Major Labels Hit Charter Communications With Second Copyright Suit

Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music have collectively filed a second lawsuit against Charter Communications, alleging that the company — which does business as Spectrum — has continually failed to rein in copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers.

The complaint, filed July 26 in U.S. District Court in Colorado by the big three labels and their respective publishing companies and subsidiaries, follows a previous, ongoing suit lobbed by the labels against Charter in March 2019. That suit covered alleged infringement activity that occurred on Charter’s network between March 24, 2013, and May 17, 2016, while the new complaint covers infringement which took place from July 26, 2018 to present.

“Charter has insisted on doing nothing — despite receiving thousands of notices that detailed the illegal activity of its subscribers, despite its clear legal obligation to address the widespread, illegal downloading of copyrighted works on its Internet services, and despite being sued previously by Plaintiffs for similar conduct,” the complaint maintains.

The new lawsuit says the labels continued to “monitor and detect infringement” occurring on Charter’s network during the current claim period and sent over 150,000 additional notices identifying the illegal download, copying and distribution of their copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other digital file-sharing services. The notices allegedly flagged the unique IP addresses of what the labels claim are “tens of thousands” of “flagrant and serial infringers” operating on Charter’s network.

“In reality, Charter operated its service as an attractive tool and safe haven for infringement,” reads the complaint, which further alleges that the company turned a “blind eye” to said activity in order to “attract and retain new and existing subscribers,” who in turn would purchase more bandwidth to accommodate faster download speeds. “In other words, the greater the bandwidth its subscribers required for pirating content, the more money Charter made,” the complaint adds.

Neither reps for Charter nor the labels responded to request for comment by time of publishing.

The plaintiffs are asking for maximum statutory damages — which, under U.S. law, would amount to $150,000 per infringed work — or, alternatively, actual damages in an amount to be proven at trial. If awarded statutory damages in the maximum amount for each infringed work — which total 1,719 sound recordings and 1,086 compositions, according to two exhibits filed with the complaint — Charter would be on the hook for more than $420 million.

The new lawsuit is just the latest in a series of copyright infringement suits filed against internet service providers by music companies over the past several years. In Dec. 2019, the big three labels won a $1 billion verdict against Cox Communications after the ISP was deemed liable for customers’ infringement of more than 10,000 musical works on its network (the verdict was upheld by a U.S. District Court judge this past January). In Dec. 2015, Cox was ordered to pay $25 million in a separate copyright suit brought by BMG; though that decision was reversed on appeal in early 2018 and ordered for a retrial due to an error in instructions to the jury, Cox settled with BMG for a “substantial” amount before a new trial could commence.

A similar, still-pending infringement lawsuit was filed by 17 record companies against internet service provider RCN Corporation in August 2019. Also ongoing is a suit filed by the RIAA in April 2017 against Texas-based ISP Grande Communications, which is also accused of failing to crack down on copyright pirates.

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Appeals Underway for Denied Applicants

Since nearly 20% of all Shuttered Venue Operator Grant (SVOG) applications have been denied, this week the Small Business Administration (SBA) invited those more than 3,000 business owners to appeal their denials and restate their cases for receiving up to $10 million in federal support. 

Declined applicants will have two weeks to appeal, during which time funding will be preserved.

As of Friday (Aug. 6), more than 10,700 applicants have been awarded grants amounting to roughly $8.3 billion of the program’s total $16.25 billion in available grants. The remaining roughly $8 billion will be allotted first to successful appeals and then as supplemental grants for venues, promoters, agencies and other live music companies with successful applications.

Since appeal notices began rolling out Monday, 494 invitations have been accepted so far. Those entities will need to review the SVOG Eligibility Matrix to see where they believe errors were made on the behalf of an SBA reviewer. The SBA has not provided specific reasons why each entity was declined, leaving the guesswork up to the companies.  

