The Copyright Office public comment period for statements of account on mechanical royalties closes tonight, so there’s still time for songwriters to post comments about the proposed regulations.
The new regulations apply to the license that some services like Spotify rely on for on-demand streaming as well as the new categories of statutory licenses that the Copyright Royalty Judges are expected to approve any day now. It’s probably hundreds of millions of dollars–and we have no idea whether it ever gets paid or paid right.
Seem like a big number? Not really when you consider that services like Spotify launch with millions of tracks and those require millions of mechanical licenses for on demand streaming. They could go to the publishers and songwriters for a direct license, but they prefer to “carpet bomb” notices to songwriters. If you ask a big publisher they will tell you that they receive hundreds of thousands of these notices every year–and 95% of them are filed late and should be terminated.
One thing the regulations required is that online services have to send songwriters a monthly statement of account certified by an officer of the retailer company as correct. As far as we can tell, this has never happened. Why? Because a “certification” means that the officer of the company is taking responsibility for the accurateness of the statement. Personal responsibility. This is exactly the reason why the law requires the certification and exactly the reason why no one has done it as far as we can tell.
The law also requires that a CPA certify the statements on an annual basis. This has been done once that we know of.
Bear in mind–these licenses have been in place for 10 years. No certifications in 10 years. And now the retailers are asking for yet another break through the Digital Media Association (you’ll remember them from IRFA and trying to screw ASCAP songwriters).
Oh, and by the way–you are prohibited from auditing any service that uses the statutory license and the best you can rely on are these certifications and the CPA auditing the retailer’s financials.
We here at the Trichordist think that there are certain aspects of the way that big tech companies have handled the mechanical royalty process that is absolutely horrendous, particularly for indie writers, but truly for everyone.
We want to encourage you to write your own comment. It can be a letter, you don’t have to be a lawyer or hire one. If you want to read what other people are saying, you can read the first round of comments at this link: Initial Comments on Statements of Account.
When you get it written, you can file it at this link: Copyright Office Electronic Filing Page
Here’s a few reasons why that you might consider in writing to the Copyright Office:
1. No Audit: As a songwriter, I have no idea whether I am being paid correctly by any digital service and I am not allowed to audit them. This is untenable.
2. Publishers Clearing House: I routinely receive a “notice of intention to use” my work that is always late. This violates the basic rule of statutory licensing. The “NOI” I receive comes with a letter asking me to log into a website to see if I am owed money or how much I am owed. When I go to the website I am asked to sign a click through agreement that makes significant changes to the few statutory rights I have. This is the worst kind of trickery and is worse than the worst direct mail campaigns because I can always throw away the junk mail. This trickery involves my life’s work!
3. Black Box: If I am lucky enough to get a certified statement from a CPA, I have no way of knowing if the CPA ever looked at my earnings or if there are any “black box” earnings that I’m entitled to. Given that I get no certifications and no audits, there’s no telling how much money should have been paid that wasn’t.
4. Don’t Protect Scofflaws: You cannot allow services who have never complied with the law to get protection of the laws they have evaded.