By Chris Castle
More on this to come, but the Copyright Royalty Judges have rejected the frozen mechanicals settlement in a very well-reasoned and methodical filing in the docket for Phonorecords IV. I will reproduce the conclusion of the filing here, but you should read the whole thing.
The upshot of the Judges’ ruling rejecting the extension of the frozen rates is that both George Johnson as a participant and a host of commenters brought up many valid points about problems with the settlement. I suppose the next step will be for the Judges to either set rates themselves and let the parties react to them or ask the parties to resubmit a new proposal in line with the Judge’s ruling.
Either way, the settlement is rejected and we have to thank the Judges who listened thoughtfully, George Johnson who toils alone representing himself (and the independent songwriter’s view) as an actual participant in the proceeding, and all the songwriters, independent publishers, lawyers and songwriter groups who took the time to comment. And of course a huge thank you to all the Trichordist readers who supported fairness and justice and all the heartfelt comments against frozen mechanicals.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn. Don’t forget it–the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
Here is the Judges conclusion:
Rightsholders are free to choose their representation in these proceedings. Admittedly, individual songwriters and self-publishers have traditionally chosen not to expend the resources necessary to participate in these proceedings at the same level as trade organizations and major technology companies. Nonetheless, the outcomes of these proceedings can have a significant impact on the lives of the individual rightsholders. In this proceeding, the Judges received lengthy comments from SGA, which claims to represent thousands of songwriters. For SGA’s comments to have independent influence, however, SGA would have needed to join the proceeding as a participant. Nonetheless, with regard to the present proposed settlement, the comments of non-participants cumulatively served to amplify those of the objecting participant.
Pursuant to section 801(b)(7)(A)(ii), based on the totality of the present record—including the Judges’ application of the law to that record, as well as GEO’s objections, which, as noted supra, are consistent with the non-participant comments—the Judges find that the proposed settlement does not provide a reasonable basis for setting statutory rates and terms. Furthermore, the Judges find a paucity of evidence regarding the terms, conditions, and effects of the MOU. Based on the record, the Judges also find they are unable to determine the value of consideration offered and accepted by each side in the MOU. These unknown factors, as highlighted in the record comments, provide the Judges with additional cause to conclude that the proposed settlement does not provide a reasonable basis for setting statutory rates and terms.