A Reply To @WBUR on Open Music Initiative and Songwriter Lawsuits

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WBUR Public Radio in Boston recently published this highly misleading and shoddy piece of journalism.  This is yet another example of public radio being captured and co-opted by corporate interests, and downplaying the rights of songwriters and musicians.

Someone sent us this article by Boston’s NPR affiliate WBUR.  I was quite surprised to see WBUR repeating wholesale misinformation on the Open Music Initiative.


Here is the comment I left on their website:

Your title is funny. None of this would be happening without the class action lawsuits. 2 years ago in copyright office filings streaming services including Spotify were openly admitting they lacked procedures and technology to pay songwriters. A decade ago the then Attorney General of NY Elliot Spitzer nailed labels for “unmatched and unpaid” songwriter royalties. YouTube has come under fire for relying on a misinterpretation of “safe harbor” protections and is monetizing massive amounts of unlicensed “content” uploaded by their users. These are not “white knights” coming to the aid of songwriters and musicians, this is a cross-industry ass covering excercise. The parties involved had years to fix this problem. Your piece fails to note these facts. WBUR should be ashamed of their shoddy reporting. And Berklee should be held accountable for taking tuition money from aspiring musicians and songwriters ($30k+ a year) while simultaneously providing political cover for practices that make it difficult for graduates to pay back their loans.

While I welcome the efforts of the OMI, it should be properly portrayed.  Streaming services, YouTube and yes even the record labels have failed to follow the law on licensing and royalty payments.

I happen to agree with WBUR on one small point:  Class action lawsuits are not the ideal remedy, as they are expensive and place the burden on the victims.  This problem is so big,  and the malfeasance has gone on for so long,  it is really a job for the Department of Justice.