Because Songwriters are Just Bad People

At today’s Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing, the one unifying theme between the Google-backed Public Knowledge, the National Association of Broadcasters and Pandora is that the reason for the consent decrees is that songwriters are a special class of people who simply cannot be trusted to behave themselves.

Time and time again throughout the hearing Public Knowledge, the NAB and Pandora regaled the subcommittee with stories for just how untrustworthy songwriters and publishers are as a class.  And of course the Google-backed Public Knowledge was just frothing at a chance to bash record companies who weren’t even present.

Then we had the database scam.  Guess who wants to control that database?  They what want a compulsory license on the world’s information.

The sum and substance of the NAB, Pandora and Google side of the table is that the music industry is just filled with bad people who you have to keep an eye on because the $2 trillion collusion of the broadcast, Internet and webcasting business is just so hard done by.

A favorite moment was when Senator Al Franken called out Pandora’s Chris Harrison (aka Songwriter Enemy #1) about the usual sensationalized statements about “$150,000 fines” that Pandora would pay for failing to license a song.  The truth–$150,000 is the maximum range that a court can set for statutory damages for willful copyright infringement.  We have it on pretty good authority that no court has ever set the damages that high, but shillers like Harrison always use this as an example.

Franken asked if Harrison could give one example of $150,000 damages being awarded.  After wriggling around trying to dodge the question, Harrison had to admit that he didn’t know of any music cases where it happened.  That’s because there are none.

That was worth the price of admission alone.

We always thought that singling out a class of people for prosecution by the government based on their status was unconstitutional.  Not in the new world order, apparently.

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2 thoughts on “Because Songwriters are Just Bad People

  1. It’s an amazing story, actually:

    the PROs formed and succeeded because individual songwriters were basically powerless on their own to enforce licensing and royalty payments. Then the PROs misbehaved and the government stepped in to control that misbehavior. Now, decades later, the result is big, powerful PROs, extensive government regulations… and the songwriters themselves are basically powerless again.

    “But efficiency” isn’t a rebuttal to this anymore than it is to other market inefficiencies (which are endless, and you encounter everyday – “it’d be more efficient if every store charged exactly the same prices for everything so I don’t have to spend my Saturday shopping around”). Respecting individual property rights means putting up with some inefficiencies, and that’s an okay trade off. At the time the PROs formed, the one-stop licensing wasn’t a matter of mere inefficiency, it was closer to practical impossibility. That’s no longer the case, and the system should be adjusted to reflect that.

    p.s. DMN helpfully posted a transcript of Chris Harrison’s (Pandora) testimony.

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