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UK: Watch Tower versus BMG Music

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Watch Tower versus BMG Music
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In a lawsuit filed with the District Court in the Southern District of New York, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania allege that BMG US, BMG UK, and one or more associated individuals and corporations have infringed their copyright of the song, “Listen, Obey and Be Blessed”, which is available to download for free from the website jw.org.

Watch Tower claim that the song in question features in “a sound recording entitled “‘Sing Out Joyfully’ to Jehovah: Song 089, Listen, Obey and Be Blessed,”” and in “a motion picture entitled “Become Jehovah’s Friend Song 089. Listen, Obey and Be Blessed,”” and in a “book “Sing to Jehovah,””, all of which were copyrights registered between 2009 and 2019.

They claim the song appears on the album Aled Jones Blessings “in which Album BMG UK claims to be the copyright owner”.

Aled Jones' Blessings album
Cover of alleged BMG album in which Watch Tower’s song appears.

Watch Tower claim that Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, a separate legal entity to the Pennsylvania entity, put Aled Jones on notice that Watch Tower was the owner of all copyrights in the composition of the song, that they had not granted Jones permission to use the song, and objected to his recording and reproduction of it.

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Jone’s sent a copy of this letter from Watch Tower to BMG UK and they responded to Watch Tower indicating that they obtained a license to record, reproduce and publicly perform the song from a German collective rights society called GEMA. Instead of BMG providing evidence of this license they requested Watch Tower contact GEMA directly. However GEMA claim they denied BMG’s request because the latter did not have the right to license the work.

Furthermore, Watch Tower claims that neither BMG UK anor BMG US followed the statutory procedures necessary to obtain a compulsory mechanical license to use the song. BMG UK did inform Watch Tower that BMG US were in the process of obtaining such a license but it is alleged that the latter hadn’t done so in a timely manner.

In respect of the alleged infringements, Watch Tower are seeking
(a) an injunction against BMG, Aled Jones and all others connected to the infringed material to prevent the song from any further reproduction, copying, distribution, performance or exploitation.
(b) actual damages from the act of infringing their copyright, all profits realized as a result of the infringement, in amounts determined at trial or, if Watch Tower prefers, statutory damages pursuant to copyright law, each with prejudgment and post-judgment interest thereon.
(c) costs and attorneys’ fees incurred as a result of BMG’s alleged unlawful acts.

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Jason Wynne is a husband to one wife, father to two children, and writes extensively on the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses having been baptized as a member in 1995.

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