According to Billboard, the Google Justice Department has decided to impose on songwriters a government order that songwriters didn’t want, has never been the business practice and will increase transaction costs on the one thing that is working well in online music licensing: blanket performance rights licenses.
[The Department of Justice] is moving ahead with its interpretation that the two PROs must use 100-percent licensing and can no longer engage in fractionalized licensing — meaning that any rightsholder in songs with multiple songwriters, who may be represented by different PROs, has the right to license the entire song to a user, as long as he accounts to and pays the other songwriters.
At the very least, music publishers fear that this change will lead to reduced royalty rates for songwriters because it will allow music services to rate-shop among the licensors for the lowest rate. Publishers also say that songwriters may end up making different amounts for songs: For instance, they could be hit with double service charges if they weren’t the party to license the song. Also, PROs and publishers wonder if the financial ramifications of this ruling will cut down on collaborations, with some writers choosing only to collaborate with writers within their own PRO.
I’m still trying to figure where this ridiculous idea came from, but it definitely didn’t come from any music publisher. The DOJ would evidently like us to believe that it hit them like Paul on the road to Damascus. We’ll see what the record actually shows about this, but the only one that will be helped by this “interpretation” is anyone who wants to destroy PROs and blanket licensing.
Not only will this absurd “interpretation” impose rules on songwriters that have never been even thought of before by the all-powerful U.S. government, the Department of Justice is unilaterally interfering with every joint administration agreement ever entered into by songwriters or music publishers in which the writers agreed to administer their own shares. That’s literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of private contracts going back 100 years.
It will also potentially destroy valuations attributed to publishing catalogs–as if songwriters haven’t already been crushed by the Department of Justice’s utter failure to protect the property rights of American citizens from piracy.
Of course, songwriters now have to decide if they will fight this issue in court, at great expense, probably millions in legal fees fighting the government’s bottomless pit of lawyers at the Department of Justice.
This decision must become a campaign issue. The DOJ is an executive branch agency, and this issue is unlikely to be resolved before the next President takes office. You must ask your candidate whether they will permit the DOJ to run roughshod over songwriters and music publishers and whether the candidate will instruct the DOJ to keep their sticky fingers out of private contracts where they are not invited.
Why? Because if a private corporation like Google can influence the Department of Justice to this degree, there’s no stopping them.
And they will keep sticking it to us until someone gets unelected.
If they can do this, they can do anything.
The head of the DOJ Antitrust Division is a former Google lawyer–so DOJ ruling against songwriters on 100% licensing to Google’s benefit should come as no surprise.
Gary Reback, one of the top antitrust lawyers in the world, said Google’s heavy investment in lobbying the UK government through David Cameron crony Rachel Whetstone and others just saw their influence in Europe wiped out by Brexit.
I’m pleased to have been asked by the brilliant Gigi Johnson to reprise our SXSW panel at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Center for Music Innovation on July 20 from 6-7:30 pm. Gigi will moderate and has invited Sam Kling from SESAC and Ted Cohen from TAG to join. It’s also a treat to be doing something in a building with the name “Herb Alpert” on it once again.
If you have an interest in where our business is going, please try to attend. We had a wonderfully informative panel at SXSW and I’m sure this one will be, too. I know everyone is busy particularly in the evenings, but I’d really appreciate your coming.
Details to follow, here is the Eventbrite link to RSVP (free admission).
Zephyr Teachout faced the voters yesterday in the Democratic Party primary for the 19th Congressional District to replace the retiring Chris Gibson (a former combat veteran bird colonel, Airborne Ranger with the CIB, Purple Heart, and other distinctions). In a weak start to her general election campaign, she seems to have tried to quietly resigned from a public association with a controversial anti-artist lobby shop rather than face legitimate questions from her artist constituents
Candidate Teachout is definitely fascinated with getting into a powerful position–she challenged NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in his latest winning campaign for governor and got a respectable 30%ish of the vote. (Teachout outraised her opponent 2:1 according to the most recent disclosures, thanks in part to a corporate donation from George Soros‘s Soros Fund Management.) A former lobbyist, she’s clearly got her own machine and isn’t worried about his.
