. AG can serve the order on either a search engine or ISP. No individual has the authority to deny access to the U.S. market—only the AG can make that decision. Another key point is the bill incorporates a high standard of due process. There is a good reason for doing that. Before you cut off access to something outside the U.S. you want to make very certain that you prove there is immediate and irreparable harm.

Fred Von Lohman: SOPA basically creates four new remedies.

  • Site blocking: ISPs would be required to block sites from being accessible by U.S. users;
  • Search removal: allow sites to be removed wholesale from search. (Infringing material that shows up in search results is being removed all the time under the 1998 law DMCA. Copyright owners already have that power. In the last year Google processed removals for more than 5 million items. What the bill does differently is to remove entire sites on a wholesale basis.)
  • Ad networks would have to stop doing business with these foreign sites;
  • Payment processors would also have to stop doing business with these foreign sites.

There’s a lot about these bills that Google and others in the tech community are fully on board with. The provisions regarding payments and ads make sense. Those were not part of the DMCA. Google has a payment processing arm and a large ad network and already works hard to do those kinds of things, we think others should too. Foreign rogue sites are all in it for the money. They are selling counterfeit goods or pirating material supported by payments and/or ads. Until you dry up the money supply they will keep showing up. It is easy to register a new domain and transfer your site. It’s the money that makes them exist. We are supportive of those two parts.

There’s also provisions that allow private citizens to sue American Internet companies if they believe we haven’t done enough. That is something we take very seriously. Private rights of action are often an invitation to abuse and can basically, put money into the pockets of folks who will hire unscrupulous lawyers to put pressure on American Internet companies that are trying to create jobs in this economy. So for us there are things in this bill we like and things we don’t. The most problematic thing in our view is the ideas of site blocking and search removal. It sets an incredibly dangerous precedent which moves this from an issue about enforcing American law to an international trade.

If the U.S. blocks Baidu.com at our borders what do you think China will do at their borders? More than 50% of Google’s revenue comes from outside of the United States. And that is true for many of the U.S. internet companies. If we can’t access markets around the world it creates a huge problem for our economy, our content creators, and future growth. We agree that enforcing domestic law and cutting off the money is important. But in our view, for the USA to reach for the censorship tool sets up a dispute that will hurt a lot of American companies. So we don’t believe site block and search removal should be in there. It’s a dangerous precedent.

Congressman Howard Berman: A massive amount of what happens on the Internet is about distributing infringing materials. That has a huge cost, in job losses and disincentives to creators who are concerned about what the rewards will be in a world where everything is free online. People want government to regulate finance, home mortgages and more, but online they don’t. Yet online there are scams, consumer fraud and more. There are estimates that 20-25% of what goes on in the internet is involved in the distribution of stolen files. For the government to walk away from a huge problem is wrong. It’s not just about music or motion pictures, people use the internet to buy counterfeit drugs, not just cheaper drugs, pills that don’t do what they are supposed to do which gets to life and health issues.

Fred Von Lohmann: Prominent domain name experts say is that meddling with domain name servers [site blocking] will create incentive for American Internet users to hunt for [and others to create] what would be a less secure domain name service and is a bad idea. This is not a debate as Congressman Berman suggests about whether we should have no government regulation of the internet. Copyright is important, but we have the DMCA and other laws and we are in favor of half the things this law proposes.

Mark Montgomery: Creators should be compensated for their work. That is the right position to take. The key to this whole problem is balance. And there is a lack of trust on the part of consumers with the incumbent industries that are perceived as sponsoring this bill. Is this just a way to return ourselves to the days before ubiquitous distribution? Back to when the industry could tightly control its content? Regardless of what industry we discuss, the reality is that the way out of these issues is through innovation, not by attempting to litigate or legislate market share. Historically litigation doesn’t work very well. The consumer is speaking with their wallets and is empowered at a higher level than ever before. I was fortunate to be in the audience at the launch of the iTunes music store. Steve Jobs said, “We need to provide a compelling alternative to free.” At every step in the process, the incumbents have fought change. The idea that the legislation has changed significantly has not altered the consumer’s perception. There is reason to distrust the content industries historically because of their past behavior. That said, it’s absolutely not right for consumers to steal music. We need to deal with those offenders, but there needs to be balance in all this and that is what I am looking for. So to me, innovation is the crux of it all. How do we protect the rights of the creators, without stifling the innovation that has brought us so much.

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Links About The Bill

http://www.fightonlinetheft.com

Representative Marsha Blackburn

NSAI

Go Daddy No Longer Supports SOPA