No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition: Second Order Effects on Recordings of MLC’s Hunt for AI in Songs

To recap, the Copyright Office essentially authorized the MLC to hold otherwise earned royalties because the amateur sleuths at the MLC:

Where circumstances reasonably indicate to the collective that a musical work registered in its database lacks the human authorship necessary to qualify for copyright protection (for example, where a songwriter claims that they created an extraordinary number of musical works in an unusually short time period or makes affirmative statements that a musical work was created by AI), it is appropriate for the collective to conduct a timely investigation into the work’s copyrightability and hold any royalties that would otherwise be allocated to that work pending its investigation.

I pointed out that if the MLC already has received royalties (which it necessarily must have done in order to have royalties to hold), then MLC likely has invoiced DSPs already and also likely has made the absurdly complex royalty calculation required for streaming mechanicals. (Contrast with physical and downloads which are a flat penny rate, much easier to calculate and infinitely easier to audit.)

So if the MLC is going to hold royalties, it should also hold units, i.e., not count the streams yet in the streaming mechanical royalty pool that applies to everyone else. Otherwise, they are counting streams in the denominator that shouldn’t be there or shouldn’t be there yet, so everyone else’s royalty that uses that inflated denominator is UNDER.

What now about the corresponding sound recordings? If the MLC is going to tell us which songs “lack the human authorship necessary to qualify for copyright protection”, wouldn’t that determination likely be dispositive of whether the recording of that song is also lacking? And doesn’t that mean that the Copyright Office has determined that the MLC will be policing the entire music ecosystem to test for human souls? Wouldn’t the denominator on the sound recording side also be overstated? I wonder how the labels feel about that.

If that’s not what the Copyright Office intends, then I’m all ears. I must say elevating the MLC into that exalted position would be unexpected. But then, as a wise person once said, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Yet another reason why Big Tech was willing to pay for the MLC to get that hot potato tossed to someone else.