standards for setting music royalties

The royalties that Sirius XM will pay to SoundExchange for the next 5 years will be decided by the Copyright Royalty Board ("CRB") in December. To summarize the hearings that have been held over the last year, the CRB held an oral argument last week, where Sirius XM and SoundExchange presented their arguments as to what those royalties should be. Sirius argued that the rates should be decreased, while SoundExchange contended that the rates should go up significantly from the 8% of revenue that the service now pays (see our summary of the current Sirius XM rates here). How can these parties have such different perspectives on the value of music, and what did this argument say about the application of the 801(b) standard that applies to Sirius?  This standard is the standard that webcasters are seeking to apply to Internet Radio services through the Internet Radio Fairness Act which we wrote about here.  If the IRFA is adopted, it would apply when the CRB next reviews webcasting rates in a case that will be decided by the end of 2015.

Sirius XM and cable music provider Music Choice, which was also part of the proceeding, are both governed by the 801(b) standard rather than the “willing buyer, willing seller” standard that applies to Internet Radio. The oral argument made clear that the adoption of the 801(b) standard is not in and of itself a panacea for the concerns about the royalties that have been set by the Copyright Royalty Board. Last week’s argument focused on the value of music in a marketplace – essentially the “willing buyer, willing seller” question. While other 801(b) factors were discussed, they were seemingly passed over quickly, with most of the focus being on the questions of the marketplace value of the music.


Continue Reading Copyright Royalty Board Oral Argument on Sirius XM SoundExchange Royalties – A View of the Application of the 801(b) Standard Proposed for Internet Radio

The recent introduction of a bill by Congressman Jason Chaffetz offers proposals for reform of the operations of the Copyright Royalty Board – reforms that many in the Internet Radio industry have hailed as promising real change in the way that royalty decisions for webcasters have been made. While some webcasters seem to think that relief is at hand, in fact, the bill has simply been introduced into Congress co-sponsored by four congressmen, so it has a long way to go before it can be adopted by Congress and become the law of the land. But it is worth looking at the many issues that the Bill addresses so that webcasters know what it says so that they can rationally argue for its passage.

Most webcasters have focused on the provisions of the bill that would substitute the standards set out in Section 801(b) of the Copyright Act for the standard that currently applies – "the willing buyer, willing seller" standard. 801(b) sets out five factors to be considered in determining the rates to be set for a statutory royalty. These factors are:

(A) To maximize the availability of creative works to the public.

(B) To afford the copyright owner a fair return for his or her creative work and the copyright user a fair income under existing economic conditions.

(C) To reflect the relative roles of the copyright owner and the copyright user in the product made available to the public with respect to relative creative contribution, technological contribution, capital investment, cost, risk, and contribution to the opening of new markets for creative expression and media for their communication.

(D) To minimize any disruptive impact on the structure of the industries involved and on generally prevailing industry practices. 

In contrast, the current “willing buyer, willing seller” standard looks only at one question – what a willing buyer and willing seller would agree to in a marketplace transaction.   What is the difference between these two standards?


Continue Reading Chaffetz Bill Introduced in House of Representatives to Adopt 801(b) Standard for Internet Radio Royalty Decisions of Copyright Royalty Board – What’s It All About?

The Copyright Royalty Board has announced its approval of new sound recording performance royalties for "new subscription services", i.e. music services provided to the customers of cable or satellite television systems by companies not in this business in 1998 at the time of the adoption of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.   This royalty was adopted after a settlement between Sirius XM Radio, the only music service which filed to participate in this proceeding, and SoundExchange.  The settlement as approved provides for royalties that are the higher of 15% of the revenues of the service (subscription payments plus other revenues such as advertising and sponsorships provided by the service), or a minimum per subscriber fee that increases over the five year course of the royalty period.  The details of this settlement, including the escalating per subscriber royalties, can be found in the Federal Register notice of its approval, here.

This royalty has very limited applicability, governing only the payments due from audio services "transmitted to residential subscribers of a television service through a Provider which is marketed as and is in fact primarily a video service," i.e. music services bundled with a subscription to a cable or DBS service – and only where that service is delivered to residential users.  Given the limited applicability of this service, one might be inclined to ignore its adoption.  However, broadcasters in particular should pay attention to this royalty, as it is again indicative of the value that the music copyright holders and SoundExchange place on the use of their music in an audio service, and thus of what SoundExchange would seek were they to get a performance royalty on over-the-air broadcasting.   


Continue Reading Copyright Royalty Board Approves Settlement for Sound Recording Royalty Rates for “New Subscription Services” – Any Hints As to What A Broadcast Performance Royalty Would Be?