The question of when a digital music service is “interactive” and therefore requires direct negotiations with a copyright holder in order to secure permission to use a sound recording is a difficult one that has been debated since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was adopted in 1998. In a decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals released today, upholding a jury decision in 2007, the Court concluded that Yahoo’s Launchcast service (now operated by CBS) is not so “interactive” as to take it outside of the statutory royalty despite the fact that the service does customize its music offerings to the tastes of individual listeners. To reach its decision, the Court went through an extensive analysis of both the history of the sound recording copyright and of the details of the criteria used by Launchcast to select music for a stream sent to a specific user. By determining that the service is not interactive, the service need only pay the SoundExchange statutory royalty to secure permission to use all legally recorded and publicly released music.  Had the service been found to be interactive within the meaning of the statute, the service would have to negotiate with each sound recording copyright holder for each and every song that it wanted to use on its service to get specific rights to use each song – potentially resulting in hundreds of negotiations and undoubtedly higher fees than those paid under the statutory license.

The issue in the case turned on an analysis of the DMCA’s definition of an interactive service.  The statute defines an interactive service as one where a user can select a specific song or “receive a transmission of a program specially created for the recipient.” It is clear that Launchcast did not allow a user to request and hear a specific song.  But, by specifying a genre of music, and by specifying favorite artists and songs and rating other songs played by the service, a listener could influence the music that was provided to it.  Was this ability to influence the music sufficient to make it an “interactive service” and thus take it out of the coverage of the statutory royalty?


Continue Reading Court of Appeals Determines that Launchcast is Not an Interactive Service – Thus Not Needing Direct Licenses From the Record Labels

The four settlement agreements between SoundExchange and different groups of webcasters were published in the Federal Register today, setting the dates by which Internet radio operators need to opt into the terms of certain of these deals by filing a Notice of Election with SoundExchange.  The deals each have different opt in dates, so it

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has entered into a settlement with SoundExchange extending their current agreement on Internet Radio royalties for "Public" radio stations through 2015.  The previous deal, about which we wrote here, covered the period from 2006 to 2010.  This new agreement picks up in 2011 and covers included stations through 2015.  As in the previous deal, the new agreement has a payment by CPB to SoundExchange satisfying all royalties for all of the covered stations.  This was the fourth agreement that was announced last week, about which we wrote here, although details of this deal had not previously been released.  We have written about the other deals entered into under the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009 ("WSA"), including the deals with Sirius XM (here) and with other noncommercial webcasters (here). 

This agreement covers stations affiliated with NPR, American Public Media, Public Radio International, and the Public Radio Exchange. CPB will pay to SoundExchange $2,400,000 in five yearly installments, covering up to 490 public radio stations in the first year, and up to 10 additional stations per year thereafter (up to 530 in 2015).  The fee is also subject to adjustment if all of the covered stations exceed certain listening levels.  Those levels, and the required true-up for performances in excess of the caps, are set out below.  However, the CPB payments for excess performances are limited to a total of $480,000 over the 5 year period of the Agreement:

Year              Music ATH Cap              Per Performance Rate

2011                279,500,000                         $0.00057

2012                280,897,500                         $0.00067

2013                282,301,988                         $0.00073

2014                283,713,497                         $0.00077

2015                285,132,065                         $0.00083


Continue Reading SoundExchange and Corporation for Public Broadcasting Settlement on Internet Radio Royalties for 2011-2015

The recent settlement on Internet radio royalties between Sirius XM Radio and SoundExchange provides yet another option for commercial webcasters trying to determine the royalties to be paid for the public performance of sound recordings.  While the settlement is signed by just these two parties, it will be published in the Federal Register and be available for all commercial webcasters who comply with its terms – which will essentially be any webcaster who is not a "Broadcaster" as defined in the NAB Settlement, about which we wrote here.  As set forth below, the royalty rates available under this settlement are slightly lower for 2009 and 2010 than those set by the Copyright Royalty Board back in 2007, but slightly higher than those available under the NAB settlement.  However, in 2013-2015, the rates available under this deal are actually lower than those agreed to by the NAB, meaning that they present a better deal for webcaster expecting their audiences to grow in the next few years.

First, the most important issue – how much will it cost?  As with the CRB decision, the NAB deal, and the Pureplay deal (about which we wrote here) as it applies to large pureplay webcasters, the rates established by the deal are based on a "per performance" charge.   A performance is one song as listened to by one listener.  So if a song is played on an Internet radio station subject to the deal and 100 people are listening at the time the song is played, there are 100 performances.  The rates established by the deal are as follows:

           Year              Rate per Performance

2009                      $0.0016

2010                      $0.0017

2011                      $0.0018

2012                      $0.0020

2013                      $0.0021

2014                      $0.0022

                        2015                      $0.0024


Continue Reading Details on Sirius XM and SoundExchange Settlement on Internet Radio Royalties – An Option for Some Commericial Webcasters

The US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia has set the briefing dates on the appeal filed by various webcasting groups seeking review of the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board setting Internet radio royalties for the period 2006-2010 for the use of sound recordings (see our coverage of this controversy here, and