Head of Justice Dept Antitrust Division to Speak At Publisher Conference–can end of ASCAP/BMI Consent Decrees be coming?

Really great news!  It was recently announced that the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division will speak at the National Music Publishers Association annual meeting in June!

This year’s keynote will be presented by United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim.

As David said a few weeks ago before this announcement, Mr. Delrahim is reviewing hundreds of DOJ consent decrees that have accumulated over the decades to see if these government orders should be continued.  This review includes the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees that Mr. Delrahim specifically mentioned in an address at Vanderbilt Law School earlier this year.  He seems to have come to this idea all by himself.

What’s really great about this is that it could mean the end of consent decrees in a relatively short period of time.  Since it’s never happened before, we don’t know exactly how the end of the consent decrees would impact ASCAP and BMI, but presumably the impact would be positive and quick. Goodbye rate court!  The smart money would probably be on existing rate court cases continuing, but disallowing new cases.  (Mr. Delrahim has been clear that the enforcement side would remain in place, meaning we guess that actual antitrust law violations would be dealt with case by case, just no ongoing regulatory oversight by unelected rate courts.  Example would be Global Music Rights awesome antitrust case against the broadcasters after the broadcasters brought one against GMR.)

It could possibly open the door to both organizations getting into the mechanical licensing administration business in competition with whatever comes of the collective established by the Music Modernization Act (which permits voluntary licenses outside of the collective).  In fact, BMI has already said they intend to pursue licensing outside of performances because their consent decree allows them to do so unlike ASCAP’s:

BMI is also evaluating the option of licensing beyond the performing right. We have long believed our consent decree allows for the licensing of multiple rights, which is why four years ago we asked the DOJ to amend our decree to clarify that ability, among other much-needed updates.

Of course, the last thing that anyone would want is for the DOJ to end the consent decrees, just to be replaced by some other bunch of regulations or bureaucracy.  For once, broadcasters will just have to suck it up.

So it’s a great idea that NMPA is inviting Mr. Delrahim to speak to the publishers who are most in the position to take advantage of a new dawn in songwriter freedom.  Many if not most of the NMPA members will be in the voluntary licensing category under MMA and outside the collective.  They would be in a fantastic position to support a one-stop shop for performance and mechanical licensing from ASCAP and BMI in line with what SESAC/HFA can offer, and presumably GMR could do as well.

The problem is the music-streaming companies | The Hill – Paul Williams

Songwriters have a number of allies in the ongoing fight to update our nation’s horribly outdated music licensing laws. But after reading the recent post by CALInnovate’s Mike Montgomery (“Songwriters are fighting the wrong fight,” 10/5/15), it’s clear that he is not one of them. On what grounds can Montgomery, who represents technology industry interests, claim that he speaks on behalf of songwriters?

As a songwriter elected to represent the interests of ASCAP’s more than 550,000 music creator members, I find Montgomery’s arguments absurd and grossly misleading.

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE HILL:
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/256247-the-problem-is-the-music-streaming-companies

What ASCAP Members Need to Know About the Songwriter Equity Act and What You Can Do | ASCAP

Songwriters, composers and music publishers earn royalty income through two separate rights: the right to publicly perform their music works, and the right to make reproductions of those works and distribute those reproductions.

However, two outdated portions of the Copyright Act, Section 114(i) and Section 115, prevent songwriters and composers from receiving royalty rates that reflect fair market value for the use of their intellectual property. This has created inequity in the marketplace that harms America’s songwriters, composers and music publishers in the digital age. Now is the time to fix it.

READ THE FULL POST AT ASCAP:
http://www.ascap.com/playback/2014/02/action/songwriter-equity-act.aspx

#StandWithSongwriters Petition Against Pandora’s Exploitation

Please sign the Petition Here:
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/4273-standwithsongwriters-petition

The rights of songwriters are under attack. Pandora Media Inc., which controls 70% of the US streaming market, has launched an aggressive campaign to pay songwriters and composers less than a fair market share for their work – even as the company’s revenue and listener base has soared.

As songwriters and composers, we value the opportunities Pandora and other music streaming companies create for our music to reach new audiences. In return, we want Pandora to value our contribution to your business.

Right now, a song that is streamed on Pandora 1,000 times, earns the songwriter only 8 cents on average. And yet, Pandora is going to great lengths – even taking songwriters to court – to pay us even less.

Music drives Pandora’s business. If the company’s revenues keep getting larger, why should the rate it pays songwriters keep getting smaller?

Songwriters are not the enemy. Instead of fighting to pay music creators less than a fair market rate, join us in an effort to construct fair music licenses that allow songwriters and composers to thrive alongside the businesses that revolve around our music.

Songwriters deserve fair pay. If you agree, commit a tweet and help send this message to incoming Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews.

Uncertainty, Copyright and Courage by Paul Williams

On Wednesday, June 5th, ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams delivered a powerful keynote to attendees of the CISAC World Creators Summit in DC. He spoke passionately and pointedly about what it means to be a creator in today’s challenging digital environment.

This excerpt of the talk touches on one of many well made points.

Literature, music and art have value to individuals, to businesses and to countries. They open our hearts and minds. They inspire. They teach. They comfort. They drive economic growth and innovation. They define our time; they define our cultures; they bring us together.

So then, why are we now in the position of having to defend ourselves against the insidious erosion of the basic principles of copyright in so many parts of the world?

Intellectual property rights are a cornerstone of democracy. As a citizen, a creator and a consumer, I should have a reasonable expectation that I live in a society where thieves and outlaws are not allowed to run rampant – even when they are operating in cyberspace. But when lawmakers in North America and Europe tried to enact legislation that would help enforce laws against online fraud and theft, the technology sector said it would break the internet. They called it censorship.

