internet radio performance complement

The NAB has announced agreements with Sony and Warner Music Groups to waive certain of the statutory requirements for broadcasters who stream their over-the-air signals on the Internet.  The NAB had entered into similar agreements with all of the major labels and major independent labels back in 2009 (see our summary here).  But those agreements expired at the end of 2015, giving rise to fears among some broadcasters that some standard broadcast programming could not be streamed on the Internet (see our article here about those concerns).  These agreements, at least as to Sony and Warner, mitigate those fears.  This article provides a summary of some of the most important aspects of the new waivers.

These waivers cover requirements set forth in the Copyright Act which broadcasters, especially those who stream, may have difficulty meeting.  Generally, the waivers provide the following:

  • Relief from the statutory requirements as to “ephemeral copies” of sound recordings that require that such recordings can be kept for no longer than 6 months.  If that rule was to be applied strictly, stations that make a copy of a sound recording in furtherance of their streaming (or for their over-the-air broadcasts), by for instance making a copy of a song so that it can be stored in their digital music storage systems, could keep those copies for only 6 months.  After that time, the station would be required to delete any copy of a song and re-record it if they wanted to keep a copy in their music library for another six months.
  • The agreements waive the performance complement, which would otherwise limit a station that is streaming its signal from playing more than 2 songs from the same CD or album in a row, or playing more than 3 songs in a row from the same artist, or from playing more than 4 songs from the same artist (or from the same box set) in a 3-hour period.  The waivers allow stations to exceed these limits, only if they continue to play music in a manner consistent with normal broadcast operations.  However, even with the waiver, no station can play more than half an album consecutively.
  • The waivers allow stations to announce upcoming artists, only if they don’t announce the specific times that specific songs will be played.
  • The waivers allow some relief from the obligation that a broadcaster streaming their on-air programming on the Internet identify in text on their website or mobile app the name of the song that is playing, the artist who performs the song, and the album from which that song is taken.  That relief is limited to circumstances where, from time to time, a station can’t easily provide such textual information.


Continue Reading NAB Announces Agreements with Sony and Warner to Waive Performance Complement and Other Statutory Requirements for Broadcasters Who Stream Their Signals

The recent Copyright Royalty Board decision (see my summary here) setting the rates to be paid by Internet radio operators to SoundExchange for the rights to publicly perform sound recordings (a particular recording of a song as performed by an artist or band) still raises many questions. Today, Jacobs Media Strategies published on their blog an article I wrote on the topic – discussing 5 things that broadcasters should know about music royalties. While the content of the article is, to some who are accustomed to dealing with digital music rights, very basic, there are many to whom the additional guidance can be helpful. The subject of music rights is so confusing to those who do not routinely deal with the topic – even to those who work in radio or other industries that routinely perform music and to journalists and analysts that write about the topic. Thus, repeating the basics can still be important. For those who click through from the Jacobs blog to this one, and for others interested in more information on the topics on which I wrote, I thought that I’d post some links to past articles on this blog on the subjects covered in the Jacobs article. So here are the topic headings, and links to where you can find additional information.

The new royalties set by the CRB represent a big savings for broadcasters. I wrote how the royalties represent a big savings for most broadcasters who simulcast their signals on the Internet. I provide more details about the new rates and how they compare to the old ones here.
Continue Reading 5 Things Broadcasters Should Know About SoundExchange Music Royalties

The actions and reactions in response to the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision from two weeks ago continue to roll in as the ramifications of the decision sink in. In the days before Christmas, two announcements were made that warrant note. One was a decision of the CRB itself, correcting the rates and terms that it released just the week before – with some sighs of relief being heard from certain high school and university stations. The other was the realization that there were many issues covered by Webcaster Settlement Act agreements from 2009 that were not reflected in the CRB decision and may have impact on significant portions of the webcasting industry.

