The EU's Article 17 Is Already Changing the Digital Music Landscape

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

The EU's Article 17 Is Already Changing the Digital Music Landscape
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Musicians are facing a tough road and the pandemic hasn't made life any easier. But changes are afoot that could help.

A flurry of deals between music copyright owners and a grab bag of online video purveyors may be just the first step in a process that could see "the most important copyright reform since the U.S. passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 22 years ago," according to one industry observer.

With it, artists and rights holders should be better positioned to benefit from the growing relevance of music across social media platforms, gaming consoles, virtual gyms and much more.

"There clearly has been a frenzy of activity," David Israelite, president and chief executive of the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA), a trade association representing American music publishers and songwriters, told dot.LA.

The changes stem from a battle that has been playing out in Europe that has pitted the creative community against some of tech's giants such as YouTube and Facebook. Those companies depend on content created by artists.

Last year, the EU adopted tough new copyright laws set to take effect by next June. Though the regulations are facing a slew of challenges, global digital companies are looking to come into compliance to get ahead of the curve, and possibly gain an edge over competitors.

In August, Santa Monica-based Snap struck a deal with several big music companies for rights to their music. L.A.-based Triller signed a deal with digital music firm 7digital for back-end support on its licensing management.

In July, TikTok agreed to terms with NMPA, which included a settlement for past violations and an agreement for the future. The Culver City-based company also recently signed deals with indie digital rights managers Merlin and Believe.

The Believe agreement could be particularly beneficial. It allows the independent artists affiliated with Believe-owned TuneCore to upload tracks onto TikTok, the company announced last week, potentially bringing them a massive new global audience.

And in-home fitness, much of which relies on music, is becoming more popular. Apple, for instance, recently announced a new subscription fitness program that will involve music.

The company is "doing it the right way – licensing from the very start," Israelite said. NMPA will undoubtedly be watching other competitors in the fitness space closely.

European Union member countries will begin enforcing Article 17 by June 2021 that require platforms to make an upfront effort to avoid copyright violation. Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

Why Are All These Deals Happening Now?

In the U.S., the current legal framework – which emerged with the DMCA, before social media existed – requires platforms to respond to takedown notices, but not to proactively ensure that songs that show up in user feeds are properly licensed.

When a song's rights holder issues a takedown notice, it leaves the platform with the choice of obtaining a license, removing the song from the platform (and potentially upsetting users) or possibly getting sued.

Songs have two kinds of copyright: one for the sound recording, and one for the underlying composition. If a platform is making money in part thanks to a song, both copyrights are relevant.

Since the performer is the face of the music, the songwriter can sometimes be forgotten.

"You often see (platforms) start with labels then move on to publishers. Sometimes they won't, though, or sometimes they won't get to the smaller, independent publishers," Israelite added.

Platforms can also take "Safe Harbor," meaning "what they don't know is on their platform, they're not liable for," said Wilson Hays of L.A.-based Pex, a tech company that monitors audio and visual assets across the web. But by June of next year, the EU will begin enforcing reforms that require platforms to make an upfront effort to avoid copyright violation. The new E.U. laws won't apply directly to content posted in the U.S., but companies with international operations may find it easier to roll out compliance changes across their global operations rather than taking a piecemeal approach.

Hays believes that many are already trying to get ahead of Article 17's requirements before the new legislation takes effect. It may behoove them to do so, since the U.S. is looking at its own copyright reforms.

This is a big deal, Hays said.

"Life will get better come 2021 for independent rights holders because they will have tools at their disposal that will allow them to have more control over their content — on top of generating more revenue," he added. "This attribution will happen prior to upload, allowing any creator to participate in whatever revenue is generated from the get-go."

Indian social media companies, too, are facing a tougher regime of music copyright enforcement. Several short-form video companies that have gained popularity in the wake of TikTok's ban in the country, including Triller, are facing lawsuits.

Amazon-owned streaming video company Twitch also relies heavily on music. Photo by Caspar Camille Rubin on Unsplash

Music Has Become a Core Component of Social Media

On YouTube, for example, there are at least 10 seconds of music on 84% of the platform's videos, and over half of all videos on Instagram contain music, according to Hays. Getting their licenses in order allows platforms to let their users include music in their videos without needing to worry they will be taken down.