“There is a balancing act we have to do. The level of specificity slows things down,” The SBA’s senior advisor for COVID-19 programs Deidra Henry-Spires told Billboard at the end of July. “There are conversations we can have after we’ve seen the whole unit of declines once we’ve gotten through [all the applications that came in the first 60 days]. But often in grant programs, you don’t get a personalized reason for your declination.” 

The SVOG is a first-of-its-kind program for the SBA and there are a number of reasons why a venue or live music business could be found ineligible. The eligibility matrix alone is 11 pages, and some definitions, such as that for “live performers,” can be unclear. The lack of specific reasons for declinations led to frustration from many SVOG applicants, but as of today only 494 of the 3,142 invitations to appeal have been accepted.  

Those who have accepted will need to upload a signed statement indicating their grounds for appeal, as well as any supporting documents. There will be no secondary appeals process for applicants whose appeals are declined, which means the next two weeks mark several venues’ final chance to receive much-needed funding. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant was signed into law on Dec. 27 and struggling businesses had to wait another four months before a single application was accepted. 

“The only way we’ll ever get our doors back open is by getting this grant,” co-owner of the Music Room in Atlanta Mike LeSage told Billboard. “If we don’t know what the problem is, are we just going to submit something with the same issues? It’s scary when your entire livelihood and your family’s livelihood are wrapped up in this.” 

Declinations make up a fifth of all grant applications, which will officially close on Aug. 20. The high rate of declines can be attributed to the complexity of a grant written for an assortment of businesses like music venues, promoters, talent agencies, performing arts venues, zoos, museums and movie theaters. Several entities told Billboard they believe confusing tax codes for their local government confused SBA reviewers and others say there was confusion over who was eligible. The SBA “anticipates reversals of prior decisions will be rare,” according to the SVOG website. 

The SBA will assign a new reviewer to go over each appeal “to see if we made a mistake, if something else should have been done or you should have received an award,” the website exaplins. The SBA’s Henry-Spires added, it’s a “second opportunity to plead your case with strong financial documentation that makes a good case for the American taxpayer, because we take our duty to protecting their funds incredibly, incredibly, seriously.” 

On Friday, the SBA also began to send out invitations for “reconsideration” or for those who believe they received less funding than they deserved. Just over 200 applicants were sent reconsiderations emails so far with 11 accepting. The reconsideration window will also last two weeks.  

Watch Beyonce Run an Ivy Park Rodeo in Stunning New Campaign Video

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Giddy up, because Beyoncé‘s got a new Ivy Park collection on the way.

Houston’s Queen Bey took channeled her Southern roots in a two-minute teaser on Friday (Aug. 6) for Ivy Park Rodeo, Adidas x Ivy Park’s upcoming collection. The clip features the superstar herself, along with her mom Tina Knowles Lawson, Houston rapper Tobe Nwigwe, singer Snoh Aalegra, real-life cowboy Glynn Turman and more — all rocking rugged yet chic outfits in denim, cow print and more rodeo-inspired fabrics and colors.

Bey told the  that Ivy Park Rodeo was inspired by “how much of the Black, brown and Native cowboy stories are missing in American history.”

“I am proud to represent Houston culture, my roots and all the people who understand fried Snickers and fried turkey legs,” she continued.

The nearly 60 pieces in the collection will go on sale on Aug. 19 here. See the teaser below.

Ariana Grande Is Taking Over ‘Fortnite’ This Weekend: Inside The Rift Tour

Ariana Grande is twirling atop a marble column in the clouds, in a dress made of shards of mirrored glass, wielding an enormous silver mallet with a diamond as its hammer.

It’s not the real-life Grande, or some bizarre dream, but her avatar performing virtually in Fortnite, the free-to-play online video game with 350 million registered global users that has become known for its in-game music experiences with artists like Marshmello, Travis Scott and J Balvin. Billed as the next iteration of Scott’s “Astronomical” in-game event in April 2020 — which drew 27 million global unique players across five airings — Grande’s appearance kicks off the game’s so-called Rift Tour series, hosting an in-game virtual concert that will air five times over the course of this weekend.

