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‘Funkytown’ leading the way with unique copyright action


“Funkytown,” the little tune that never dies, could be an industry leader in exploiting a little-used clause in music copyright law. Chris Roberts of MPR writes: “Add up the royalties and licensing fees ‘Funkytown’ has generated over the years, one can imagine the financial windfall it has provided for [local songwriter Stevie] Greenberg, who prefers to leave it to your imagination. ‘I really can’t talk publicly about money and things like that, but it has been a great source of income for me,’ he said. Even more so for Universal Music Group, which owns the copyright to the song. In fact, the lion’s share of the funds generated by ‘Funkytown’ has gone to Universal, Greenberg said. But a 1976 amendment to the Copyright Act could reverse that relationship. The provision gives song authors the right to re-claim ownership of the song’s copyright after 35 years. It applies to all recordings released since Jan. 1, 1978. Congress decided 35 years is enough time for a label to benefit from any riches a song has produced. Greenberg, with the help of his Minneapolis attorney Ken Abdo, was the first songwriter in the country to file a ‘termination of transfer’ notice with the U.S. Copyright office for ‘Funkytown.’ Under the provision, because the song was released in 1980, the copyright would revert from Universal to Greenberg in 2015.”

Not a good year at Orchestra Hall. Rob Hubbard, in the PiPress, reports: “The Minnesota Orchestra said Tuesday it recorded a $2.9 million loss for fiscal 2011 after posting an operating surplus of $8,000 the previous year. Reported at its annual meeting, the orchestra attributed the loss to significant decreases in the amount of its endowment it was able to draw, as well as drops in contributions and ticket sales. Although the orchestra lowered expenses for 2011 by $377,000 over the previous year — or about 1 percent of its approximately $30 million budget — total revenue and contributions were down $3.29 million, or 11 percent from the prior year. The bulk of the decrease was in the amount the orchestra was able to draw from its endowment.”

It’s pretty much the same story at the Penumbra Theatre. Rohan Preston of the Strib reports: “Penumbra Theatre has cancelled two of the five plays in its current season, the St. Paul company announced Tuesday. The programming cuts come as the theater disclosed that it has a $500,000 shortfall on its $3.2 million budget. The fiscal gap is due to lower-than-expected sponsorship income for out-of-town productions, including a tour of Dominic Taylor’s ‘I Wish You Love,’ which sold out its run at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. The shortfall is also because of asset depreciation, theater officials said Tuesday. ‘This is not the death-knell for the theater by any stretch,” said board member Jeff Saunders, a partner at the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney.”

It was Vikings Stadium Hearing: The Sequel today. Tim Nelson of MPR writes: “Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said that the team heard out Minneapolis officials, who told the team that the city wants a rebuild of the Metrodome. Bagley said the city was free to do so, but that the team didn’t agree to the plan in Monday’s meeting. ‘There are problems with all three sites,’ Bagley said. The Vikings rejected the Metrodome rebuild back in May, when Rybak and city council president Barb Johnson first rolled out their plan. The Vikings said they couldn’t afford to play elsewhere for at least two seasons while the Metrodome was rebuilt. They also say the venue, at about 1 million square feet, is a third smaller than comparable stadiums elsewhere. But Minneapolis won’t be the only stadium plan under close scrutiny today. Senate tax committee chair Julianne Ortman, R-Maple Grove, told Ramsey County officials she wanted to hear how they could come up with a $350 million local contribution, even though state officials have effectively ruled out a half-percent sales tax increase proposed by the county. County commissioner Tony Bennett says that the county is looking at alternatives to the sales tax, possibly including hotel or liquor taxes. ‘We could come up with about half,’ he said of the county’s original offer. ‘But anything we do has to get approval of the Legislature, anyway.’ “

At the Strib, Jim Ragsdale and Mike Kaszuba emphasize that Minneapolis, told to “pick one site” last week, is advocating for the Metrodome: “Lester Bagley said city officials made that choice clear to them in a meeting on Monday. ‘The city informed us they’re going to advocate for the Metrodome site,’ Bagley said.  ‘We raised questions and issues about all of the sites’ in Minneapolis. Bagley said the team remains committed to a site in the Ramsey County suburb of Arden Hills. With a Minnesota Senate panel  about to start a second public hearing on a new Minnesota Vikings project, Minneapolis officials were meeting privately with key legislators at the State Capitol to discuss a stadium plan that looks to be increasingly focused on the Metrodome.”

