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Posts Tagged ‘MIC Coalition’

Holding the Line on Tradeoffs for Statutory Damages

October 1, 2017 1 comment

It is very likely that we will hear about a move to make significant amendments to the Copyright Act at some point before the beginning of campaign season in 2018.  There are a high number of copyright-related bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives in the current session, so brace yourself for an “omnibus” copyright bill that would try to cobble them all together Frankenstein-style.

A Frankenstein omnibus bill would be a very bad idea in my view and will inevitably lead to horse trading of fake issues against a false deadline.  Omnibus bills are a bad idea for songwriters and artists, particularly independent songwriters and artists, because omnibus bills tend to bring together Corporate America in attack formation.

MIC Coaltion

The MIC Coalition

When you consider that Google and Facebook are part of Corporate America (not to mention Apple), the odds of the independent songwriter and artist, but really any songwriter and artist, just holding onto the few crumbs they currently have crash and burn.  The odds of actually righting wrongs or–God forbid–getting rid of the legacy consent decrees that protect Big Business vanish into the limit.

Of course, what certain elements of Big Tech would really like to do is push all licensing of music into one organization that they could then control through consent decrees or other government regulation and supervision by exercise of the massive lobbying and litigation muscle of the MIC Coalition and DIMA.  While I realize that may actually sound anti-competitive, it is typical of monopolists to use the antitrust law to destroy competition (as Professor Taplin has taught us).   That’s certainly what has happened with the PRO consent decrees–reduced competition and lower royalties.  Not to mention such a licensing organization would collapse under its own complexity.  This is probably why the Copyright Office envisioned a “Music Rights Organization” that would combine the PROs and mechanical rights licensing but provided the relief valve of an new opt-out right so that songwriters could escape the madness.  (“Under the Office’s proposal, except to the extent they chose to opt out of the blanket statutory system, publishers and songwriters would license their public performance and mechanical rights through MROs.”  Copyright Office Music Licensing Study at p. 9)

If you want some ideas about the kinds of property rights that Big Tech wants the government to take away from songwriters and artists, just read Spotify’s most recent filing in the songwriter litigation in Nashville where their lawyer tries to define away mechanical royalties (unsurprisingly, the lawyer is a long-time protege of Lessig).  Why?  Because they are being brought to a trial by their peers on statutory damages for copyright infringement and the potential for having to pay the songwriters’ lawyers due to a statutory right to recover attorneys fees.  (Statutory damages for copyright infringement has long been an attack point of Big Tech and we get a preview of where they want it to go in Pamela Samuelson’s “Copyright Principles Project”–essentially abolished.)

One way or another, the Big Tech cartel (which includes all the companies in the MIC Coalition and MIC Coalition member the Digital Media Association which itself has members like Spotify and, curiously, Apple) is very likely going to go after statutory damages and try to create yet another “safe harbor” for themselves with no burdens–a “friction free” way to infringe pretty much at will because the actual damages for streaming royalties will be pennies.

If the cartel succeeds in eliminating statutory damages and attorneys fees awards, this will truly make copyright infringement litigation toothless and entirely eliminate the one tool that independent songwriters and artists have to protect their rights.  It will neuter massive copyright infringement as alleged in all of the Spotify class actions, not to mention cases like Limewire.

Oh, you say–did you just switch from song copyrights to sound recording copyrights by referencing Limewire?  Yes, I did–because that’s exactly what I predict the DIMA and MIC Coalition have in mind.  Why do I say this?  Because that’s what these companies are backing in the radioactive Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership bill (HR 3350).  And if you blow up all the current separate bills into one omnibus copyright “reform” bill, the pieces may reconstitute in forms you didn’t expect.

But realize that in almost all the many copyright bills currently before the House of Representatives, the other side is trying to bootstrap unjust harm into a negotiation chip to shakedown creators.  And it’s not just pending legislation–the shakedown is especially observable with the millions of notices of intention to rely on statutory mechanical licenses for songs filed with the Copyright Office.  That’s a nice song you got there, it would be a shame if something happened to it.

Big Tech’s basic negotiation method is to rely on a loophole, bootstrap the loophole to build up the pressure on people who can’t fight back, then run the shakedown to get concessions that should never be made.  This is what Google has done with the DMCA and is the same shakedown tactic on mass NOIs taken by Google, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify, and others–but curiously not Apple.  Somehow Apple has made it work with the most successful digital music platform in history.

Let’s go down the issue list:

Bootstrapped Issue Fix Bill
Pandora and Sirius stopped paying artists for digital royalties on pre-72 recordings—because of loophole based on federal copyright protection for sound recordings Start paying artist royalties on classic recordings made before 1972 CLASSICS Act
Terrestrial radio created a loophole so they don’t have to pay performance royalties to artists on sound recordings; stop artists from opting out Start paying artist royalties for broadcast radio (with protection for noncommercial and small broadcasters) Fair Pay Fair Play Act, PROMOTE Act
Big tech suddenly started using a loophole to file millions of “address unknown” NOIs with Copyright Office after indie songwriters filed class actions Require Big Tech to use existing databases to look up copyright owners or don’t use the songs or recordings. None
No “central database” that has all songs (but no requirement to actually look up anything), requires double registration If songwriters and artists don’t register, then no statutory damages Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act

Blown up into parts:

