Funny How that Works: @edchristman reports: Irving Azoff, Top Radio Groups Reach Temporary Licensing Agreement
When two rational actors are economically interdependent on one another, disputes tend to get solved at a market clearing price. So it is with Global Music Rights and the goliath Radio Music License Committee that itself is a member of the even bigger goliath MIC Coalition. (My bet is that the Google-backed MIC Coalition is behind the bizarre push for 100% licensing by soon-to-be-former head of the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division, but that’s another story.)
While the Radio Music Licensing Committee and Global Music Rights continue to pursue anti-trust litigation against each other, the boutique performance rights organization started by Irving Azoff is offering temporary licenses that will allow radio stations to continue playing GMR songs without worrying about copyright infringement lawsuits.
According to a statement issued on behalf of GMR by lawyer Dan Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers, representing the PRO in the antitrust litigation; and a letter to RMLC members from RMLC chairman Ed Christian, radio stations have until Jan. 31 to sign an interim license agreement with GMR, which will cover them for playing the PROs songs through Sept. 30, 2017.
Each station willing to enter into the interim license has to contact GMR to see what their fee will be. However, the interim licensing agreement will leave each party the right to seek a retroactive fee adjustment, which could be based on a future licensing agreement subsequent to the interim license; the outcome of the antitrust litigation between the RMLC and GMR; or a possible rate settlement between the RMLC and GMR….
In fact, some music from songwriters in the Who, the Eagles, and by John Lennon and Drake, are no longer covered by ASCAP or BMI, and radio has been playing that music all along during 2016. But people familiar with GMR say they had no intention of suing for copyright infringement as long as RMLC was negotiating rates with the PRO.
Instead, they claim, the RMLC ambushed them with an antitrust lawsuit filed on Nov. 18 in the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court by the law firm of Latham & Watkins. GMR filed its own anti-trust lawsuit, via O’Melveny & Myers, against the RMLC in California Federal Court on Dec. 6.
The songs at issue appear to be for GMR writers who left ASCAP in the last couple years, but arguably remain covered by ASCAP (and BMI) agreements expiring at the end of 2016–you know, next week.
What this comes down to, of course, is the one thing that the MIC Coalition doesn’t seem to think songwriters are much entitled to–property rights. As my old law and economics professor Armen Alchien has written:
A property right is the exclusive authority to determine how a resource is used…One [attribute of private property] is the exclusive right to the services of the resource. Thus, for example, the owner of an apartment with complete property rights to the apartment has the right to determine whether to rent it out and, if so, which tenant to rent to; to live in it himself; or to use it in any other peaceful way. That is the right to determine the use. If the owner rents out the apartment, he also has the right to all the rental income from the property. That is the right to the services of the resources (the rent).
Finally, a private property right includes the right to delegate, rent, or sell any portion of the rights by exchange or gift at whatever price the owner determines (provided someone is willing to pay that price). If I am not allowed [or not required] to buy some rights from you and you therefore are not allowed to sell rights to me, private property rights are reduced. Thus, the three basic elements of private property are (1) exclusivity of rights to choose the use of a resource, (2) exclusivity of rights to the services of a resource, and (3) rights to exchange the resource at mutually agreeable terms….
Private property rights do not conflict with human rights. They are human rights. Private property rights are the rights of humans to use specified goods and to exchange them. Any restraint on private property rights shifts the balance of power from impersonal attributes toward personal attributes and toward behavior that political authorities approve. That is a fundamental reason for preference of a system of strong private property rights: private property rights protect individual liberty.
Or as Gloria Steinem put it, artist rights are human rights. A host of human rights documents are consonant with this view, starting with Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which, incidentally, was itself the inspiration for MTP):
Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
The MIC Coalition routinely runs over the rights of recording artists to fair compensation for the use of their recordings, so it’s a fair assumption that they are used to riding rough on creators and intend to do so with GMRs writers. We can all be thankful that GMR is both standing up for their songwriters and acting reasonably to allow business to get done. Hopefully, mega media corporations will decide that their resources are better spent paying a fair royalty to the songwriters that drive their business rather than unproductive litigation.
You inspire us every day.
After meeting Kanye West, President-elect Trump will meet Google and other Silicon Valley leaders today. We’ve imagined how the conversation might go. RUSHED TRANSCRIPT TRUMP: So. Peter tells me you’re the smartest guys in America. How do you like the furniture? PAGE: Very nice Mr President Elect. TRUMP: Where’s the Russian?
Every now and then we post something that doesn’t have anything to do with music, tech or policy. At this time of year, I always think of those of our people who are walking a post far away in places we know about and don’t know about. They are on watch for all of us, and if you believe the lyric in the Marine’s Hymn, they do it in this life and the next. I would ask that we all think of them in this season of hope.
General Kelly first told this story a shortly after the death of LT. Robert Kelly.
Must See: Google Transparency Project Posts the Google Freedom of Information Act Searchable Archive
The Google Transparency Project is the only collection of public unclassified information about the depth of Google’s government capture. Managed by the Campaign for Accountability, the GTP has provided the public, and particularly artists, with a breathtaking level of detail about just how much access to the levers of government power–and we assume control–that Google has enjoyed, particularly during the administration of President Obama.
Now and for the first time there is an online searchable database of thousands of documents from dozens of government agencies involving Google. Given President Obama’s poor record on complying with Freedom of Information Act requests (see the PBS reporting “Obama administration sets new record for withholding FOIA requests“), it is entirely likely that these documents represent the tip of the iceberg. As GTP tells us:
The Google Transparency Project is compiling in one place all communications between Google executives and US and European officials available through open-records requests. As of December 2016, this collection contains more than 43,000 pages of material. Let us know what you find by contacting us or tweeting it with the hashtag #TheGooglePapers. Researchers: Let us know if you have any documents you’d like to add to the collection.
Try searching the database here. Remember–these are all public documents that were obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests.
The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner has drawn censure from both sides of the political aisle, as well as a Senate hearing that looked into the potential for the combined company to become a monopoly. But if we are going to examine media monopolies, we should look first at Silicon Valley.
The House Judiciary Committee has just issued a carefully worded policy paper regarding the appointment of the next Register–notwithstanding the rather mean spirited “and your little dog, too” justifications given by some in the anti-copyright crowd who are promoting the Library’s recent deal with the Berkman Center’s Digital Public Library of America to turn a digitized Library of Congress into a kind of feeder to Kickass Torrents with sovereign immunity.