Here’s How You Know Mic-Coalition “Shiv Act” Is About Screwing Songwriters Not Transparency

 

Yesterday we detailed one of the main problems with the so-called “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act” or as Artist Rights Watch termed it “The Shiv Act.”   The bill would take away from songwriters legal remedies like attorney’s fees and  statutory damages.  Thus making it virtually impossible for individual songwriters and small publishers to  sue websites and digital services that use their works without licenses.   This bill is Robin Hood in reverse.

Today we look at why the whole call for transparency is utter bullshit.

The proposed “transparent” database is really just a new impossible-to-mount  bureaucratic hurdle to prevent songwriters from ever exercising their rights.  Transparency is not the point.  It requires songwriters to provide information on cover tracks recorded by other performers the moment these covers are released to the public, or otherwise they lose rights.

The problem is federal compulsory licenses grant streaming services and cover artists’ automatic licenses.  Songwriters almost never know these recordings exist until long after they are released.    THIS IS THEREFORE AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK! See screenshots above.

But here is where the bill is particular cruel.  If a songwriter does not report information on a single cover, the way the bill is written, the songwriter then loses their rights for EVERY recording.  I don’t think this is an accident.  This actually creates a mechanism for depriving every songwriter of legal fees and statutory damages, on every song ever written.  Just record a song and upload it to a streaming service.  This is the ultimate poison pill for songwriters’ rights.

Technically digital services are supposed to send a “notice of intent” to songwriters to let them know that their songs are being used.  But the terrible new Librarian of Congress has also been allowing digital services to exploit a loophole that allows Amazon, Google, Spotify and others to file an “address unknown” notice with the copyright office.  These notices are then “published” by uploading (sometimes enormous) zip files with hundreds of thousands of sound recordings. Further although these files appear to be “zipx” files they aren’t your normal run of the mill zipx files as they seem to require a sophisticated decompression program in order to read them.  If the purpose is to serve notice to the public that compulsory licenses have been granted, this is a complete failure.
Further in the previous decade 2006-2016 less than 6,000 of these notices were ever filed.  Since March of 2016 digital services have filed over 45 million of these notices.  Many of these notices are for easily recognized songs written and performed by artists like The Beach Boys and Sting.  A simple search of the web provides proper contact information.  PaperChain.io  an Australian company estimates that as a result of these sorts shenanigans there are over $2.5 billion in unpaid royalties world wide.

Billion.

Irrelevant to this post, but where is that investigation?

Maybe it is time to dust off those old “private attorneys general” statutes. L

About David C Lowery

Platinum selling singer songwriter for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; platinum selling producer; founder of pitch-a-tent records; founder Sound of Music Studios; platinum selling music publisher; angel investor; digital skeptic; college lecturer and founder of the University of Georgia Terry College Artists' Rights Symposium.