We’ve already written twice about the copyright issues being considered this summer before various agencies and branches of government – all dealing with music licensing issues (see our previous Summer of Copyright articles here and here). The pattern continues, as the Copyright Office has now requested further comments on music licensing issues, following up on its roundtables held across the country during the month of June to discuss its music licensing inquiry begun in the spring (see our summary of the initial Copyright Office notice on its study, here). In yesterday’s Federal Register, there is a notice asking a series of questions about specific issues that were raised in the roundtables which the Office apparently finds to be of significance. Additional comments on these issues, and on any related issues affecting music licensing, are due on or before August 22.
What are the questions being asked by the Copyright Office, and what do they portend for its ultimate recommendations to Congress who, as we recently wrote, is itself considering music licensing issues and the potential for a comprehensive reform of music licensing in this country? The areas in which the questions are being raised are not new ones, but instead continue the themes raised in other forums this summer. They include questions as to how withdrawals of major publishers from the Performing Rights Organizations (ASCAP and BMI in particular) could affect those organizations. We first wrote about potential publisher withdrawals and the impact that could have on music services back in 2011. Also, on a related question, they ask why, when these organizations have collected record amounts of money in recent years, songwriters are complaining that they are economically struggling. In addition, questions are asked about the procedures used by the Copyright Royalty Board in their rate-setting process and whether those procedures should be revised, how better identification of musical works and sound recordings could be adopted to make recordkeeping and royalty administration easier, how a system of setting mechanical royalties could work without a statutory license, and whether there are international licensing models that might be adaptable to the US market. Some details below. Continue Reading