This 4th Of July Be Glad You Aren’t A Songwriter

§ 8(a)The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

The federal government through the combination of “temporary” 70 year old consent decrees and compulsory licenses has drastically limited songwriters rights and effectively collectivized all songs.  A few songwriters until recently had managed to escape these overbearing limitations on rights by joining PROs other than BMI and ASCAP.  But last week a former Google lawyer at the DOJ anti-trust division against the recommendation of the US Copyright Office rammed through a 100% licensing rule that effectively brings the last of the “free” songwriters under the consent decree.

There was no due process.

There were no new laws passed.

The last free songwriters did not consent to having their constitutional rights limited.

This was done apparently at the whim of a single unelected federal bureaucrat.   All songwriters are now subject to the consent decrees.  This is effectively a bill of attainder against all songwriters.   These kinds of governmental actions upset our founding fathers greatly.  For this reason they expressly forbid the practice under  Article One Section 9 of the US Constitution.

Are songwriters some sort of existential threat to our way of life here in the US?   Doesn’t it seems like the Department of Justice has more important things to do? Surely making it cheap and easy for a few politically connected corporations to license music should not be at the top of the list.


As a result of this action the  federal government now effectively fixes prices and compels ALL songwriters to license for the following uses:

AM/FM Radio

Television Broadcast

Public Radio

Public Television

Satellite Radio

Cable TV

Digital Music Channels


Non-Interactive Streaming (ex Pandora etc)

Interactive Streaming (ex Spotify)

YouTube/Online Video

Netflix, HBOGO etc

Digital Downloads (Google Play, iTunes Store)




Cover songs




Public performance in venues


Music in stores and restaurants


Sporting Events


Music onboard commercial aircraft

etc etc

The only significant free market exception left:

Songwriters are still free to name their price for the initial “sync” fee for use of a song in TV, film or commercial.  But all subsequent royalties from broadcast are set by feds.   Not surprisingly songwriters are paid reasonably well for “sync” uses.


4 thoughts on “This 4th Of July Be Glad You Aren’t A Songwriter

  1. I’m trying to get my head around what this means as an independent artist/songwriter. What happens if I (and my partner) decide that we don’t want our songs published on certain sites? What rights or recourse do we have to control where our music is played/distributed? Thanks:-)

    1. You haven’t really had a choice since 1998. A interactive music site can just file what’s called an NOI and then use your songs. They have to pay you the royalty that the government sets.

  2. How about we give YouTube, Google etc really crappy elevator music only, the kind you can record solo with a midi keyboard and a few sounds, or just a computer. Let’s create a parallel network of our own tribes, that doesn’t involve the suckers of our energy and talent, let’s let them sink, help them sink, and move on without them. Move on with the people with a higher consciousness. Harness the People Power. Ok maybe I’m being idealistic, or onto something; these exploiters only exist because we look to them as helpers in our midst and we supply them with our precious efforts, and they’re not, helpers, they’re wolves in sheep clothing. So let’s not look to them. Happy Independence Day, or Interdependence Day as might be more helpful!

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