Amazon-owned streaming video company Twitch also relies heavily on music. The company has taken heat for Jeff Bezos' poor performance before Congress in July, when representatives asked him if the company pays out royalties. He couldn't say, but the answer is… rarely.

Platforms that delay getting their licensing deals in order can save themselves cash. They can also avoid navigating the complex copyright landscape. But as they grow, that strategy can come back to bite them.

"Once they begin generating substantial revenue, then they'll draw the attention of rights holders," said Hays.

At least part of the change has to do with a growing intolerance by the creative community of extremely wealthy companies using their music without proper licensing. Another driver is the successful, high-profile legal disputes that Israelite said have "sent a message to other companies."

Peloton, for example, faced a protracted legal battle before agreeing to terms that, as with TikTok, accounted for past violations and set new terms for artists featured on its platform. Such cases, Israelite noted, have "accelerated the choice these companies have to make": Either license properly, or be a copyright infringer, and bear the consequences of receiving takedown notices or getting sued.

In the wake of Jeff Bezos's embarrassing admission to Congress, Twitch is "starting to become more of a focus for the need for proper licenses," said Israelite.

As has already been seen in India, TikTok competitors in the short-form video space can't just focus on having the right algorithm and attracting a big user base. Israelite pointed to Triller as an example of a startup that has deals with record labels (for the recordings) and some publishing deals but may soon have to play catch up.

"I think they'll have to deal with a pretty large problem for a significant number of songs being used without proper permission from publishers."

Israelite also noted that Twitter has no publishing licenses yet.

More ripples are likely to emerge wherever music can be found in the digital landscape, from social media to gaming, fitness and beyond. Whether that change comes in the form of lawsuits or more licensing agreements remains to be seen.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


Robot Bartenders, Space Construction and a Weight Loss App: Highlights From Techstars’ LA Demo Day

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Robot Bartenders, Space Construction and a Weight Loss App: Highlights From Techstars’ LA Demo Day
Andria Moore

On Wednesday, Techstars’ fall 2022 class gathered in Downtown Los Angeles to pitch their products to potential investors in hopes of securing their next big funding round. dot.LA co-sponsored the demo day presentation alongside Venice-based space news website Payload.

Managing director Matt Kozlov explained that unlike previous years, this year Techstars combined two cohorts, merging its space accelerator program and Los Angeles program into one demo day. The result was a comprehensive pitch day where investors, founders and press could hear from 12 creative and intriguing companies working across a variety of industries.

What’s new in space startups

On the space side, two local firms were introduced, including Fenix Space, a San Bernardino startup that got off the ground in 2017 and is looking to wrestle control of the commercial air launch market away from local rival Virgin Orbit.

Fenix Space has a different model of air launching rockets than Virgin; instead of strapping the rockets to a large plane like Virgin does, it plans to tow them through the air. During the Techstars demo day Fenix CEO Jason Lee told Payload co-founder Ari Lewis that Fenix conducted one sub-orbital test flight last year, and is working on making a second craft that will be tested at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range by second quarter of next year.

During his pitch Lee said, he sees a wide variety of tow launch applications including terrestrial logistics (think an alternative to ground shipping for e-commerce, as one example) but noted, “we're starting with space because corporations and governments looking to put assets into space are relying on ground launch operations from only five orbital space points in the United States… . As a result, the wait time to launch is up to two years, customers are subject to fixed schedules, are being delivered to limited orbital destinations, and are often delayed weeks or even months.”

Lee said Fenix’s crafts can carry 75 times more payload per launch and can launch payloads to orbit 1000 times faster than its competitors. The company has raised $9 million in funding over five years, said Lee and has memorandums of understanding with “major commercial customers” that account for at least $32 million in potential revenue. He also noted Fenix has existing partnerships with the Air Force Research Lab and commercial space operations support agreement with Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Fenix also has a Space Act Agreement with NASA to develop its tow-glider launch platform and an exclusive license agreement with the agency.

man explaining space tech Fenix Space CEO Jason Lee. Photo: Fenix/Techstars LA

In Orbit Aerospace CEO Ryan Elliot was clearly passionate about the company’s mission to make manufacturing in space as easy as possible. “Today, the only way to manufacture in space and recover products back on Earth is through the International Space Station,” Elliot said. Elliot is betting that In Orbit can help reduce the high wait times and correspondingly spiking costs of space manufacturing by helping customers set up their own space factories.

