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Songwriters and Music Publishers to the US Copyright Office: It's Time to Take Action!
Petition Filed to Set Industry-wide Internet Royalty Rates for Streaming & Downloading
By Margee Fagelson
(more articles from this author)
2001-01-02
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Some people just have no patience. Just days before Christmas, the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) filed a petition with the US Copyright Office, to establish statutory royalty rates for streaming and downloaded music. This is on the tails of the RIAA who filed the same petition just after Thanksgiving. The NMPA insists that negotiations had reached an impasse and it was imperative that something be done in light of the fact that an agreement would evidently not be reached by the end of the year.

NMPA President and CEO, Edward P. Murphy, made the following statement, "This is a very disappointing turn of events, especially after two decades of harmonious dealings with the recording industry. We share an interest in the protection of copyright, which has fueled the creative efforts of songwriters and artists during the last century and produced a great musical heritage. We both want those efforts to continue and for music to flourish in the Digital Era.

"We have entered into licensing agreements with many leading independent distributors of music on the Internet and have worked with Internet companies in accommodating new and still-evolving business models for the delivery of music by download and streaming. We regret that our discussions with the recording industry have not been as constructive. It is the position of songwriters and music publishers, however, that the playing field in the new, digital world must be level in order for music to thrive on the Internet."

George David Weiss, President of the Songwriters' Guild of America, made this statement "Songwriters want to get their music to the public and were early supporters of the opportunities provided by the Internet to achieve that goal. As an industry founded on creativity, we have been excited by the innovative efforts of Internet companies that appreciate the value of music and wish to build legitimate businesses that respect and reward the creative efforts of the songwriter."

NMPA had recently announced licensing arrangements made with Emusic and MP3.com regarding their locker storage service.

The decision to take charge is supported at least in the independent communities.

Barry Bergman, President of the Music Managers Forum-U.S. adds, "As a manager and indie music publisher for almost twenty years, I believe it is essential that publishers, and more importantly songwriters, receive fair and proper royalty payments for their creative contributions in the digital world. Unlike recording artists, songwriters cannot earn a living from public appearances, live shows, sponsorships, etc. If we don't create a level playing field we will be killing the goose who lays the golden egg. It is imperative that we protect our writers and publishers."

Lara Lavi, CEO of Very Juicy Records/Interactive, sums up the action passionately, "Whether or not any type of even playing field will ever be available for independent artists, their labels and distributors in the shadow of such formidable deals as the AOL-Time Warner merger, it is clear that we need some sort of quantifiable way to measure the value of music downloads acquired by consumers.

"Destination websites, which generate income through advertising and possible membership or subscription, would have no value but for the artists' music which is the ultimate product offered. I think there is enough evidence to show that consumers are willing to pay something directly or indirectly to acquire songs on line. To date, independent labels and artists make up such a small share of the market compared to the majors that we indie people don't even include download or streaming royalties as a source of revenue in our business plans. It would be great if we could have a monetary value to plugin and a reasonable expectation of how much revenue we could generate from different websites. My biggest fear is not what that value ends up being as the major labels will ultimately force that issue, but rather how the royalty is administered.

"There is no clear voice among independent artists and true indie labels to ensure that their share of royalties are collected and properly distributed. There may be a potential conflict of interest with the RIAA taking on that role - time will tell. You would think, fingerprint technology applied to music downloads on the Internet affords us the ability for a more exact system for quantifying download activity per song than the ASCAP/BMI model of sampling radio playlists. So level playing field...not yet, maybe not ever, unless we get some affirmative action type policy for the indie market on the net."

As we head into 2001 these issues are getting more and more attention and concern among industry players. Parties who usually have opposing positions on issues are now finding themselves intermingled on the same side of the issue. Whereas we began 2000 with the RIAA and the 'industry' being perceived as the wholly evil cartel, indie musicians, label owners, managers and publishers are finding themselves fighting some of the same battles. The biggest battle being...how to compensate the artist??? No matter who is protecting whom, this should be one hot debate in Washington next week!

Linkography

AOL - www.aol.com
ASCAP - www.ascap.com
BMI - www.bmi.com
Emusic - www.emusic.com
MP3.com - www.mp3.com
Music Managers Forum-U.S. - www.mmf-us.org
NMPA - www.nmpa.org
RIAA - www.riaa.com
Songwriters' Guild of America - www.songwriters.org
Time Warner - www.timewarner.com
US Copyright Office - www.copyright.gov

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» A Reversal of Fortune: Songwriters & Music Publishers Sue Universal Music Group (2000-12-12)
» Artists Beware: You could be getting a raw deal w/ SoundExchange - Members of the Industry Speak Out on Digital Performance Royalties (2000-12-06)
» SEC. 104. Evaluation of Impact of Copyright Law and Amendments on Electronic Commerce and Techno-Logical Development (2000-11-28)
» Sole Source Licensing For Indies? (2000-10-23)

Related News from Mi2N:
» Songwriters And Music Publishers File Petition To Set Industrywide Internet Royalty Rates
» Holidays Come Early For Songwriters And Music Publishers As X-Rated Christmas Songs Are Pulled From The Market
» Rulemakings And Related Actions Concerning Webcasting


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