First, the correction. On Christmas Eve, the CRB issued a revised version of the rates and terms that will apply in 2016 (you can find the revision here). It appears that there were some formatting errors that were corrected, and a number of definitions that had been included in the initial release were deleted – apparently as they referred to terms that were no longer used in the current royalty rates. For instance, a number of definitions relating to “broadcasters” and “broadcaster webcasting” were excluded. These were no longer necessary as broadcasters are not treated any differently than other commercial webcasters under the new royalties. One place where the deletion of a definition resulted in a substantive change was what appeared to be an unintentional inclusion in the initial release of the definition of an “educational webcaster.”  The definition seemingly applied only to those webcasters that received CPB funding and transmitted solely noncommercial radio programs from a terrestrial radio station. That definition would have excluded many webcasters affiliated with schools but without an FCC license from a settlement agreement entered into by the Collegiate Broadcasting Association and SoundExchange – a settlement meant to cover school webcasters providing for a $500 a year royalty for streaming of less than 159,140 aggregate tuning hours per month (and record-keeping relief for many webcasters covered by that arrangement). That “educational webcaster” definition was excluded in the revision released last week – leaving the CBI settlement in place covering webcasters affiliated with educational institutions, to the relief of many educational webcasters.
Continue Reading Webcasting Royalty Decision Developments – Revised Rates and Terms from the CRB, Issues about Performance Complement and Small Webcasters

Adele’s decision to not stream her new CD “25 on services like Apple Music and Spotify has been the talk of the entertainment press pages – like this article from the New York Times.  These articles make it sound like, if you listen to any Internet music service, you’ll not hear a song from the new record.  But, in fact, if you listen to an Internet radio service, like a Pandora, iHeart Radio, Accuradio, the streams of over-the-air radio stations, or any of the myriad of other “noninteractive services” that are available online, you will hear music from 25.  The legal distinctions that allow these services to play Adele’s new music is often not recognized or even acknowledged by the popular press.  Why the difference?

As we’ve written before in connection with music from the Beatles (see our articles here and here), the difference deals with how music is licensed for use by different types of digital music services.  On-demand or “interactive” audio services, like Spotify and Apple Music or the recently in-the-news Rdio, obtain music licenses through negotiations with the copyright holders of the sound recordings – usually the record labels.  These are services where a listener can specify the next track that he or she will hear, or where the listener can store playlists of music they have selected, or even hear on-demand pre-arranged playlists with the tracks in the playlist identified in advance by the service.  If the record labels and the service can’t come to terms for the use of music by one of these interactive services, then the music controlled by the label does not get streamed.  Often, these negotiations can be lengthy, witness the delay of over a year from when Spotify’s announced its launch in the US and when that launch actually took place, because of the complexity and adversarial nature of these negotiations.   In some cases, major artists, like Adele, and before her Taylor Swift and, for a long time, bands like the Beatles and Metallica, had agreements with their labels that gave them the rights to opt out of any deal that their labels did with these audio services.  So, if an artist like Adele can opt out of being played by a service like Spotify, why is she being streamed by online radio? 
Continue Reading Adele’s New Record is Not on Online Streaming Services – Except Where It Is – The Difference Between Interactive and Noninteractive Streaming

The Copyright Office this past week released its Report following its study of music licensing in the US; a comprehensive report addressing a number of very controversial issues concerning music rights and royalties.  Whether its release during the week of the Grammy Awards was a coincidence or not, the report itself, which takes positions on many issues, is sure to initiate lots of discussion and controversy of its own.  The report was issued after two rounds of comments (the questions that were asked in each request for comments are detailed in our stories here and here) and three roundtables held in three different cities where representatives of music companies provided ideas on the questions asked (I participated in the Nashville session).  As detailed below, the report addresses some of the hot button issues in the music royalty space including the broadcast performance royalty, publisher withdrawals from ASCAP and BMI (see our article here), and pre-1972 sound recordings.

