BMI’s rate-court Judge has ruled against the Department of Justice’s 100% licensing decision. Judge Louis Stanton stated that “the consent decree neither bars fractional licensing nor requires full-work licensing,” exactly the opposite of what the DOJ argued in its controversial ruling earlier this summer. NMPA president & CEO David Israelite lauded the decision, saying, “Thanks to the courage of Mike O’Neill, BMI, and the entire songwriting and music publishing community, the DOJ’s disastrous views on 100% licensing have been rejected by a federal Judge. This is a huge win for songwriters and a huge win for the rule of copyright law.”
In an effort to create a more efficient and transparent music marketplace, ASCAP has launched a Digital Team, comprised of the Digital Product & User Experience Group and the newly created Data Strategy & Business Intelligence group. The team’s first launch is the redesigned public repertory search, ACE, and plans to re-launch a modernized, intuitive ASCAP.com and Member Access experience. ASCAP says it will harness its “rich data and other assets to [improve] ASCAP’s music licensing, royalty collection, and distribution processes.”
Facebook is searching for a Director of Global Music Licensing Partnerships, a move that industry executives view as a sign that the social network has decided to be more engaged with the music community. Responsibilities of the role include leading music licensing strategy negotiations with global rightsholders and being a source of deep insights about the music ecosystem. Songtrust’s own Joe Conyers stated, “This is the response to Facebook realising it needs to improve its relationship with the industry. They face the eventually of our entire industry realising how much money we are losing from the cannibalisation of Youtube via Facebook Video. If they want to be a real player in video, they need to fairly treat copyright holders.”
The European Commission will be reforming European copyright laws, and plan to force sites like YouTube to pay more to creators and rights holders. The plans also call for easier access to online content across all EU countries and to reform copyright rules for research and education. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EC, said “I want journalists, publishers, and authors to be paid fairly for their work, whether it is made in studios or living rooms, whether it is disseminated offline or online, whether it is published via a copying machine or hyperlinked on the web.”
New advocacy organization SONA, Songwriters of North America, is suing the United States Department of Justice over consent decree decisions. Songwriters Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley founded SONA in the Spring of 2015 to fight consent decrees, but their many attempts with other songwriter organizations to negotiate with the Department of Justice have mostly failed. The organization has now filed a complaint against the government based on how individual songwriters will be adversely financially affected, how collaborative relationships will be destroyed, and the havoc that will be wreaked within the licensing ecosystem.
India’s government issued a memorandum clarifying that the internet is covered under Statutory Licensing provisions of the 2013 Copyright Act. This has brought relief to the country’s streaming services like Gaana, Saavn, and Wynk, and encourages global services like YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora to enter the market. The clarification makes it so music users can simply send a notice to rights holders and pay the rates set by the Copyright Board in order to use their songs, rather than being at the mercy of notoriously high rates set by the country’s societies, PPL and IPRS.
Sony reportedly laid off more than half of EMI Music Publishing staff after its buyout in 2012. A Sony Corp investor presentation that was uncovered from November 2014 confirms that the company cut EMI’s headcount by 60% within two years of the acquisition, a percentage that was predicted by the New York Times’ Ben Sisario in a report in 2012. The deck also claims that Sony reduced EMI’s costs by 67% while “streamlining worldwide recorded music operations.”
BMI collected a record breaking $1.06 billion last year, a 4.64% increase over last year’s revenue. The performing rights organization also increased their distribution to members by 6.16%, paying out $931 million to its songwriters and publishers. Domestically, $492 million came from television, cable and radio, $140 million came from general licenses, and $152 million came from digital licensees, up 51% from the previous year.
Music publishers, along with photo agencies, are battling claims of licensing works in the public domain. Following a $14 million lawsuit challenging Warner/Chappell’s claim on “Happy Birthday to You,” members of the rock band Satorii are challenging The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music who are maintaining ownership of Woody Guthrie’s iconic folk song, “This Land.” The defendants are warning the judge that being permissive with these kinds of lawsuits could lead to consequences such as the ability of anyone wishing to record a version of a copyrighted song to challenge that copyright in federal court.
Hundreds of musicians, including Hans Zimmer, R. Kelly, and Linkin Park filed a brief in support of the appeal of last year’s “Blurred Lines” ruling. The song was found in violation of copyright based on its atmospheric similarity to Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.” The concern with the judgement, which awarded Marvin Gaye’s descendents $5.3 million in one of the largest damages in music copyright history, is the possibility of its “adverse impact on the creativity of future artists and on the music industry in general.”
Spotify has been creating its own tracks with specific musical guidelines to put on its mood and genre specific playlists. The service has been hiring producers and studio musicians to create these tracks for a flat fee, so Spotify can hold on to the master copyright–it’s not clear, however, who owns the publishing rights. These tracks, some of which have received hundreds of thousands of streams, align with Spotify’s current strategy of creating its own original content.
ASCAP has announced that its 12th Annual ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO will take place in April 2017 in Los Angeles. The conference gives aspiring songwriters, composers, artists, and producers a chance to learn from top creatives in the music industry. Registration for the event open on September 13th, and the first round of panelists will be announced soon.
Clive Davis is honoring singer-songwriter Pharrell with his Legend in Songwriting Award at the 12th annual Songs of Hope event on September 15 in California. The event benefits the City of Hope, a research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases. Previous winner of the prestigious award include Burt Bacharach and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
The Music Publishers Association has joined Operation Creative, an initiative designed to prevent websites from providing unauthorized access to copyrighted content. The initiative, launched in April 2014, is a partnership between the City of London Police and the UK advertising industry and supports approximately 1.7 million jobs in the creative industry in the UK. The MPA is the seventh partner to join Operation Creative, and says the partnership will “strengthen and elevate [their] involvement in combating piracy, in particular with regards to sheet music, which is unique to the music publishing industry.”
The PRS for Music Foundation has teamed up with Music Week to create a new award for the 2016 Women in Music event, the PRS Foundation New Artist Award. The award and the event aim to encourage more women to embrace careers in music, whilst celebrating the achievements of the current generation who will become the role models of the future. The event, which will take place in the UK in November, will add 12 new names to the Hall of Fame which currently includes 40+ outstanding women in the music industry, and award winners in six special categories.