sound recording performance royalty

The Copyright Royalty Board issued a notice yesterday, here, that summarized its decision on the sound recording performance royalties for 2018-2022 to be paid by Satellite Radio and “Pre-existing Subscription Services” (“PSS”), essentially Music Choice for its music service usually packaged with cable television subscriptions. The terms associated with the new rates, embodied in the new rules adopted by the CRB, are available here. The CRB announcement states that the Sirius XM rates will be 15.5% of revenue, which represents an increase from the 11% they are paying currently. The terms for these rates set out a means by which Sirius XM can reduce the revenue subject to the royalty by directly licensing music or using pre-1972 sound recordings, the percentage of such songs being determined by determining their percentage of play on Sirius XM Internet radio channels that correspond directly to their satellite service.

By contrast, the rates for Music Choice (and any other similar PSS having been established prior to 1998 when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was adopted that may still be in existence) decreased from 8.5% of revenue to 7.5%, the rate that had been in effect in 2012. Our article here describes the decision in 2012 setting the current royalty, and the article here summarizes the Court of Appeals decision upholding the 2012 CRB determination.
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The Copyright Royalty Board yesterday announced in the Federal Register, here, that the sound recording royalty rates paid to SoundExchange will be increasing next year.  In December 2015, when the CRB set the current royalty rates that apply from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2020 (see our articles here and here),

The alphabet soup of organizations that collect royalties for playing music has never been easy to keep straight, and today royalty issues sometimes seem even more daunting with new players like GMR (see our articles here, here and here) and arguments over issues like fractional licensing that only a music lawyer could love (see our articles here and here). But there are certain basics that broadcasters and other companies that are streaming need to know. Based on several questions that I received in the last few weeks, I’ve been surprised that one of the issues that still seems to be a source of confusion is the need to pay SoundExchange when streaming music online or through mobile apps. For the last 20 years, since the adoption of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, anyone digitally transmitting noninteractive music programming must pay SoundExchange in addition to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC (and more recently GMR) for the rights to play recorded music – unless the service doing the digital transmission has directly secured the rights to play those songs from the copyright holders of the recordings – usually the record labels.  Why is there this additional payment on top of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC?

SoundExchange represents the recording artists and record labels for the royalties for the performance of the recording of a song (a “sound recording” or a “master recording”).  ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR by contrast represent the songwriters who wrote the song (not the performers) and their publishing companies.  When you play music on your over-the-air radio signal, you only pay for the public performance rights to the underlying musical composition or “musical work” as it is often referred to in the music licensing world – the words and music of the song.  This money goes to the songwriters and their publishing companies (the publishing companies usually holding the copyright to the musical composition). But, in the digital world, for the last 20 years, anyone who streams music, in addition to paying the songwriters, must pay the performers who recorded the songs and the copyright holders in the sound recordings (usually the labels).  That is the royalty that SoundExchange collects.
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A year ago, when the Copyright Royalty Board adopted the rates for webcasters (including broadcasters who simulcast their programming by online streaming) to pay for the sound recording performance royalty (see our summary here and here), one difference from previous decisions is that there was a single per-song, per-listener royalty adopted. In the past

The Copyright Royalty Board Decision on the royalty rates to be paid for the public performance of sound recordings by Internet radio companies – webcasting royalties – was published in the Federal Register today. We wrote about that decision setting the royalties here and here. The publication in the Federal Register gives parties to the proceeding 30 days in which to file an appeal of the decision. Appeals are heard by the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC.

While we have written about some issues with the decision raised by small webcasters about there not being a percentage of revenue royalty, as that issue was not raised before the CRB as no small webcasters participated, that is not an issue that the Court will consider – as the Court looks to whether the decision was arbitrary and capricious based on the evidence adduced at trial, or whether the decision was without substantial evidence in the record. It is focused on what was argued at trial, rather than what was not. Similarly, the issues about the performance complement waivers for broadcasters, which we also wrote about in the same article, are statutory issues that need to be addressed by waivers from copyright holders, not by a court appeal. Noncommercial groups have also expressed disappointment in the decision.
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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.
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The full decision of the Copyright Royalty Board on Internet Radio royalties, excluding confidential information, has now been made public and is available here.  In December, we wrote about the rates and terms of the royalties that webcasters pay to SoundExchange for the public performance of sound recordings as set by the CRB