Before getting into the details of the proposals, it is important to note that the Copyright Office, unlike many other government agencies, does not itself make substantive rules.  Instead, it merely makes recommendations.  For any of the substantive proposals that it suggests in the Report to become law, Congress must act – which is never easy.  In the Copyright world, it is particularly difficult, as the rules and industry practices are so complex and often obscure, and where any change can have a very dramatic effect on some industry player or another.  Often, a simple change in the rules can take money from someone’s pocket and deposit into someone else’s.  Moreover, copyright is not an area where there are clear partisan divides.  Oftentimes, it matters more where a Congressman’s home district is than his or her party affiliation in their leanings on copyright matters.
Continue Reading Copyright Office Issues its Report on Music Licensing – Issues Include Broadcast Performance Royalties, Publisher Withdrawals from ASCAP and BMI, and Pre-1972 Sound Recordings

In recent weeks, SoundExchange has begun to send letters to broadcasters who are streaming their signals on the Internet without paying their SoundExchange royalties.  Despite all of the publicity about Internet radio royalties and the controversy about the rates for those royalties, there still seem to be webcasters unfamiliar with their obligations to SoundExchange.  As we have written many times, SoundExchange collects royalties for the public performance of the "sound recording", a song as recorded by a particular artist.  Those royalties, which are charged only to digital media companies like Internet radio, satellite radio and digital cable radio, are paid half to the copyright holder in the recording (usually the record company for most popular songs) and half to the performers on the recording.  These royalties are paid in addition to the royalties paid to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for the public performance of the musical work – the underlying musical composition, the words and music of a song – money that is paid to the composers of that musical work.  So just paying ASCAP, BMI and SESAC is insufficient to cover your streaming operations when music is being used. 

While these royalties have been law since 1998, and have been set by decisions first by a CARP (Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel) in 2003, and then by the Copyright Royalty Board in 2007, it seems like some companies still have not gotten the message about the obligations to pay these fees.  Thus, in the last few weeks, SoundExchange has been sending out letters to companies that have not been paying.  The letter are not particularly threatening – instead pointing out the obligations that companies have to pay the royalties, and asking if the webcaster may be paying under some corporate name that is not readily apparent from the website.  The letter also points the webcaster to the SoundExchange website for more information.  Finally, it notes that SoundExchange represents the copyright holders for collections purposes, and notes that nothing in the polite letter waives any rights that those holders have to pursue actions for failure to pay the royalties – in other words to sue for Copyright infringement.   So, gently, webcasters are reminded to pay their royalties or risk being sued for copyright infringement, with potential large penalties for playing music without the necessary licenses.


Continue Reading SoundExchange Sending Reminders to Broadcasters Who Are Not Paying Royalties for Streaming Music Sound Recordings

As we have written, by April 2, broadcasters who are streaming need to file with SoundExchange a written election in order to take advantage of the SoundExchange-NAB settlement.  For broadcasters who make the election, the settlement agreement will set Internet radio royalty rates through 2015.  One aspect of this agreement that has not received much attention is the waiver from the major record labels of certain aspects of the performance complement that dictates how webcasters can use music and remain within the limits of the statutory license.  When Section 114 of the Copyright Act, the section that created the performance royalty in sound recordings, was first written in the 1990s, there were limits placed on the number of songs from the same CD that could be played in a row, or within a three hour period, as well as limits on the pre-announcing of when songs were played.  These limits were placed seemingly to make it more difficult for listeners to copy songs, or for Internet radio stations to become a substitute for music sales.  In conjunction with the NAB-SoundExchange settlement, certain aspects of these rules were waived by the 4 major record labels and by A2IM, the association representing most of the major independent labels.  These waivers which, for antitrust reasons, were entered into with each label independently, have not been published in the Federal Register or elsewhere.  But I have had the opportunity to review these agreements and, as broadcasters will get the benefit of the agreements, I can provide some information about the provisions of those agreements.

First, it is important to note that each of the 5 agreements is slightly different.  In particular, one has slightly more restrictive terms on a few issues.  To prevent having to review each song that a station is playing to determine which label it is on, and which restrictions apply, it seems to me that a station has to live up to the most restrictive of the terms.  In particular, the agreements generally provide for a waiver of the requirement that stations have in text, on their website, the name of the song, album and artist of a song that is being streamed, so that the listener can easily identify the song.  While most of the labels have agreed to waive that requirement for broadcasters – one label has agreed to waive only the requirement that the album name be identified in text – thus still requiring that the song and artist name be provided.  To me, no station is going to go to the trouble of providing that information for only the songs of one label – so effectively this sets the floor for identifying all songs played by the station and streamed on the Internet.


Continue Reading With April 2 Webcasting Election Due for Broadcasters – A Look at the Record Label Waivers of the Performance Complement