Creators are in the business of free expression. Freedom of speech is about political speech, it is not about protecting fraud or theft. They trivialized what free speech means. Forces that want to control and diminish the value of our work for their own economic benefit are systematically attacking the rights of creators. They are methodically attacking the validity of copyright laws. They are building their businesses in a way that makes enforcement of our copyrights next to impossible.

The hope that creative work will pay off for the author, composer, filmmaker or photographer if it becomes successful is no longer a given. Fair payment has become another profound uncertainty in the professional life of every creator. This is true for people at the top of their game, and especially so for those just starting out. This is true globally – not just in the United States, in Canada, in the European Union – all over the world.

PLEASE READ THE FULL KEYNOTE ADDRESS HERE AT ASCAP:
http://www.ascap.com/playback/2013/06/action/uncertainty_copyright_and_courage.aspx

Artists Deserve to be Compensated For Their Work by Mark Isham

By Mark Isham for ibuymymusic.org
(Copyright in the Author, Posted with Permission)

Music is something that used to have a manageable business model, but with new technology appearing everyday, manageable isn’t even close. When Shawn Fanning decided to take a crack at technology and created Napster in 1999, the largest file sharing program in the world, he revolutionized the way in which music reaches its audience, changing the entire meaning behind the word “consumer.”

Illegal exploitation of the artists work is now a learned behavior. Artists’ popularity is now based on ticket sales, tweets and Facebook Likes, but not on music sales. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, and Katy Perry, arguably the new Queen of Pop, both tied five number one singles off of one album by the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, Bad (1987) and Teenage Dream (2010). Yet, compare the sales of these two albums; that is a whole different kettle of songs.

Although music consumption is at the highest it has ever been, the majority of it is being consumed illegally. Steve Jobs had the right idea with the invention of iTunes, making music more accessible than ever. But even with success such as his, illegal distribution is the market owner. Digital music consumption has hit a plateau, only increasing by 13% in 2009. The reason why these sales are so low is that with just a click of a button, type in “Telephone” by Lady Gaga (the most illegally distributed song of 2010) and you will be lead directly to the first site in which you can get that song for free, thanks to Google. So Google profits from the illegal exploitation of the artists’ work, but not the artist themselves. This is the real problem: companies and corporations profiting by illegally distributing the artists work.

Employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a drop of 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011 “musical groups and artists”.  Music piracy hurts both the music producers and the music consumers. I’m not the only one affected by this; most, if not all, professional artists have taken a slump in recorded music sales due to the illegal distribution and leaks.

Michael Jackson’s Bad has sold over an estimated 30-45 million copies worldwide. Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, combining digital and physical sales, has sold 5.5 million total album copies worldwide, a mere fraction of Jackson’s total sales. However, she has tied him with being the only artist to have five number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart from one album. Her total sales should represent her lasting power on the charts, but they don’t, proving further that the majority of listeners are gaining access to music illegally. Ask any teenager how they access their music — most will tell you they download it illegally.

I Buy My Music (www.ibuymymusic.org) is a new campaign I’ve launched with the hopes of making the realization that obtaining music illegally is taking away more than just money, it’s taking away art — an expression of feeling and power. I Buy My Music is a way of bringing awareness to the quality of life music brings to everyone — taking pride in buying art and supporting our artists and fellow man by reveling in his or her expression.

An artist is only an artist because of the music they produce — it’s their existence. Each song is an individual masterpiece, and the illegal exploitation of the artists work violates this human respect of art. We all love music and should be able to enjoy it. I would like us all to recognize that the artist can only continue to create music from our show of support by purchasing their music, rather than stealing it from them. With the continuation of illegal downloading, artists will be incapable of producing more high quality music that is representative of dedicated, committed and highly trained professionals. I admire and respect musicians, wanting them to continue with the creation of great music, and I encourage all of us to do the same before it’s too late.

Mark Isham, John Morton, Paul Williams

The Trichordist Random Reader Weekly News & Links Sun May 13

Grab the coffee!

Last week the UK ordered it’s ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay, the Dutch are getting fed up too…
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404269,00.asp

[Related]Pirate Bay angered over Faux Pirate Bay Proxies…
http://louderthanwar.com/the-pirate-bay-advising-fans-to-use-the-authentic-original-the-pirate-bay-and-not-the-rip-off-sites/

ASCAP President Paul Williams gives an impassioned speech to membership about Artists Rights…
http://www.ascap.com/Playback/2012/05/action/membership-meeting-speech.aspx

Facebook removes Grooveshark App…
http://digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2012/120508grooveshark

MP3 tunes files for bankruptcy, owner/founder still on the hook…
http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57432278-93/emi-says-bankruptcy-wont-protect-mp3tunes-from-copyright-suit/

Music Industry discusses improved music discovery via TV Co-Viewing Apps…
http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/record-labels/tech-types-tackle-tv-music-tie-ins-at-narm-1007018352.story

Copyhype Debunks the Copyleft Theory of Hollywood Built On Piracy…
http://www.copyhype.com/2012/05/was-hollywood-built-on-piracy/

Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe Speaks Out for Younger Bands…
http://loudwire.com/lamb-of-god-randy-blythe-claims-record-industry-dying/

The Onion Reports on the “Bold Move” or “Charging for Content”…
http://www.theonion.com/articles/nytimescoms-plan-to-charge-people-money-for-consum,19847/

Support the people supporting Artists Rights on the Hill, the Trans Pacific Partnership progresses…
http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/226215-overnight-tech-industry-urges-obama-to-negotiate-tough-intellectual-property-protections

and… then there’s this…
http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech/white-house-pushes-voluntary-anti-piracy-efforts-senators-want-legislation-20120509

Fantastic talk by Robert Levine author of “Free Ride” on the Failure of The Internet to create better opportunities for Artists & Creators and the work to be done.