Earlier today, Triton Digital’s President for Market Development John Rosso and I discussed the new webcasting royalty rates adopted last week by the Copyright Royalty Board to cover the sound recording performance royalty for 2016-2020.  You can listen to that conversation discussing the basics of that decision here.  John and I discuss what rights

The Copyright Royalty Board has begun the hearing phase of its proceeding to set the royalties to be paid by webcasters (or noninteractive digital music services) for public performances of sound recordings for the years 2016-2020. These are the royalties paid by Internet radio companies to SoundExchange, allowing them to play any recorded music legally released in the United States since 1972 (see our article here about issues regarding pre-1972 sound recordings), as long as the digital service pays the royalties set by the Board and observes other rules set by the Copyright Act. This proceeding began in January 2014, when the CRB asked for petitions to participate in the proceeding. After those petitions, parties had time to engage in settlement discussions before filing “written direct cases” last October – written witness statements setting out the rates proposed by each party and the justifications for those rates (see our summary of the parties initial proposals here). Since that time, the parties have been engaged in discovery, producing mountains of documents relevant to the claims made, and conducting depositions of a number of witnesses. This week, the case moved into its trial phase.

On Monday, the parties still participating in the proceeding presented to the 3 CRB judges their opening statements where their attorneys summarized what they hope to prove over the next 5 weeks of trial. During the trial, the parties will formally introduce their written statements (available on the CRB website, here, with sensitive business information redacted), which have been amended based on facts uncovered during the discovery that was conducted, and their written rebuttal testimony – testimony that was provided to the CRB in February to rebut the initial written cases (available on the CRB website, here, with sensitive business information redacted). Such rebuttal testimony has itself been subject to the discovery process. There can be various objections to the written evidence presented – including questions of hearsay or relevance to the proceeding. For virtually all of the written statements, the individual who provided that testimony will be present at the hearing to introduce that testimony, and each witness will be subject to cross examination by the other parties. As is evident by the number of exhibits that have been submitted, there will be dozens of witnesses to be heard – from renowned economists and other experts, to record label and digital music company executives, to broadcasters large and small. 
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This week brings news that a Virginia broadcaster has brought suit to have a court declare that broadcasters who stream their signal on the Internet, but limit the reception of the signal to within 150 miles of their transmitter site, should not have to pay royalties to SoundExchange.  As we have written before, when Congress adopted the digital performance royalty for sound recordings in the late 1990s, there was an absolute exemption from the sound recording performance royalty for broadcast transmissions, embodied in Section 114(d)(1)(A).  That exemption is not limited by the 150 mile rule.  However, there is another section of the law, Section 114(d)(1)(B), that also exempted from royalty payments retransmissions of broadcast transmissions.  The law exempted from the 150 mile limit those retransmissions done by other broadcast stations.  Thus, FM translators, for instance, can rebroadcast their primary station beyond the 150 mile rule without triggering a sound recording performance royalty.  So what was the section on the 150 mile zone for retransmissions intended to cover?

This issue was raised back in the early days of webcasting, when questions were raised as to whether simulcasting of broadcast transmissions were covered by the 150 mile rule.  There was some thought that it was in the early days of Internet radio.  In the first webcasting decision (the one conducted by a Copyright Arbitration Panel – or CARP, before the Copyright Royalty Board came into existence), evidence was cited that Yahoo! Music, growing out of Mark Cuban’s Braodcast.com which built its business on the retransmission of broadcast station’s over-the-air signals, had set up its royalty structure negotiated with the record labels to take into account that broadcast simulcasts would be exempt.  But the Librarian of Congress issued a ruling rejecting that premise for a number of reasons.  See the decision here.  These included that, because Internet retransmissions of broadcast signals could not be geographically limited, they could not be encompassed within the 150 mile exception of 114(d)(1)(B).  The Librarian read the exception as encompassing only retransmissions that could be limited to being wholly within the 150 mile zone.  The Librarian also looked at Section 112, and did not find a similar exception in that section which grants a statutory license for the ephemeral copies made in certain transmissions, and thought that such an exemption would be necessary for the retransmission of broadcast signals on the Internet. (We have discussed ephemeral rights before, see e.g. here and here). There the issue sat until the case filed last week.
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