SECOND REOPENING PERIOD COMMENTS OF HELIENNE LINDVALL, DAVID LOWERY AND BLAKE MORGAN
Helienne Lindvall, David Lowery and Blake Morgan (collectively, the “Writers”) thank the Judges for the opportunity and respectfully submit the following comments responding to the Copyright Royalty Judges’ notice (“Second Notice”) soliciting comments on additional materials (“Reply”) received by the Judges from the National Music Publishers Association, Nashville Songwriters Association International, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc. and Warner Music Group Corp. (collectively, the “Majors”) regarding the so-called [frozen] “Subpart B” statutory rates and terms relating to the making and distribution of physical or digital phonorecords of nondramatic musical works in the docket referenced above (“Proceeding”).
The Writers previously submitted comments (“Prior Comment”) responding to the Judges’ notice (“First Notice”) soliciting comments on the Major’s proposed purported settlement (the “Proposed Settlement”) of the Subpart B rates. The Writers along with attorney Gwendolyn Seale attempted to submit additional comments in response to the Majors’ filing but were not able to timely file that response. The Writers appreciate the Judges’ decision to reopen the comment period in order to afford the public, and those that would be bound by the rates and terms set by the Proposed Settlement, an opportunity to comment on those additional materials filed by the Majors and to further participate in the rulemaking.
As a general comment on the record to date in Phonorecords IV, the Writers are mystified by the histrionics that have become associated with this Proceeding both on the record and in the press. A voluntary negotiation is just a deal, often made by people who are paid to always be closing. The Writers believe that Congress intended that voluntary negotiation produce a fair result on a reasonable timetable.
While not directly at issue in the reopened comment period, what is clearly the case is that the settlement of the Subpart B rates has unnecessarily become a major gating item for the streaming side of this Proceeding, geese and ganders being what they are. Despite the extensive voluntary negotiation period for the Subpart B rates by the Majors, the Judges—and, frankly, songwriters around the world–are presented instead with a cornucopia of chaos across the board; the cherry on top is the frozen mechanicals crisis. However, in this season of hope the Writers are confident that the Judges will lead us all out of this daunting situation.
The Writers are not interested in the personalities, the arm-waving or the finger-pointing. They are interested in the results, particularly because neither they nor anyone they authorized had input into the negotiation that produced either the Proposed Settlement or the impasse.
There is at least one easy way to fix this and recognize the intrinsic value of songs: Raise the statutory rate proposal for Subpart B configurations in at least some relation to the streaming rate increase. A song is no less valuable because of the medium in which it is exploited.
As the Writers will argue, just like the voluntary agreement on Subpart B that led to this impasse was reached by the Majors, those same parties can go back to the drawing board to reach an appropriate conclusion with a higher Subpart B rate.
Neither the public nor the songwriters are well served (and frankly neither are the Judges) by thrashing about and waiving arms. This may serve well the people who are paid by the hour but it hasn’t served people who are paid by the song. At all. “Victory” without winning may pass for success in Washington, but it does not in the writer room or at a songwriter’s kitchen table.
The Proposed Settlement is a crystallization of everything that is wrong with the licensing and payment practices that have arisen under the compulsory license regime where no is yes, more is less and the Kool-Aid whispers “Drink Me.”
While the Writers will focus in this comment on the frozen mechanicals issue that has become emblematic of the current crisis, it must be said that the decade-plus MOU [black box] agreements are a backward looking and inequitable insider arrangement that permits a mindset of sloppiness and a “kick the can down the road” mentality that debilitates the entire music publishing business. It’s no accident that the Mechanical Licensing Collective—run by largely the same cast of characters under a jaw-dropping Congressional governance mandate—has been sitting on $424,000,000 of other peoples’ money for nine months during a pandemic with no visible compliance with another Congressional mandate of paying songwriters correctly in Title I of the Music Modernization Act.
The MLC and the sequence of MOUs are both descended from the same ancestors a generation ago. Each have essentially the same business model and each are somehow inexplicably viewed as a “win” for the songwriters. The irony of splicing the genetic code of the ancien régime MOU [black box insider settlements] to the future is not lost on anyone. If the failure to match money and songs in the MOU process is still a problem after fifteen years as well as the much-trumpeted Title I of the Music Modernization Act, it’s not the horse’s fault. It’s the rider’s.
