Questions for MLC on Streaming Mechanicals and Asteroid Mining Colonies.

We noted with some excitement last week that the new federal Music Licensing Collective has hired ConsenSys an Ethereum blockchain based ecosystem that also owns an asteroid mining subsidiary.

This is surely a sign the MLC is finally making plans for collecting streaming mechanicals from streaming services that serve extra-planetary mining colonies.

However there are many questions that remain unanswered. For instance while rules and laws that apply to US flagged aircraft and ocean vessels could be a guide, copyright laws that govern interactive streaming have never been tested in space beyond Earth orbit.

While it is likely that the MLC would have authority to license and collect streaming mechanical royalties on US flagged spaceships it’s not clear that privately owned mining facilities in the asteroid belt would be subject to US copyright law. Especially if the asteroid based mining facilities are owned by corporations headquartered in nations other than the US.

Then there is the matter of location of servers. Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal would be unlikely to stream songs from earth as wireless signals would take more than 30 minutes each way. While pause and rewind would not be problematic for the user, switching to an entirely different playlist or new album would require a long wait because of the hour plus round trip to Earth.

So clearly streaming services would require servers be located at the off-world mining facilities.

If the mining company is owned by a US headquartered company then one could reasonably argue US Copyright law applies. Relatively simple.

However, one must also consider the cost of shipping a single server into space. Extrapolating from cost of putting the slimmest 8 pound server into LEO (low earth orbit) it would cost approximately 170 million dollars to put a single server into an asteroid mining colony in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Most off-world mining would be highly automated so mining colonies would have relatively low human populations. Thus yearly subscription fees for users would be in the $400,000 – $600,000 range. A family plan would be in the $600,000-$900,000 range.

It’s unlikely asteroid mining colonies could offer an ad supported tier as mining colony dining facilities or escort services would have no need to advertise as they would have no competition. Similar to military bases remote private mining companies typically grant monopolies in each service category.

There is however a silver lining: with only two streaming tiers, the All-in Pool and Total Payable Pool would be easier to calculate.

What about deductions from the All-In Pool for PRO payments in off world mining colonies?

This brings up an interesting side question. Is there a public performance royalty due on performances of music in a private asteroid mining camp? Are these facilities public or private? ASCAP, BMI and SESAC should start to think about this if they want to keep ahead of GMR as there are rumors GMR is already working on an off-world unitary direct license.

Of course everything becomes infinitely more complex if for instance miners in a US headquartered private mining camp subscribe to a streaming service based at a Shanghai headquartered private mining camp on an nearby asteroid. This is not improbable. As long as the orbits of the two asteroids were sufficiently stable this could be accomplished with a commercial grade WiFi router or a long CAT 5 cable.

In this situation it’s impossible to say if the MLC would have any authority to administer mechanical royalties. It’s likely an international agreement would need to be negotiated.

Or ConsenSys’ blockchain platform Ethereum could fix all this. And then we don’t have to worry about anything. Cause that’s what we’ve heard it does. It’s a solution for a lot of things. It’s just no one can really explain how it solves problems that you can already solve with an Excel spreadsheet and a few macros.

But it is a shiny new technology and a lot of money launderers and international criminal gangs prefer the technology so it has a sort of “cultural fit” with many of the music executives, personal managers and self appointed representatives of songwriters.

So how would we implement access to a blockchain distributed global music rights database in a remote asteroid mining facility? It is not clear but we do know that the current global Ethereum blockchain network can process 2400 transactions a minute, a node in a remote asteroid mining camp using only 50% of all available earthbound satellite bandwidth could probably process one database change a week. That’s assuming 40% of the robot labor could be diverted to process the transaction. Also some of the mining colony’s life support systems would need to be temporarily suspended using a “rolling blackout” system, but loss of life is expected to be minimal.

About Dr. 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.