There has been a lot of ink spilled over the recent DOJ ruling regarding the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. I’d like to go into it in depth.
If you want to dive right in, you could do worse than to read the many, many comment submissions on the DOJ’s website. In fact, I sent one in myself (PDF).
But as an introduction, I’d like to describe the consent decrees themselves, and briefly go into why they exist. Continue reading
As you probably know, our frosty neighbor to the North is considering a bill that would extend the copyright of sound recordings. The always-excellent Michael Geist has been covering the topic extensively.
It should be noted that the copyright extension was inserted into the general budget with absolutely no public input or debate. (In this, it resembles the language that then-staff-attorney Mitch Glazier snuck into a 1999 U.S. bill, that would steal the copyrights of all musical recording artists. Yes: the Mitch Glazier that is currently Senior Executive Vice President of the RIAA.)
It should also be noted that nobody gave any indication that it was an issue. As Geist explains in his article The Great Canadian Copyright Giveaway:
Term extension for sound recordings and performances was nowhere to be found among the thousands of submissions to the 2010 copyright consultation, it was not discussed in the 2002 Canadian roadmap for copyright reform, and groups like the Canadian Independent Record Production Association and the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada did not raise it in their submissions on copyright reform. The music industry’s form letter did not discuss term extension and it was not an issue that was prominently raised in the 2012 copyright reforms. In fact, just last year the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage conducted a major review of the music industry in Canada with dozens of witnesses taking the time to appear or submit briefs. The final report and the government’s response never raise the term of protection for sound recordings and performances as a concern.
Geist goes into great detail about how this was almost entirely due to back-room lobbying by Music Canada (the Canadian version of the RIAA).
Unfortunately, for those who keep track of copyright policy, none of the above is either shocking or unusual. What is, however, is the story that major publishers have blocked competitors from pressing public domain sound recordings – and screwed over songwriters to do so.
If you have been following stories about Pandora, this headline may surprise you. Did something happen recently? Did they lose some lawsuit? Change their policies?
In fact, nothing whatsoever has changed. Pandora and SiriusXM are paying exactly the same royalties they were yesterday. The key word is the word “artist.” If you think songwriters are “artists,” then the statement is true, and always was. But if you are talking about recording artists – artists who perform the song on the recordings, but did not write the music – then the title is wrong.
Without clarifying which sort of “artist” you’re talking about, the title is misleading. If you are deliberately being misleading, then in my book, you are lying.