It would be a real pity for the CRB to perpetuate this unfairness by adopting the Proposed Settlement. With respect, it is bad law, bad policy, and a failure to even try to bend the arc of the moral universe. Conversely, rejecting the Proposed Settlement would provide the kind of steely oversight tragically lacking in the current regime. Please let the future have a vote, just once.
The Writers object to the Proposed Settlement for the following reasons and respectfully suggest constructive alternatives. The gravamen of our objection is that (1) the Subpart B rates have already been frozen since 2006 and extending the freeze another five years is unjust; (2) no evidence has been publicly produced in the Proceeding that justifies or even explains extending the proposed freeze aside from the connection to the memorandum of understanding in the MOU4 late fee waiver (“MOU”), a document that the Majors only recently disclosed in their Reply; (3) very large numbers of songwriters and copyright owners of various domiciles around the world and national origins are unlikely to even know this Proceeding is happening and there still is no evidence that the unrepresented have appointed any of the participants to act on their behalf or were asked to consent to the purported settlement before the fact even if they were members of these organizations aside from the respective board of directors; (4) physical sales are still a vital part of songwriter revenue (which the Writers documented in the Prior Comment); and (5) there are many just alternatives available to the Judges without applying an unjust settlement to the world’s songwriters who are strangers to the Proposed Settlement and in particular the MOU component (as the MOU will likely require membership in the NMPA to benefit consistent with prior MOUs).
[Read the full-length original filing here.]
 86 FR 58626.
 NMPA, NSAI, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc. and Warner Music Group Comments in Further Support of the Settlement of Statutory Royalty Rates and Terms for Subpart B Configurations, Determination of Royalty Rates and Terms for Making and Distributing Phonorecords (Phonorecords IV), Copyright Royalty Board (Aug. 10, 2021).
 37 C.F.R. §385.11(a).
 Comments of Helienne Lindvall, David Lowery and Blake Morgan, Determination of Rates and Terms for Making and Distributing Phonorecords (Phonorecords IV) (July 26, 2021) available at https://app.crb.gov/document/download/25533.
 86 FR 33601.
 Motion To Adopt Settlement of Statutory Royalty Rates and Terms for Subpart B Configurations, Docket No. 21-CRB-0001-PR (2023-2027).
 Ms. Seale does not otherwise join in this comment. We understand she is filing a separate comment regarding the additional materials.
 The Writers’ reply was posted on The Trichordist website available at https://thetrichordist.com/2021/08/16/frozenmechanicals-crisis-unfiled-supplemental-comments-of-helienne-lindvall-davidclowery-theblakemorgan-and-sealeinthedeal/. Parts of that unfiled comment are included in this comment.
 See 17 USC 801(b)(7)(a)(i).
 As with the Writers prior submission in response to the First Notice, the Writers focus in this comment almost entirely on the Subpart B rates applicable to physical carriers under 37 C.F.R. §385.11(a).
 The Judges no doubt will be told many stories about how Subpart B configurations are not meaningful sales compared to streaming so rates deserve to be frozen. This is a novel copyright argument without a statutory basis. The theory is also not based on accurate facts as the Writers discuss extensively in the Prior Comment at paragraph 5 and will not repeat here.
 There is a growing backlash to decades of delaying definitive action on song metadata and songwriter payments such as Credits Due campaign of the Ivors Academy and Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus. See generally Chris Cooke, PPL Backs Björn Ulvaeus’s Credits Due Campaign, Complete Music Update (Oct. 4, 2021) available at https://completemusicupdate.com/article/ppl-backs-bjorn-ulvaeuss-credits-due-campaign/
 See, e.g., H. Rep. 115-651 (115th Cong. 2nd Sess. April 25, 2018) at 5; S. Rep. 115-339 (115th Cong. 2nd Sess. Sept. 17, 2018) at 5 (“The Committee welcomes the creation of a new musical works database that is mandated by the legislation….Music metadata has more often been seen as a competitive advantage for the party that controls the database, rather than as a resource for building an industry on.” (emphasis added)).
 See Prior Comment at 16.