Over the past several years, the music industry has opened its eyes to gaming as a new way to connect with fans and drive revenue. In-game performances offer multiple revenue streams to artists, from up-front payments to virtual goods and a streaming spike for the artist’s music that tends to follow an in-game show.

Compared to “Astronomical,” Grande’s performance is less visually chaotic, with fewer scene changes, and has an expanded focus on the player experience. In Grande’s world — which looks like if the Lisa Frank brand were an entire planet — players aren’t just watching the show, but actively participating in it, a key element that will be part of future experiences, according to Phil Rampulla, head of brand at Epic Games, Fortnite’s parent company.

“You’ll see on this one that there’s a little bit more control if you want it,” Rampulla tells Billboard. “You can go on autopilot and chill out and just take it all in and enjoy the ride. Or you can squad up with friends and really try to unlock things and compete.”

Artist performances within Fortnite have only gotten bigger and better since the game’s first-ever concert with Marshmello in February 2019, which attracted 10.7 million concurrent players. And with a Lady Gaga performance rumored to be coming soon, Epic Games is getting faster at putting together these shows. While Scott’s took over a year to come together, a representative for Epic said that Grande’s took six to nine months, with Rampulla describing it as a “very collaborative and iterative process.”

During the roughly 10-minute experience, players bounce atop hot pink beds of plants as if they were trampolines, fly inside glistening bubbles in the sky as Grande sways in a swing held up by clouds and follow Grande up marble staircases that turn upside-down the higher you go. The flipped view references Grande’s upside-down album covers for Thank U, Next and Sweetener, which the pop star has said symbolized her emotional state at the time, and it’s just one of several Easter eggs The Rift Tour leaves for super-fans — including a virtual version of Grande’s real-life pet pig, Piggy Smallz. Players will experience different effects during the show depending on their choice of avatar outfit or wrap (which changes the appearance of weapons and vehicles), encouraging them to go back for multiple showings.

“It’s hard to really think of anybody better at the moment,” Rampulla says of Grande. Unlike Travis Scott, Grande isn’t publicly involved in the video game community, making her an unorthodox choice for one of the world’s most popular games. “What we always look for in a partner is someone who’s willing to take some risks, someone who’s willing to try something new,” Rampulla says. “We reached out with some of the broad strokes of the ideas and she immediately jumped in and we just took off and the rest is history.” It likely doesn’t hurt that Ariana and Fortnite may benefit from introducing their fanbases to one another either.

At the time of “Astronomical,” an industry source told Billboard that Scott received a multimillion-dollar fee upfront, and that artist deals can also include a back-end bonus once the event reaches certain viewership metrics. That doesn’t include revenue from virtual goods that artists can sell Fortnite players in the form of skins (avatar outfits), gear (for fighting) and emotes (which lend the ability to act out expressions). Sold in Fortnite’s virtual currency, “V-bucks,” Grande’s cosmetics set includes a skin for the equivalent of about $20; a diamond gavel for about $8; a glider for about $12; and a ride-able unicorn for about $5. Players can also purchase a bundle of all these items for about $28. Those purchases add up, but Epic Games declined to reveal how compensation has been handled for Grande.

In the final few minutes of the show, Grande sings “Positions” while floating above ice before smashing it with her giant gavel, sending the artist and the audience back up into the clouds. In the aftermath of the explosion, players hover in the air among rainbows, watching fireworks explode in the surrounding air. Musically, the experience plays like a greatest hits collection, featuring tracks like “Positions,” “REM” and 2013 Mac Miller collaboration “The Way.”

Fortnite was quick to release viewership numbers after the Travis Scott show, but Rampulla wouldn’t commit to releasing numbers around Grande’s weekend in Fortnite. With massive superstars jumping at the opportunity to work with Epic Games, and potentially expand their user base, it doesn’t seem like Fortnite will move away from working with artists anytime soon.

