internet music royalties

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

Noncommercial webcasters were provided with two royalty options under settlements reached with SoundExchange pursuant to the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009 ("WSA").  One settlement was with Noncommercial Educational Webcasters.  The other, when announced, was characterized by SoundExchange as being a settlement with noncommercial religious broadcasters, though it applies to any noncommercial webcaster who elects to be subject to its terms.  As set forth below, except for certain mid-sized noncommercial webcasters who have more forgiving recordkeeping options under the Educational deal, it would seem that the settlement with the religious broadcasters provides far more advantageous terms, and it also reaches back to cover the period from 2006 through 2010.  The Educational webcasters agreement covers only the rates for the periods from 2011-2015.  These settlements provide another example of the issue raised before the Senate Judiciary Committee of the arbitrary nature of the precedential nature that will be accorded to WSA settlements in future webcasting proceedings.  The noncommercial agreement with significantly higer prices has been accorded precedential weight in future CRB proceedings, while the one with lower rates is, by its terms, not precedential in future proceedings.

It is easiest to start with a review of the ‘Religious" broadcaters settlement (which, as we said above, is open to any noncommecial webcaster).  The agreement provides for a $500 per channel fee for each channel or stream offered by the noncommercial webcaster.  For that flat fee of $500 per channel, the webcaster can stream up to 159,140 monthly aggregate tuning hours of programming on each stream.  An Aggregate Tuning Hour ("ATH") is one hour of programming streamed to one person.  Thus, if you have 2 people who each listen for an hour, you would have two aggegate tuning hours.  A station with 2 listeners who each listen for half an hour would have one ATH of listening.  4 listeners for 15 minutes each would also add up to one ATH.  The 159,140 monthly ATH number represents listening of approximately 221 average simultaneous listeners 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  If a webcaster exceeds this listening level, it must pay for excess listening on a per performance (per song per listener) basis, at the rates set out below.


Continue Reading Details of Webcasting Royalty Settlements for Noncommercial Webcasters Including Educational and Religious Internet Radio Operators

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

On Tuesday, just before the Senate recesses for its summer vacation, an abridged version of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the proposed sound recording performance royalty for over-the-air radioInternet radio royalties were also encompassed in this discussion, principally concerning the issue of "platform parity", i.e. whether all music services subject to the sound recording performance royalty should pay a royalty determined by the same standard, or perhaps even the same royalty.  We’ve already written this week about some of the issues surrounding the broadcast performance royalty (why it’s still being considered given that a majority of the House of Representatives has already signed a resolution against the royalty, here, and discussing the likely amount of the royalty were it to be adopted, here).  Neither of these issues was discussed in depth at the hearing.  But a multitude of other issues were raised in the hearing. and we’ll address many of them over the next few days.  But first, today, a summary of the issues raised.

First, it should be made clear that there was not a full committee in attendance.  While a few Senators came and went without saying a word, questions were asked or comments made by only 5 Senators of the 19 on the Committee.  So judging how the full committee feels about the issues raised when only 5 Senators (4 of them Democrats) asked questions may not be a fair assessment of how the committee as a whole feels about the issues raised.  But, broadcasters should take warning that all of the Democratic Senators in attendance seemed to be sympathetic to the idea of adopting a broadcast performance royalty.  However, it must be noted that all also seemed somewhat sympathetic to the concerns about the financial impact of the royalty on broadcasters.  Just as members of the House have cautioned broadcasters to negotiate on a royalty before one is imposed on them, Senator Leahy of Vermont, the Chairman of the Committee, echoed those sentiments, promising that "legislation will move" on this issue – meaning that the issue will not simply fade away, despite the signatures on the NAB petition opposing the performance royalty.


Continue Reading Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Radio Performance Royalty and Platform Parity for Webcaster Royalties

Just when Internet music companies were starting to understand one set of royalties applicable to the use of music on the Internet through the controversy over the Copyright Royalty board decision on royalties for the public performance of sound recordings in a digital delivery system, the Copyright Office held a hearing on Friday to discuss an entirely different royalty – the "mechanical" royalty for the use of the "musical work" in making a "phonorecord."  In plain English, the copyright holder in the publishing rights in a musical composition (the underlying words and music in a song) is entitled to a royalty when a copy of a song using that composition is made.  While that doesn’t sound too complicated, when copies are made in the digital transmission of music over the Internet (and even in other digital media), all sorts of questions arise.  And in the conversations on Friday, questions were raised as to whether the obligation to pay a royalty for making a digital copy even applied to the streaming of a song on the Internet or possibly even the playing of a song on an HD Radio station.  These stations already pay (to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) for the public performance of a musical composition, but the mechanical royalty is for a different right, and is collected by a different group, and the question being raised was whether a different royalty is also due when music is used a digital context.  This is also different than the SoundExchange royalty that is paid for the public performance of a sound recording (a particular song as recorded by a particular artist).

The Copyright Office held this Roundtable to update the record in a proceeding begun by a Notice of Inquiry issued in 2001 to try to determine how to apply in a digital world the mechanical royalty and the compulsory license for that royalty under Section 115 of the Copyright Act.  That section applies to the use of a composition in the making of a record or CD.  The artist or record company would have to pay the publishing company a flat fee per copy to obtain the rights to use the underlying song.  That fee is currently about 9 cents per copy, though the Copyright Royalty Board is is in the midst of a proceeding that is to determine whether that royalty should be changed.  When applied to the making of a physical copy, that concept is not hard to understand (though, as set forth below, it is not easy to administer).  But, in a digital world, questions arise as to when the obligation to pay a royalty arises.


Continue Reading Copyright Office Holds a Roundtable Discussion of the Mechanical Royalty – Another Confusing Royalty for the Use of Music on the Internet