Music Licensing Databases? The Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act and ASCAP/BMI

On July 20, US Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act.  The legislation would create a database of music copyright ownership and licensing information.  The database would cover both musical works and sound recordings.

A copy of the legislation is available here.

According to Representative Sensenbrenner’s press release, the legislation would:

  • Require the Register of Copyrights to establish and maintain a current informational database of musical works and sound recordings while granting the Register authority to hire employees and contractors, promulgate regulations, and spend appropriated funds necessary and appropriate to carry out these functions.
  • Ensure that the database is made publicly accessible by the Copyright Office, in its entirety and without charge, and in a format that reflects current technological practices, and that is updated on a real-time basis.
  • Limit the remedies available to a copyright owner or authorized party to bring an infringement action for violation of the exclusive right to perform publicly, reproduce or distribute a musical work or sound recording if that owner/ authorized party has failed to provide or maintain the minimum information required in the database.

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), and Steve Chabot (R-OH).

Shortly after the introduction of the legislation, BMI and ASCAP announced that they have been separately creating a similar database by combining their repertories.  The BMI/ASCAP database is set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Continue reading “Music Licensing Databases? The Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act and ASCAP/BMI”

Legislative Efforts on Performance Royalty: Current Tally

The Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2017 currently pending in the House of Representatives would amend the Copyright Act to extend the public performance right for sound recordings to any audio transmission.  Currently, the sound recording public performance right applies only to digital audio transmissions (e.g., Pandora, SiriusXM, etc.). The new public performance right would mean that AM/FM broadcast stations would be required to pay royalties for terrestrial/over-the-air broadcast transmissions of sound recordings. Currently, 21 Representatives have co-sponsored The Fair Play Fair Pay Act.

Opposition to the Fair Play Fair Pay Act continues to grow. The Local Radio Freedom Act proposes a resolution providing that:

Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.

Currently, 191 Representatives have co-sponsored the Local Radio Freedom Act, and 22 Senators have co-sponsored the companion bill in the Senate.

Music Performing Rights Organizations and the “Full-Work” vs. “Fractional” Licensing Dispute: Government Seeks to Overturn Fractional Licensing Decision

On Thursday, the United States filed its brief in its appeal of a decision by the district court for the Southern District of New York, which rejected the US Department of Justice’s earlier determination that a longstanding DOJ consent decree governing BMI requires “full-work” (or “100%”) licensing.  Rather, the district court held that BMI can engage in “fractional licensing.”

BMI is a performing rights organization (a “PRO”), which aggregates its members’ rights for the public performance of copyrighted musical works and collectively licenses those rights to music users, such as radio and television stations, internet radio stations (e.g. Pandora), interactive streaming services (e.g., Spotify), websites, bars, restaurants, and fitness clubs.  BMI and ASCAP are the two largest PROs in the United States, and each are governed by DOJ consent decrees, which were first entered into in 1941.  SESAC and the recently-established Global Music Rights (GMR) are the two other PROs in the United States.  SESAC and GMR are not subject to DOJ consent decrees.

The district court’s September 2016 decision was applauded by BMI and the other PROs, as well as other songwriter and music publishing stakeholders.  Licensees of music public performance rights, such as radio and television stations, however, decried the district court’s decision.

Continue reading “Music Performing Rights Organizations and the “Full-Work” vs. “Fractional” Licensing Dispute: Government Seeks to Overturn Fractional Licensing Decision”

MusicFIRST Urges Congress To Address Music Licensing In Copyright Reform

In a letter dated May 4, 2017, members of the musicFIRST Coalition urged the leadership of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on the Judiciary to support the Fair Play Fair Pay Act.

The Fair Play Fair Pay Act would establish a performance right for AM/FM radio, change the standard for determining satellite radio royalties, and require royalties for the performance of pre-1972 sound recordings. The letter notes that “[t]he U.S. stands alongside just a few other countries, including China, Iran and North Korea, in not recognizing a performance right” for sound recordings.

Members of the musicFIRST Coalition include: A2IM (American Association of Independent Music), American Federation of Musicians, RIAA, The Recording Academy, SAG-AFTRA, and SoundExchange.

Copyright 101: Summary of Common Music Licenses

Like any other property, music copyrights and the individual exclusive rights thereof, can be transferred, sold, licensed, and divided among several owners.  In general, to use recorded copyrighted music, you will need permission from both the musical work owner (typically a publisher) and the sound recording owner (typically a record company).  Note, however, if you re-record a song (instead of using a pre-recorded version), permission is only required from the musical work owner (since you are not using someone else’s sound recording). 

Following are descriptions of common music licensing agreements.  In a later post,  I will discuss some of the specific ways in which music is used on the Internet and the types of licenses required.  Continue reading “Copyright 101: Summary of Common Music Licenses”

Court Rules No Public Performance Fees for Ringtones

blackberry-storm-9530Recently, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that publishers are not entitled to public performance royalties for mobile phone ringtones.  See In re Cellco Partnership, 2009 WL 3294861 (2009).  For the past few years, publishers have argued that mobile phone carriers should pay copyright performance royalties when ringtones are downloaded and used by mobile phone customers.  Continue reading “Court Rules No Public Performance Fees for Ringtones”