Since then there have been several lawsuits—first with a case against Spotify from David Lowery of the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, followed by Flo & Eddie of vintage pop act The Turtles, who earlier sued digital radio services for not paying royalties on pre-’72 sound recordings. Then came a suit against Spotify by singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick. And just this week saw an infringement claim from Yesh Music LLC and John Emanuele, who allege nonpayment from several music services, including Tidal, Beats Music (now Apple Music), Google Play, Slacker, Deezer, Microsoft and Rdio (the latter’s assets now owned by Pandora, pending successful Rdio bankruptcy).
What the heck is going on here?
To answer that question, we’ll need to back up a bit. First, you should probably check out our original post. If you don’t have time for that, here are a few basic points to understand:
1. There are two copyrights in a piece of music: the sound recording (imagine performances captured on tape or hard drive) and the musical work (imagine notes on paper and lyrics). A music service like Spotify must license both “sides” of the musical copyright in order to run their business.
2. Under U.S. law, anyone can obtain a license to make a reproduction or distribution of an underlying composition without having to directly negotiate permission with the copyright owner(s), provided they follow the guidelines laid out in Section 115 of the Copyright Act. To be eligible for a compulsory license, a user has to send a Notice of Intent (NOI) to at least one of the publishers of a musical work no later than 30 days before making the reproduction/distribution (for streaming, the understanding is that the reproduction and distribution happens at the time of transmission). The compulsory license—which you may hear people refer to as just “the compulsory”—also lays out specifics for reporting and royalty distribution. The user has to send monthly accounting statements and pay on a 30-day schedule. If a user cannot locate one of the publishers to serve, they can file notice with the US Copyright Office, which, for a small fee, will publish the until a publisher comes forward. Failure of a licensee to comply with any of these provisions renders them ineligible for the license and potentially liable for infringement.
It has come to light that not all of the mechanical royalties owed for songs played on digital music services like Spotify have been paid out to rights holders, a fact uncontested by several of the services. In Spotify’s case, the amount owed is allegedly anywhere from 16 to 25 million dollars. Lowery had been pointing to discrepancies in licensing and royalty distribution well before it came to the attention of NMPA, the trade industry group that representing music publishers. Rather than waiting around for the matter to be settled by the large corporate players, on December 28, 2015, Lowery filed a lawsuit against Spotify seeking class status so that other songwriters could be awarded damages should the case for infringement prevail. Since then, we’ve seen a flurry of litigation, though it remains to be seen where these cases end up.
Metadata is all that information that identifies and describes your music. In some cases, metadata is text; composer and musician names, recording dates, genre. In other cases, it’s numeric data; UPC barcodes and ISRC codes. As the music landscape becomes increasingly digital and global – and where success is measured in streams and plays in addition to sales – proper metadata management is becoming an important part of every release workflow. read more
It wasn’t more than five years ago that, if you were in a coffee shop or a clothing boutique and you heard a catchy tune, you might need to ask a barista or — OMG — a stranger for the name of the artist or the album. Then along came mobile apps like Shazam and SoundHound that magically identify the music that is being played. Recently, these two music discovery apps have upped their game by not only identifying the song and displaying the album artwork, but also showing lyrics, videos and bios, as well as any tour dates in your area. read more
Metadata is all that information that describes and identifies your music. In some cases, metadata is text – composer and musicians’ names, dates, genre. In other cases, it’s numeric data such as UPC barcodes and ISRC codes. As the music landscape becomes more digital and global, proper metadata is an increasingly important part of your release workflow. read more
If you follow this blog, you know that FMC spends a lot of time thinking about metadata, a shorthand term that can mean a lot of things including the information about who wrote a song, or who played on a recording. We’ve looked at the problems from different angles, examined the wide range of possible solutions, and attended metadata conferences. This month’s Future of Music Policy Summit will have some special sessions that tackle metadata, so we asked FMC’s director of programs Jean Cook six questions about the topic.
Event hosted by the United States Copyright Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
My name is Casey Rae and I’m the VP of policy and education for Future of Music Coalition, a Washington, DC-based national nonprofit organization for musicians. Future of Music works in three areas: research, education and advocacy. We came together back in 2000, right around the time of the initial digital disruption. Over the last 14 years, we have analyzed and documented trends in the music sector, translated complex policy and legal issues for our musician and composer constituency, and produced original research on everything from artists’ access to healthcare to commercial radio consolidation to our most recent study on artist revenue streams. read more
The internet-fueled debate about the pros and cons of Spotify went another round last week, with contributions by David Byrne, Dave Allen, Jay Frank, Bob Lefsetz and Fast Company. I read them all, as I’ve done with the previous public debates about whether Spotify is a good or bad thing for musicians. As an indie record label owner and a long-time advocate for musicians, I care deeply about these debates and, more importantly, about ensuring musicians and songwriters are fairly compensated for their work.
Today, I posted a long-ish thought piece about this on Music Think Tank. Instead of focusing on the arguments about the fraction-of-a-penny rate per play, the article suggests some other changes to these music services that might make a substantive difference for musicians, songwriters and fans.
20.7 million Americans (8.8% of all US adults) attended a classical music performance in 2012, according to the National Endowment for the Arts’ recent survey highlights. 19 million (8.1%) attended a jazz gig. But if these millions of classical & jazz fans tried to use any of the most popular digital music services to access classical or jazz music at home, they’d likely end up confused and unable to find what they’re looking for. read more
This post co-authored by FMC Communications Intern Olivia Brown
The big music biz news this week is all about the launch of Google’s new subscription streaming music service. But that’s not the only development in the world of streaming. Last week, at the annual NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) Convention, one of the first such services, Rhapsody, announced that it would be the first major digital music service to join the Recording Academy’s new “Give Fans The Credit” initiative. The campaign aims to make songwriter, performer, producer, and other credits widely available to digital music consumers at a time when physical media sales — along with liner notes — are on the wane.