As they say in show biz, “All pub is good pub,” although buttoned-down General Mills might be a little leery of getting too close to Lady Gaga and her latest video. The PiPress story says: “General Mills’ Cheerios cereal makes a surprise appearance in the latest Lada Gaga music video, in a scene where the pop star pours a box of Cheerios on her face, and the O’s stick to her naked chest. The scene is part of Lada Gaga’s extended, 14-minute video for ‘Marry The Night,’ which was released Friday. The celebrity gossip website quotes a representative from Golden Valley-based General Mills saying they weren’t involved in the video, but that they wouldn’t be seeking any legal action about using their famous product.” But what’s their response if sales spike up?

Frankly, I thought there would be demonstrations the next day. But reaction to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s dictum that protests in the Capitol be both limited and liable for clean-up is finally feeling public protest. Scott Bauer of the AP reports: “Many of the roughly two dozen people who attended today’s meeting voiced frustration with the policy, saying it was unclear how it would be enforced and raised more questions than it answered. ‘We really feel these rules are too restrictive,’ said Stacy Harbaugh, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which said it may sue to block the changes. Department of Administration Deputy Secretary Chris Schoenherr, who conceded legal challenges to the new policy were likely, stood by the proposed changes. ‘Our legal team believes we have the authority and responsibility to do what we’re doing,’ he said. … it’s the language in the new policy requiring groups of four or more to get a permit, and making clear that they can be liable for damages and the costs of police protection, that caused the most consternation today.”

Today in Bachmannia:  Last week, it was a gay high school kid. Now … an 8-year-old. Our Gal wasn’t pleased to be confronted by a little guy in South Carolina. The New York Daily News story (here’s video) says: “Video of the awkward encounter at a recent book-signing event in South Carolina has gone viral on YouTube. In it, the soft-spoken child is seen approaching the Tea Party favorite. After some coaxing from Bachmann, the boy, Elijah, tells her, ‘My mommy, Miss Bachmann, my mommy’s gay but she doesn’t need any fixing.’ Bachmann — who had been leaning over the table embracing the child — quickly stands up, casts a cold stare at the woman standing behind Elijah, and is heard saying, ‘Bye-bye!’ ” How many times does Our Gal have to be victimized by these public interactions?

Those pesky “99%-ers” are sitting in at congressional offices today. At City Pages, Gregory Pratt writes: “[P]rotesters arrived at the offices of Michele Bachmann, Chip Cravaack, John Kline, and Erik Paulsen earlier this morning to demand meetings about extending unemployment benefits and passing President Obama’s jobs bill. So far, the group has had some success meeting with legislators: Kline came out to the lobby and spoke with them earlier this morning, so they’ve left his office. The other congressional offices remain under occupation. Rod Huinker, a semi-retiree from Red Wing, led the delegation to Kline’s office. Huinker said Kline was ‘very cordial’ and listened to the protesters address their concerns. … Kline told the protesters he was in favor of extending unemployment benefits but without raising taxes, then left after an aide told him he was ‘due for a meeting.’ Meanwhile, the protests at Bachmann, Cravaack’s and Paulsen’s offices continue.” … The old “due for a meeting” shtick.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 12/06/2011 - 04:10 pm.

    An aide to Wis. State Rep. Christine Sinicki said she didn’t know what the problem is with the status quo for protesters at the Wisconsin State Capitol? Are you kidding me? Last winter protesters taped signs all over the marble fixtures and walls in the building. When the tape came off, it damaged the marble polish underneath. Don’t the taxpayers in Wisconsin realize how much it costs to repolish marble? They’re paying big bucks. Do they want that to happen again?

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/06/2011 - 09:02 pm.

    The funny thing about the Bachmann thing is there’s hardly anyone there at her book signing.

  3. Submitted by Tom Lynch on 12/06/2011 - 09:05 pm.

    Sorry Rosie #1-You’re dead wrong.

  4. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 12/07/2011 - 07:12 am.

    With all the bashing Rep. Bachmann is getting from Mr. Lambert, he must be reminded that at least she doesn’t introduce legislation in sympathy with supporters of jihad and murderous anti-Semites.

    I refer Mr. Lambert to HF 6 and SF 3, introduced by elected officials of the DFL in the 2010 2nd Special Session.

  5. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/07/2011 - 04:47 pm.

    #4 (Neal K)

    HF 6 concerns sentences of up to 60 years for sex offenders who are determined to be predatory rather than one-time law-breakers.

    SF 3 is about zero-based budgeting.

    Can you say what either might have to do with “supporters of jihad and murderous anti-Semites?”

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