A few things have happened in the past week that we haven’t really covered yet – so here’s the DD update!
ASCAP Golden Note Award
Late last week, Duran Duran was presented with the ASCAP Golden Key Award for songwriting. Simon, Nick and Roger were present for the awards (John Taylor was presumably in LA at his home) at One Embankment. Receiving such an award is a massive achievement and they join the ranks with other past recipients such as Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and Elton John. To fans, however, this is no surprise. We fell in love with songs like Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf but their talent goes well beyond their hits. Songs like The Chauffeur, Secret Oktober, Palomino, Land, Still Breathing, Planet Roaring and so on, are all perfect examples of why the band is so deserving of being recognized by ASCAP.
In other award news, Duran Duran did not win the EMA for Best Live Stage, despite the best efforts of fans worldwide taking their time to vote. Martin Garrix was this year’s winner…but in our eyes, Duran Duran should have won hands down!
A Lesson in Copyright Law
The Fab Five lives on….this time, as members in a lawsuit over US copyrights. (Do you ever get the feeling that the band will never, ever, be fully rid of one another? It’s like a marriage with children…you can end the marriage, but the kids are the ties that bind. No matter what!) That’s right, Andy Taylor is once again involved with the band, but only because of a lawsuit against Gloucester Place, part of EMI Music Publishing, which is owned by Sony/ATV – a US company.
This is where copyright law gets complicated. The copyright agreements are with Gloucester Place, and the band served that company notices terminating the grant of US copyrights to Duran Duran works (“works” is a term used quite frequently in entertainment law. The basic meaning is anything the band produces.) Gloucester Plan is asking the High Court (of the UK) to declare that the members have breached their music publishing agreement.
The band, on the other hand, is using US law, where songwriters have an “inalienable right” to call for a reversion to their copyright after 35 years (as an aside – this is where I sit back and ask myself, “Has it really been that long?”). Nick Rhodes explains, “This provision was instigated to help rebalance the often unfair deals which artists sign early in their careers when they have little choice to try to get their first break, with no negotiating power and virtually no understanding of what their copyrights really mean for the future.” When the band requested the reversion back in 2014, they considered it a mere formality, until Sony (it always comes back to Sony somehow, doesn’t it?? They can’t seem to be rid of Sony either.) decided to challenge their right, calling it a contractual technicality.
According to Ian Mill, the Queen’s Counsel for Gloucester Place, the terms of the writer’s contracts were that they would not “seek to obtain a reversion of their copyrights” under the US copyright law and that they would be in “breach of contract should they do so”.
Since the agreements were made in 1980 – the agreements were made with the band members personally and are referred to as “the writers” – including Andy Taylor. Only Simon, Nick and Roger appeared in court, however.
Ultimately, this implication of this decision goes well-beyond the likes of Duran Duran. Many of our favorite bands of this same period (and beyond) would likely face similar fights in court. Any publisher who chooses to fight the protective measures of the US copyright law would find a home for themselves in the UK and set up shop there.
I’ll be interested to see where this lawsuit goes from here. All in all, an interesting update for this time of year.