All of which is a tall order, but not as far-fetched as it might seem. In Orbit developed a custom orbital satellite it calls the Haven Shepherd to launch customers’ cargo to space for manufacturing. Once the mini-factory is operational, In Orbit’s second module, a capsule called the Haven Retriever, will bring raw materials to the factory and swap that payload for the new, finished product to return it back to earth.

Elliot also noted the company is the only one trying to tackle the challenge of building a permanent orbital station that can interface with Earth, and has some $180 million in potential contracts in the pipeline. Adding that In Orbital has a Space Act Agreement with NASA and is planning a test mission as soon as 2024.

Apps focused on food and drink

One overarching theme of this year’s Techstars LA cohort was a focus on the food and beverage industries, as well as the intersection those industries have with the healthcare market.

Rotender was one of the splashier startups in this Techstars cohort, because, well, who doesn’t think the phrase “robot bartender” sounds cool. Sure, this robot won’t listen to you gripe about your partner during happy hour, but it will pour you a G&T in under 30 seconds. At least, that’s the gist pitched by CEO Ben Winston.

Rotender could work a large private event, but Winston said the company’s focused on getting into sports stadiums and entertainment venues. Capitalizing on the one thing all fans hate – long lines for concessions – Rotender is aiming to convince venues that spending $35,000 annually on a robot to pour drinks is worth the spend. “One Rotender unit operating 18 or more hours a week will earn a venue over $700,000 a year in drink credit,” Winston said, adding that it could also save a venue over 175,000 annually in spillage fees.

On the business-to-business side, Techstars-backed app Bevz is trying to “save your local convenience store,” as CEO Jason Vego put it. Bevz is basically an order management system for bodegas that helps them avoid running out of top-selling products. The app syncs with the store’s custom point of sale system and sends users notifications to purchase more products before it runs out. It also consolidates input from various delivery apps to give the store a clear picture of what is sold and how frequently.

“These stores are constantly running out of products that their customers want to buy, leading to $50 billion in lost revenue every year,” Vego said. “Most stores don't have any technology… this [platform] is a game-changer.

powerpoint explaining growth in company Bevz CEO Jason Vego pitches his app for convenience stores. Photo: Bevz/Techstars LA

Startups targeting mental and physical wellness

While a number of local startups backed by TechStars are looking to innovate in the food and beverage market, two in particular were focused on fitness coaching.

Founded by Liz Dickinson in 2020, San Diego-based wellness app Relish Life is an app-based clinic that connects people with clinicians for medication-assisted weight loss therapy supplemented by mental health treatment. Dickinson said during her pitch that Relish participants reported “11% body weight lost by six months compared to only 5% in 12 months, twice the weight in half the time of our competitor and we've clinically validated that the weight stays off,” Dickinson said. “Anything that stress triggers, we can treat,” she added, noting the platform could be used to help modify other unhealthy behaviors like smoking or even possibly addiction.

Another wellness-focused app pitching at the demo day was Liberate, a Brentwood-based coaching app focused on mental fitness. CEO Olivia Bowser said during her pitch that she quit her “dream job” six years ago after quickly burning out. The experience prompted her to found Liberate, which companies can choose as a benefit for their workers.

The platform works by connecting people with counselors and guided stress management and wellness exercises to complete throughout the day. There’s also a Slack channel for team-wide guided wellness exercises and morale boosting. “At less than two years old, we've serviced hundreds of companies through monthly and annual contracts… [and] helped nearly 5,000 employees feel happier and more productive at work,” Bowser said.

Derek Jeter’s Sports Trading Card Company Brings in $10M

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

sports trading cards
Arena Club /Andria Moore

Sports trading card platform Arena Club has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Co-founded by CEO Brian Lee and Hall of Fame Yankees player Derek Jeter, Arena Club launched its digital showroom in September. Through the platform, sports fans can buy, sell, trade and display their card collections. Using computer vision and machine learning, Arena Club allows fans to grade and authenticate their cards, which can be stored in the company’s vault or delivered in protective “slabs.” Arena Club intends to use the new cash to expand these functions and scale its operations.

