RAP Concert Calendar

Check out the calendar listed below for upcoming concerts and RAP events in the Boston area!

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Ch-check it out! The Beastie Boys have found themselves embroiled in a copyright battle with…a toy company?

         Goldieblox describes itself as “a toy company on a mission to inspire the next generation of female engineers.” But the company has inspired controversy with its latest ad, a video that depicts three young girls building a Rube Goldberg machine and singing a revised version of the Beastie Boys’ “Girls.” In the original song, the Beastie Boys sing: “Girls — to do the dishes/ Girls — to clean up my room/ Girls — to do the laundry/ Girls — and in the bathroom.” The Goldieblox girls counter: “Girls — to build the spaceship/ Girls — to code the new app/ Girls — to grow up knowing/ That they can engineer that.” The video went viral and has been praised for its message, but the Beastie Boys sent a cease and desist letter, claiming copyright infringement. Last week, Goldieblox filed a complaint in the District Court for the Northern District of California seeking a declaratory judgment that the video was a parody of the original and therefore a fair use.
        Parody, the imitative use of a copyrighted work to criticize and comment on that work, “transforms” the original into a new work with a new meaning or message, and is therefore a classic fair use. The “Girls” case is complicated by the commercial nature of Goldieblox’s video, which aims not only to criticize the Beastie Boys’ original, but also to market the company’s toys. Typically, courts are less inclined to protect commercial uses. However, the Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, Inc. ruled that the commercial nature of a parody does not automatically bar a fair use defense, but is simply an element to be considered in the fair use analysis. If the parties don’t settle, it will be interesting to see how a court balances the critical nature of the new lyrics against the obviously commercial purpose of the ad.
       In an open letter, the Beastie Boys praised the message of the ad, but emphasized that the band has a strict policy of not licensing their music for advertisements. The band takes this policy so seriously, in fact, that one of its late members, Adam Yauch, reportedly wrote a clause into his will that prohibits the use of Beastie Boys songs in ads.
       Do you think Goldieblox’s parody is a fair use? From a policy perspective, should the Goldieblox video be protected criticism and commentary, or should the Beastie Boys have a right to prevent the use of their work in advertisements?
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Follow RAP on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine!

You can now find RAP on

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RecordingArtistsProject
And even Vine: “HLS RAP”

Follow us for more info!

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Currently Seeking New Clients!


Attention potential clients! As the new school year gets underway, RAP is seeking to provide pro bono legal counsel to new clients. If you need help with clearing samples, negotiating terms, protecting your work from creative theft, signing with a label, or have any other legal questions, please contact us at 617.384.5294 or rap@law.harvard.edu.

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RAP Featured in Hollywood Reporter

The Recording Artists Project was recently featured in a Hollywood Reporter article ranking Harvard Law as one of America’s top entertainment law schools. In attributing Harvard Law with its entertainment cred, the article highlighted RAP’s representation of Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, as well as three of the school’s notable alums: Tom Cruise’s lawyer Bert Fields, talent dealmaker Bruce Ramer, and legendary music exec Clive Davis.

Congrats to RAP and Harvard’s entertainment law community!


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RAP Artists Celebrate a Grammy Win!


Congratulations to current RAP client Shea Rose and former RAP Client Esperanza Spalding for their contributions to Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy Winning album “The Mosaic Project”!  The album took home the 2012 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

You can listen to Shea Rose’s contributions to the track “Sisters on the Rise (A Transformation)” on her website’s media player at http://www.shearose.com/.


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Legal Realities for First Year Legal Practitioners: Know Your Client, Know the Industry

by Susan Wang (J.D. 2014), Emma Tennant (J.D. 2014)

Our first semester at Harvard Law School was about more than briefing cases and reading Supreme Court opinions: through the Recording Artist’s Project we learned about clients. That lawyers work for the best interest of their clients is not always obvious from reading court opinions, but in only one semester our team realized that furthering a client’s interests means finding out about business practices in the industry, and learning about what is negotiable from our bargaining position. One such business practice that we became very familiar with was the distinction between net and gross profits. It’s also a distinction of extreme importance to our client ($$$).