Additional reporting by Micah Singleton

First Spin: The Week’s Best New Dance Tracks From Flight Facilities, Feed Me, Point Point & More

Another week, another set of dance floor jams that’ll melt your mind and move your spirit.

It wasn’t an easy week for electronic lovers. We said goodbye to two of the scene’s most foundational voices. Chicago house pioneer Paul Johnson and Detroit techno legend Kelli Hand passed away on the same day. The absence of their presence will be felt for years to come, but so will the strength of their legacies.

It wasn’t all sad news. Earlier today, we took a close look a Leave The Bones, a new collaborative album from Nero’s Joseph Ray and Haitian roots music band Lakou Mizik. It’s a beautiful exploration of tradition and modern moods, and you should definitely check out the whole thing in your own time, but for now, dig into these Billboard Dance team-approved singles.

Flight Facilities feat. Drama, “Move”

Change is in the air for Flight Facilities. The Australian purveyors of chill poolside vibes have lately been bumping up energy on recent songs like “The Ghost” and Channel Tres collaboration “Lights Up.” In a statement, they share: “Subconsciously, a decade after releasing early 80’s inspired disco, our internal musical clocks have us creating early ‘90s inspired dance.”

New single “Move,” featuring Chicago duo Drama, isn’t just inspired by the ‘90s — it’s a whole time machine back to when house music ruled the Billboard dance/club charts, buoyed by the voices of divas like CeCe Peniston, Crystal Waters and Martha Wash. Drama’s Via Rosa is less roaring and more vocally reserved here, but the thumping bassline, sweaty drums and swelling piano melodies bring all drama (no pun intended) on their own. The “Move” music video is a throwback as well, with silhouetted dancers and big, bright shapes in the background that recall Peniston’s “Finally.”

“Whether you’re in the club, kitchen or a lockdown party of 1,” Flight Facilities say, “‘Move’ is our ode to piano house, and the pioneers of 909 drum-machine music.” — KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ

Feed Me, “Reckless” Feat. Tasha Baxter

Grab your keys and strap on your Drive jacket, Feed Me just dropped a dreamy synthwave wonder of scorpion-jacket proportions. It’s a brilliant taste of the UK producer’s next chapter as he continues to broaden his music horizons, exploring tasty sounds and styles outside of his drum’n’bass roots. “Reckless” features gorgeous, airy vocals from South African singer-songwriter Tasha Baxter, and it marks the first single from a forthcoming album by the same name.

“‘Reckless’ is a lockdown story reimagined as escapist fantasy, and a chapter in a diary of recalibration,” Feed Me Tweeted. “Next week’s album is a segment of a larger body of work totalling how I made use of the time you’ve all given me.”

Get ready to submerge yourself in pastel rainbow and neon hues. “Reckless” is out now on Sotto Voce Records. — KAT BEIN

Jorja Smith, “All of This”

Heartbreak finds a hip-swaying rhythm on Jorja Smith’s new single “All of This.” The UK crooner spiritually and sonically travels down to South Africa for a Guilty Beatz-produced beat inspired by Amapiano, an offshoot of South African house music. Smith’s pain-stricken vocals float over the winding, melancholic production, which takes center stage mid-way through with a barrage of deep and heavy, almost militant percussion — a seamless and sudden transition, like that of sadness morphing into betrayal and anger. “So much for my one and only,” she repeats with a sweet venom.

In a statement, Smith says that she met Guilty Beatz while attending a writing camp. “He’s so wonderful to work with and when we initially started the song, it was more a fall to the floor type beat,” she adds. “He’s shared Amapiano playlists with me before and then during the first lockdown in 2020, he sent me a version of the song like it is now. … It’s all about someone who doesn’t deserve you and thinking wow, you really had all of my once, ew.” — K.R.