The new funding brings Arena Club’s total amount raised to $20 million. M13,, Lightspeed Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures and BAM Ventures contributed to the round.

“Our team is thankful for the group of investors—led by M13, who see the bright future of the trading card hobby and our platform,” Lee said in a statement. “I have long admired M13 and the value they bring to early-stage startups.”

M13’s co-founder Courtney Reum, who formed the early-stage consumer technology venture firm in 2016 alongside his brother Carter Reum, will join Arena Club’s board. Reum has been eyeing the trading card space since 2020 when he began investing in what was once just a childhood hobby.

The sports trading card market surged in 2020 as fans turned to the hobby after the pandemic brought live events to a standstill. Since then, prices have come down, though demand remains high. And investors are still betting on trading card companies, with companies like Collectors bringing in $100 million earlier this year. Fanatics, which sells athletic collectibles and trading cards, reached a $31 billion valuation after raising $700 million earlier this week. On the blockchain, Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph lets athletes sell digital collectibles directly to fans.

As for Arena Club, the company is looking to cement itself as a digital card show.

“Providing users with a digital card show allows us to use our first-class technology to give collectors from all over the world the luxury of being able to get the full trading card show experience at their fingertips,” Jeter said in a statement.

Hosts Who Rent From “Airbnb-Friendly” LA Apartments May Not Make a Profit

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
LA house

L.A.’s lax enforcement of Airbnbs has led to an surge of illegal short-term rentals — even four years after the city passed a regulation to crack down on such practices. But what if hosts lived in a building that welcomed Airbnb guests and short-term rentals?

That’s the idea behind Airbnb’s new push to expand short-term rental offerings. The company is partnering with a number of corporate landlords that agreed to offer “Airbnb-friendly” apartment buildings, reported The Wall Street Journal last week. According to the report, the new service will feature more than 175 buildings managed by Equity Residential, Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC and 10 other companies that have agreed to clear more than 175 properties nationwide for short-term rentals.

But prospective hosts in Los Angeles who decide to rent apartments from Airbnb’s list of more than a dozen “friendly” buildings in the city likely won’t earn enough to break even due to a combination of high rents, taxes and city restrictions on short-term rentals. Rents on one-bedroom apartments in most of the partnered buildings listed soared well over $3,000 a month. Only a few studios were available under the $2,000 price range. If a host were to rent a one bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $2,635 (which amounts to $31,656 annually), they would have to charge well over the $194 average price per night for Los Angeles (which amounts to $23,280 per year) according to analytics platform AllTheRooms.

Either way, residents who rent one of these Airbnb friendly apartments still have to apply for a permit through the City of Los Angeles in order to host on Airbnb.

“[..Airbnb-friendly buildings] seems like a good initiative. However, from a quick look, it seems that given the rent, Airbnb revenue wouldn’t be enough to cover all expenses if the host follows the city’s policy,” says Davide Proserpio, assistant professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

In addition, since L.A.’s 120-day cap on short-term rentals still applies to the buildings on Airbnb’s listing platform, that greatly limits the number of longer-term guests a resident can host. Not to mention, some of the buildings that Airbnb lists have even shorter limits – The Milano Lofts in DTLA for example only allows residents to host 90 nights a year.

Airbnb’s calculations of host earnings may be greatly misleading as well, given that the estimate doesn’t include host expenses, taxes, cleaning fees or individual building restrictions. For example, Airbnb estimates that a resident of a $3,699 one bedroom apartment at the Vinz in Hollywood that hosts 7 nights a month can expect $1,108 a month in revenue if they host year-round. But the Vinz only allows hosts to rent 90 days a year, which greatly limits the potential for subletters and a consistent income stream.

Keep in mind too that since the apartment will have to serve as the host’s “primary residence”, hosts will have to live there six months out of the year. All of which is to say, it’s unclear how renting an apartment in an “Airbnb-friendly” building makes hosting easier — especially in a city where illegal short-term rentals already seem to be the norm.