On May 29, 2015, Judge Lous Stanton of the Southern District Court of New York reached a decision in a dispute over rates paid by the webcaster Pandora to the performance rights organization (PRO) BMI. This court oversees rate-setting for songwriters and publishers when their works are “performed” on any form of radio (as well as live venues, bars and restaurants).
Judge Stanton’s ruling sets BMI’s new fee at 2.5 percent of revenue from Pandora, up from the previous 1.75—an increase of 43 percent. However, a separate judge from the same district court reached an entirely different decision about rates for Pandora and ASCAP (the other main PRO). In that ruling, from May 6, Judge Denise Coteheld rates at 1.85 percent.
On its surface, it looks like the judges presiding over each case simply have divergent views regarding what the rates should be. And this may be true, but there are additional factors to consider.
Yesterday, the U.S. District Court of Central California ruled in favor of Flo & Eddie, Inc., allowing for a class action lawsuit to proceed against Sirius XM. Flo & Eddie—original members of The Turtles—had already achieved a victory in their initial lawsuit against Sirius XM back in 2014. The latest ruling opens up the possibility of restitution for any artist whose music was recorded before February, 15 1972 and is played by the satellite radio giant. For Sirius XM, this could mean a great deal of money spent on appeals or settlements. We wonder whether the potential expense exceeds what they’d have paid if they hadn’t stopped compensating for pre-’72s.
As Judge Philip Gutierrez writes in his decision, “given SiriusXM’s aggressive litigation tactics … and its decision to continue to perform pre-1972 recordings without authorization, it may be cost-prohibitive for owners with smaller value claims to pursue their claims against SiriusXM in this environment.” We think it’s a positive when individual creators’ rights are recognized alongside those of the big media companies. A closer examination of the case, however, indicates that Flo & Eddie sued as copyright owners, not performers. We are unclear on what this might mean for the larger community of musicians who don’t own their copyrights but should be compensated for digital performances nonetheless.
Assuming the contract’s authenticity, there’s not a lot in there that’s particularly revelatory for those of us who’ve been closely following the ongoing debates over on-demand streaming services. However, it does offer confirmation of certain controversial practices, and a snapshot of some of the dynamics associated with service design. Here are some key points to keep in mind.
As Congress prepares for a week-long break at the end of May, it’s a good time to review some recent developments. Last month, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced their Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act (PRMA), which was originally introduced in May 2014. The bill’s main focus is ensuring that performers and record labels receive compensation for over-the-air play on AM/FM radio, something FMC has supported for over a decade. Currently a loophole in U.S. copyright law allows AM/FM radio broadcasters to circumvent the payment of royalties, while digital radio is still bound to pay everyone from performers and record labels to songwriters and publishers.
If you’ve ever negotiated with bandmates about where to eat after a gig, you know that musicians can have strong—and sometimes divergent—opinions about a lot of different things. Expand that to the broader music community—which includes independent and major record labels, managers, advocacy groups, artist unions and fans—and it gets even more complex. (Are we still talking about grub? Kinda getting hungry ourselves.)read more
Yesterday, news broke that performance rights organization ASCAP lost its appeal of a decision by a federal judge to keep webcasting rates at 1.85 percent. The ruling also affirmed an earlier decision that publishers are not allowed to “partially withdraw” digital rights from ASCAP. This decision only applies to public performances of musical works on non-interactive (or “radio-like” services such as Pandora. (For more information on how all of this works, check out our ASCAP and BMI consent decrees fact sheet.) read more
by Kevin Erickson, Communications & Outreach Manager
Max Weber once described politics as “the slow boring of hard boards”; those with less patience for poetry might just call it slow, boring, and hard.
Nonetheless, I’ve found that the music community is actually uniquely equipped with the kind of long-game thinking that it takes to make substantive policy changes. That’s because there’s a basic structural similarity between the kind of slow and steady work it takes to hone your craft as a composer or performer over many years, keeping your eyes on what opportunities and challenges lie around the corner while working to address your present needs, and the slow and steady process of building movements for justice. Making an impact in either policy or music often requires the same kind of passion and perspective.
Today brings news of a new coalition that has come together to advance specific perspectives around music licensing reform. The MIC Coalition is comprised of such companies and organizations as Amazon, NPR, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Hotel and Lodging Association, Google, the National Restaurant Association, Pandora, Digital Media Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, iHeartMedia and others. read more
WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Comcast officially confirmed its decision to walk away from its 45-billion dollar deal to acquire Time Warner Cable. This merger was widely criticized by creators and consumers alike, and had previously been greeted with skepticism by the USDepartment of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). read more