This semester we dealt primarily with a licensing and distribution agreement and an administration agreement (an agreement that grants the publisher the right to administer a particular composition or a catalog of compositions for a limited period, RAP Student Advocate Manual p.42). In one contract the company specified that our client would receive a certain percent of the net sales of physical and digital copies. The split was generously in our client’s favor, but the contract did not specify which expenses would precede calculation of the net sales. In another contract, the company failed to specify at all whether the payment would be in gross or net.

In understanding how these contractual terms or non-terms would affect our client we took several steps. First, we googled the difference between net and gross profits. Gross includes everything that you earn. Net includes only what you have left after covering expenses. Second, we spoke with RAP Supervising Professor Brian Price. He informed us that, under rules of contract construction, in instances of ambiguity, the contract that failed to specify would be interpreted in the non-drafter’s favor — our client’s favor–so he would receive gross income. Third, we thought about what, if anything we could do to change the terms of the contract. Were the terms of these contracts not in our client’s favor, it still might not be in their interest for us to try to negotiate them. This stems from the reality of the music business. Given the relative bargaining power of our client in comparison to the other party’s, we have to consider whether any term at all should be renegotiated. The other party may simply walk away if the legal process for achieving a mutual goal between our client, an unknown in the music industry, and another party, is too onerous. This would leave our client in a position that is worse off. In the end our team accepted the net/gross delineations in these contracts as acceptable for our client, and chose to focus on at most one or two issues per contract. We also determined not to take a hard line.

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Congratulations to RAP Client Shea Rose!!

Boston Globe (January 1, 2011)

We would like to extend some heartfelt congratulations to RAP client Shea Rose on a phenomenal past few months!

In November, Shea Rose put on a show-stopping performance at the Boston Music Awards, where she took home the prize for R&B/Soul/Urban Artist of the Year.  She rose to the top of a crowded field that included Ahmir, Bad Rabbits, YouTube sensation Karmin, and the inimitable New Kids on the Block.

At the start of the new year, Shea Rose was named an “Artist to Watch in 2012” and last week, the Boston Globe produced a remarkable feature about Shea Rose that is definitely a worthwhile read.

Congratulations again!  We are excited to see your star continue to rise.


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Copyright Basics: Copyright Notice and Registration

Q. What does that © symbol mean?  What about (P)?

A. Copyright notices in music come in two forms.  The symbol © refers to a copyright in a musical work.  The symbol (P) refers to a copyright in a sound recording.  Regardless of which symbol is used, each is followed by the year of publication (see section on the Duration of Copyright for a general definition of publication) and the name of the copyright owner.

Copyright notice is no longer legally necessary to ensure copyright protection in many instances. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended that all embodiments of a copyrightable work include copyright notices to ensure others are informed about the copyright ownership.  Thus, all CDs, DVDs, or other recording mediums, as well as sheet music, written lyrics, and packaging materials for a recording, should include copyright notices.

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Copyright Basics: Exceptions To Copyright Protection

Q. What is a compulsory license?

A.  The most noteworthy exception to the exclusive rights granted to copyright owners of musical works is the compulsory license.  A compulsory license means that the copyright owner must allow anyone who wants to use the copyrighted work to do so, whether the copyright owner wants to or not.  In return for this forced license, the copyright owners are reimbursed by fees set through negotiation or by the government (depending on which license applies). The six compulsory licenses are:

•    Cable television rebroadcast
•    Noncommercial public broadcasting
•    Jukeboxes
•    Digital performance of sound recordings (e.g. webcasting)
•    Digital phonorecord distribution (e.g. downloading digital copies)
•    Phonorecords of non-dramatic musical compositions (a compulsory mechanical license or cover license)

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