You may have heard about controversies over unpaid mechanical royalties on the interactive streaming service Spotify. For us, the bottom line is that songwriters must be properly paid when their music is played on any service. In this post, we’ll examine the reasons this isn’t happening across the board.
First, it might be helpful to understand a bit more about what a mechanical royalty is, how it is licensed and whom it pays. read more
It seems another rash of Bieber Fever is breaking out across the internet as a new “green paper” from the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force goes public. This report [PDF], published in July, takes the position that it should be a felony to stream copyrighted works, echoing a bill introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) back in 2011. Two years ago, passions were ignited with an online campaign to “Free Bieber” from prison, where he was supposedly sent for posting the cover songs on YouTube that launched his career. The too-cute-to-be-accurate campaign even inspired The Bieb himself to come out against Klobuchar’s Commercial Felony Streaming Act.
Well, don’t “belieb” the hype. It wasn’t true then and it’s even less true today. The Task Force is not recommending that cover artists—or even the fans streaming potentially infringing videos—be sent to jail. Rather, the report merely recognizes an anomaly in copyright enforcement in which the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works—such as illegal downloads—can be punished as a felony, but public performance—such as streaming—is currently a misdemeanor. In other words, the Task Force thinks it makes sense to harmonize digital and streaming standards. (This outlook is also shared by the Obama administration and the Copyright Office.) The reasoning, according to the report, is that “the lack of potential felony penalties for criminal acts of streaming disincentivizes prosecution and undermines deterrence.”
Post authored by FMC Communications Intern Olivia Brown]
Like it, or despise it with the white-hot fury of a thousand collapsing suns, Fox’s show “Glee” remains a high-profile musical source for many, especially in the under-50 demographic. Its cover songs routinely show up on the iTunes charts, and as of last February, the cast of “Glee” was the eighth-best-selling digital artist of all time, according to SoundScan. They have also far surpassed the record for most charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100, which formerly belonged to Elvis Presley.
“Glee” is powered by covers, probably more so than its actual plot. People expect new arrangements and interpretations, and then snap them up on iTunes. But what happens when those attention-grabbing and sales-generating arrangements were not actually created specifically for the show? Does “crowdsourcing” arrangements — that have a good chance of charting — from musicians without permission or attribution run afoul of copyright?
Here at FMC, we tend to think a lot about changing business models for musicians. Certainly, many artists are still making the majority of their money from selling CDs, merch or playing gigs. Yet we’ve come to realize that musicians’ access to potential revenue — especially in today’s digital landscape — expands far beyond that.
Recently, FMC started ponder all this in a more organized fashion: just how many different ways are there for musicians to earn money? We’ve come up with 29 so far, which we list below.
The music industry reacted favorably to the Copyright Royalty Board’s release Thursday of new mechanical royalty rates. The CRB left unchanged the per-song rate of 9.1 cents for physical product, set for the first time a statutory rate for permanent downloads of 9.1 cents (the same as the prevailing industry standard rate) and established a 24 cent rate for mastertone ringtones (mastertone royalty rates were previously negotiated and typically equaled about 10% of the retail price).
A statement from Future of Music Coalition:
“Future of Music Coalition is encouraged that the parties involved in the proceedings seem pleased with the decision, and looks forward to reading the entire CRB decision when it is made public.
On September 23, songwriters, publishers, record labels and digital music services announced they had reached an agreement on mechanical royalties for songs played on online music services.
Called a “breakthrough that will facilitate new ways to offer music to consumers online,” the voluntary agreement crafted by the Digital Media Association (DiMA), the National Music Publishers— Association (NMPA), the RIAA, the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) ended a longstanding dispute about mechanical royalties for interactive streaming and limited downloads. read more