Point Point, “Seeyaanotherday”

We all went to a party or a dinner or a friendly gathering in 2020 that turned into our last for a year at least. It’s wild, because we didn’t know it would be our last at the time. It’s kind like when Parisian duo Point Point put out “Serious Mood” in 2017 and then didn’t release anything else for four freakin’ years—until today.

“Seeyaanotherday” is a triumphant, funkalicious, disco-drip of a return. It’s sensual and sunny, a syncopated rhythm dressed in walking bass and silly-little synth noises guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a bend in your back. The sounds are warm, organic and playful, and the single is celebrated with a fresh and clean Instagram page that seems to promise more to come. This time when they say “Seeyaanotherday,” we hope they mean it. — K. Bein

Baltra, “Sunset Jam”

Following releases on Local Action and Nothing Else Matters, NYC producer Baltra has returned to Shall Not Fade with his first full EP for the UK house label in two years. Comprising four jewel-toned tracks, Dreaming of a Disco travels from the beach to the club and back again. By its title alone, “Sunset Jam” is an appropriate closer. Lush and languid at the start with rippling xylophone keys, it slowly ups the energy with searing disco strings, scat singing and a simmering acid synth line finale to guide the sun over the horizon. The perfect track for an impromptu beach party, “Sunset Jam” is balmy, sensual and ready to lead listeners from day into night. — K.R.

Party Favor, “Save Me”

After a year in quarantine, a false-spring of a post-vaccination emergence and the promise of more Delta-variant lockdowns on the horizon, we’ve all come to be close friends with anxiety. It’s not the best feeling in the world, but at least we have moving music to get us through tough times, especially when those tunes come with wonky lil’ synth bleeps like Party Favor’s bassy, bouncy single “Save Me.”

“‘Save Me’ is an ode to the demons we’re all fighting constantly,” Party Favor is quoted in a press release. “Everyone’s going through something different all the time, and for me, that’s dealing with anxiety. This song comes from the perspective of a person’s subconscious mind trying to rid itself of those demons, even when they keep coming back time and again.”

It’s been a couple years since Party Favor released new solo material. He did have a fantastic run last year with Nitti Gritti on their collaborative Sidepiece project, earning a Grammy nomination for their “On My Mind” single alongside Diplo. Party Favor just signed with Ultra Records, so there’s a lot of new solo work to come. Keep an eye peeled. — K. Bein

Chart Rewind: In 1961, Patsy Cline’s ‘I Fall to Pieces’ Rose to No. 1 on Hot Country Songs

In the Billboard issue dated Aug. 7, 1961, Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” began a two-week reign on the Hot Country Songs chart.

The iconic track, penned by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard, was produced by Owen Bradley. It also crossed over to the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 12.

Almost two months before ruling Hot Country Songs for the first time, Cline was seriously injured in a car accident in Nashville. Two passengers in the other car were killed and Cline incurred several injuries.

Cline led Hot Country Songs again for five weeks in 1962 with “She’s Got You.” In between her two No. 1s, “Crazy,” written by Willie Nelson, reached No. 2 on Hot Country Songs and became Cline’s lone Hot 100 top 10, reaching No. 9.

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Va., on Sept. 8, 1932, Cline broke through before Hot Country Songs became an all-encompassing genre songs survey in 1958, when fellow legendary hit “Walkin’ After Midnight” reached the top three of multiple country tallies in 1957. She joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1960.

On March 5, 1963, Cline was killed in a plane crash in Camden, Tenn., which also ended the lives of country artists Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. Cline was just 30 years old.

In 1973, Cline became the first woman inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. “Cline is frequently invoked as a standard for female vocalists, and she has inspired scores of singers including k. d. lang, Loretta Lynn, Linda Ronstadt, Trisha Yearwood and Wynonna Judd,” the organization praises. “Her unique, crying style and vocal impeccability have established her reputation as the quintessential torch singer.”