Mar 23, 2022 • 6M

🗞️ Music Sues, Digital Land Grab, & Burger Czars

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This Week: Ed Sheeran learns the shape of a copyright suit, everyone wants a piece of the Chagos Islands, and Burger King maintains its rule in Russia. Plus, who takes your to-go orders, and digital juries.

🎶 Copying The Shape of You

Did Ed Sheeran and company lift parts of the Sami Chokri song "Oh Why" for their 2017 mega-hit "Shape of You"? That's the question posed in a current copyright trial underway in the UK. While Sheeran and his co-writers claim they never heard "Oh Why", nor copied any parts of it, lawyers for Chokri (aka Sami Switch) say his management made a “huge effort” to put the song in front of Sheeran.

  • As The Guardian reports, Chokri's management firm (Artists & Company) provided written evidence stating they sent Sheeran the song under “a concerted plan to target Ed Sheeran in the hope of engaging his interest in Sami’s work…we did not target any other artist in the same way.”

  • In response, Johnny McDaid, one of Sheeran's co-writers, said that there was no plagiarism of Chokri's melody, adding that “It is a very common melodic structure, in my experience.” 

Copyright Battles

Sheeran's copyright suit is one of several currently leveled against major pop stars. Dua Lipa, Katy Perry, and Marshmello are some musicians currently (or recently) embroiled in similar music plagiarism cases. As Slate notes, the 2015 case involving Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" cost its songwriters $5 million, and set a "dangerous precedent" for future cases. 

The Verdict

The internet has not only made all music so easily and immediately accessible, but it has also allowed songwriters to solicit larger musicians easily too. With that being said, this spate of copyright/plagiarism suits could endanger the necessary freedom to create new songs and get inspiration from others. Good artists copy, great artists steal, as Picasso said.

🖥️ A Remote Battle Over Digital Territory

On land, the Chagos Islands sit 1,100 miles southwest of the Indian coast. Online, they sit squarely in the middle of a battle over digital domain names between nations. As NFTs have gained popularity and created a digital gold rush in recent years, many firms are using the web address .io for their domains. The question of who owns the .io address (which designates the Chagos Islands in the British Indian Ocean Territory) is heating up between Britain and Mauritius. 

  • As The Guardian notes, Mauritius claims the UK illegally separated the remote atoll from their country in 1968, and are now profiting millions off the sale of .io domain names which rightfully belong to exiled Chagossians.

  • “The UK has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, which we have held continuously since 1814. Mauritius has never held sovereignty over the territory and the UK does not recognise its claim,” said a representative of the British government.

Regulating Blockchain

If the battle over internet addresses wages with .io, at least there's a governing body to turn to: the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (Iana). As JD Supra notes, unauthorized blockchain domain name sales have become a growing problem, yet blockchains are so unregulated that there is no authority to turn to for resolution. Might this issue help turn the tide on government oversight of blockchains?

The Verdict

Colonialism has always been about extracting resources. This battle over the Chagos Islands may be one of the first instances of European colonialism bleeding over into the Internet Age. 

🍔 Burger King Or Burger Czar?

As Western companies like Apple and Coca Cola shutter their Russian operations left and right in protest of the war in Ukraine, one major brand has stayed open. 800 Burger King restaurants have refused to halt operations in the country as requested by Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which owns the chain.

  • According to Axios, David Shear, president of RBI, said in a statement that the company “contacted the main operator of the business and demanded the suspension of Burger King restaurant operations in Russia. They have refused to do so.”

  • As a result, RBI has severed all ties with the Russian operation (including operational and supply chain support) and is in the process of divesting its ownership stake in the joint venture it has with the local entities running the 800 restaurants in the country. 

The Looming Threat of Nationalization

Nothing yet suggests Burger King's operations in Russia will be nationalized, yet Russian President Vladimir Putin has "endorsed the proposed seizure of Western assets" in the face of so many corporations leaving the country, writes VOA News. In a response to Putin's threat, the White House vowed to ratchet up economic sanctions against Russia even higher should the Kremlin begin nationalizing Western assets.

The Verdict

The physical war in Ukraine hasn't yet spilled over into Europe or beyond, but the economic punches (especially from the West) over this conflict have been severe. If Russia makes good on its threat to begin nationalizing Western assets, the conflict could escalate in unintended ways too. 

📤 What Else We're Forwarding

To-Go Hoarder: Google may be knowingly undermining small businesses, reports The Hustle. A restaurant group in Florida is suing the tech giant claiming it sends people to an "unauthorized online storefront" like GrubHub and DoorDash rather than to the restaurant's own website.

Jury Of Your Peer-To-Peers: Trials are increasingly moving online, meaning remote juries are becoming more popular too. NPR digs into the pros and cons of this brave new world.

🤣 Meme of the Week

& the 8 hours feel great, thx!

📣 What We’re Discussing

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