While Progressives may be drawn to this former operator of the failed Lessig Super PAC (see Zephyr Teachout takes over Larry Lessig’s PAC), several musicians including Jack DeJohnette and Marc Ribot have publicly asked Candidate Teachout to publicly state her positions on protecting artist rights.
Good news: There are two bills currently pending in the House of Representatives to which Candidate Teachout seeks election that sum this up nicely but that are both opposed by the kind of people who gave money to the Lessig Super PAC she once ran. If elected, will Candidate Teachout endorse the Songwriter Equity Act and the Fair Play Fair Pay Act should these bills not pass in the current Congress and be reintroduced?
In particular, while being transparent, she could also explain why she was in the vanguard of one of the premier anti-artist operations and why that’s good for NY-19, an area that prides itself on having the highest per capita number of artists than anywhere in the United States.
She’s done neither–but appears to have quietly resigned from her controversial position with Fight for the Future “Education Fund”.
Now why do you suppose that happened and happened that way?
Transparency for Thee But Not for Me
If you’ve followed local politics in the 19th, you’ll know two things: First, Woodstock is in the district. Remember Woodstock? The defining musical moment for a generation? Remember Albert Grossman, Bearsville Studios, Big Pink, Bob Dylan and The Band? Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble? All in Woodstock. In fact, I was able to attend a Ramble when Levon performed even though he was too sick to sing. Dying on the bandstand is rather emblematic of the credibility problem facing Candidate Teachout.
And nowhere is her problem more highlighted than in her governance position with the Fight for the Future Education Fund. You may not be aware that Candidate Teachout is–or maybe was–on the board directors of Fight for the Future Education Fund (right next to a self-described Google consultant).
The lobbying group is backed by the Consumer Electronics Association and the Center for Democracy and Technology, among others, including the usual “dark pool” foundations that appear in my view to potentially launder money for corporations who want to keep up appearances–such as Google. (Corporation gives to foundation which then gives to lobbying group or “public interest” group that furthers corporations agenda with public messaging–dark pool foundations.)
A Cover Up is Coming
So–why would Candidate Teachout not respond to the questions raised by Jack and Lydia DeJohnette in The Trichordist? The great drummer raises questions that should be of concern to anyone who cares about property rights and the rule of law, not to mention the devastation wrought on artists by the Big Tech interests that Candidate Teachout appears so comfortable with. (For example, the CEO of Linkedin and Spotify board member Sean Parker gave $1 million and $500,000 respectively to Lessig PAC).
Four Questions for Zephyr Teachout Candidate US House of Representatives Democratic Primary NY-19
- Do you personally support the anti-artist, anti-copyright agenda of Fight For The Future, where you served as Director of the Education Fund? If so, please explain why you hold that position. If not, please explain how your views differ from the messages of that organization.
- Do you recognize that mass, online copyright infringement causes direct harm to people like me? As my prospective representative, will you fight for my ability to support myself and my family with my creative work?
- You’re running on a message that is very important to democrats – holding corporations accountable and getting big money out of politics. Can you say without equivocation that Fight For The Future reflects these values?
Do you support Jerrold Nadler’s Fair Play Fair Pay bill, which would bring the US into conformity with the rest of the free industrialized world by paying artists for the commercial, terrestrial radio broadcast of their work (and put tens of millions in foreign royalties now being withheld due to the lack of US reciprocity into the pockets of US working artists)?
The Great Artist Revolt: Are Apple Music and Spotify a Solution to a Post-YouTube Reality? — Music Tech Solutions
Labels need to be coming to grips with a succession plan when YouTube negotiations fail to satisfy artist concerns–Apple and Spotify are logical choices.
By The Time We Get To Woodstock…. This Tuesday, Zephyr Teachout, director of the anti-artist FFTF (Fight For The Future)’s 501c3, is running in the Democratic primary in NY’s 19th congressional district (Hudson Valley, including Woodstock) Although Teachout is running as a progressive, and is indeed progressive on many issues, the FFTF is about as regressive on artists rights/copyright […]