–Avoid raising mechanical royalty rate or paying artist royalties on terrestrial at all

–How to use the lack of the mythical “central database” as a bright and shiny object to avoid paying royalties and shirk liability for not doing copyright research, an absurd position for companies that owe much of their wealth to their unprecedented ability to profile people around the world and “organize the world’s information”

–Avoid paying statutory damages

–How to avoid paying royalties that should have paid anyway (pre-72, terrestrial, mass NOI) through distorted interpretations of the law or even safer harbors

–Avoid an obligation to actually look up anything (new databases)

–Use any work they want if all they have to pay is actual damages and no attorneys fees

–Keep songwriters and artists from opting out

–Create biggest black box possible

It should be apparent which way Big Tech is trying to push the creative community.  It is important for creators to understand that any legislative concession that the MIC Coalition or DIMA win against songwriters or artists they will then turn around and try to extract in the next shakedown–authors, photographers, film makers, all the copyright categories.

It is in everyone’s interest to support a healthy creative community that will continue to engage fans and do enough commerce to create value for the tech monopolies.  But–it is crucial to understand that it doesn’t work the other way around.

The purpose of the creative community is not to create value for tech monopolies.  It is to support compelling artists and help them engage with fans, and sometimes it is art for art’s sake alone.  If those artists throw off some commercial gain that the tech monopolies can turn to profit themselves, fine.  But creating profit for these monopolists is not the goal of artists.

Instead of creating fake problems to try to extract concessions that further undermine creators like offering ice in winter, the tech monopolies like Google, Spotify, Amazon and Pandora should identify real problems and work with us toward real solutions–and not a loophole-driven shakedown.

 

 

@philouza: New Bill Calling For Transparency In Music Is Surprisingly Opaque — Artist Rights Watch

August 2, 2017 Comments off

NPR’s Andrew Flanagan on the controversial Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act (TIMLAOA).

via @philouza: New Bill Calling For Transparency In Music Is Surprisingly Opaque — Artist Rights Watch

Controversial Bill On Music Licensing Has Nothing to Do with Small Business

August 1, 2017 Comments off

I dreamed up a startling new technique to attempt to divine whether the true purpose of the controversial Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act (or…”TIMLOA”?)  was intended to protect small business as advertised by the MIC Coalition.  I determined that the safe harbors  in the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act (or as it’s been called, The Shiv Act) was actually designed to protect the biggest of big business.

What startling new technique did I utilize?  I read the bill.

What you don’t find in the bill is anything that limits its application to small business.  Is it common in music licensing legislation to find such protections?  Absolutely.   This wasn’t what I expected to find given the braying of the Disco Ducks.  But then you know what they say…

The Fair Play Fair Pay Act, for example, has special protection in great specificity for small business like noncommercial broadcasters, public broadcasters and small broadcasters.

The Performance Rights Act (from the 110th Congress) also had very clear exemptions for small broadcasters.

While as a matter of propaganda it ignores these protections, the Local Radio Freedom Act (aka “The Pay Your Rent With Exposure Bucks Act”) is very clear about protecting a particular class of broadcasters: “local radio.”

Exposure Bucks

Yet none of this protective language appears in the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act.  Why doesn’t the TIMLOA have such limiting language if it’s actually all about protecting small business?  Maybe because it’s not about small business at all?  Maybe it’s about these guys in the MIC Coalition:

mic-coaltion-8-15

Realize some MIC Coalition members are themselves trade associations for companies with combined market capitalizations over $1 trillion.  When you see logos for Digital Media Association, the CEA (now called the Consumer Technology Association) and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (home of the Disco Ducks) these are themselves made up of massive companies like Apple, Amazon, YouTube and of course Google, not to mention Spotify.  True small business can’t afford these lobbyists and PR firms (like the Glen Echo Group) this starts to look like the astroturf plant it really is.

So don’t let them tell you that the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act  is about small business, unless the MIC Coalition would like to include the kind of protective language in their bill that our business has always included to protect the real small business.

 

Don’t Believe the Astroturf: Yet More Regulations Won’t Help Songwriters or Small Business — Music Tech Solutions

July 31, 2017 Comments off

By Chris Castle

“[Government] interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding.” James Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 44

There is a bill in Congress backed by the mega lobbying juggernaut called the MIC Coalition that would force songwriters and artists to “register” with the government in order to protect their rights from the biggest corporations in the world. Failing to do so would take away the stick of statutory damages and an award of attorneys fees to songwriters or artists who are victorious in copyright infringement litigation. Statutory damages and attorneys’ fees are the only real protection that the government gives these creators–the smallest of small businesses.

via Don’t Believe the Astroturf: Yet More Regulations Won’t Help Songwriters or Small Business — Music Tech Solutions

The Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act: The Domesday Book Meets A Unicorn — Music Tech Solutions

July 27, 2017 Comments off

Americans are freedom loving people and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.

Long Long Time, written by Guy Forsyth

Longtime PRO opponent Rep. Sensenbrenner introduced a bill entitled “The Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act“, a piece of work that is Dickensian in its cruelty, bringing a whole new meaning to either “newspeak” or “draconian,” take your pick.  It’s rare that the Congress can accomplish the hat trick of an interference with private contracts, an unconstitutional taking and an international trade treaty violation all in one bill.  But I guess practice makes perfect.  And since the MIC Coalition gave the bill a rousing cheer followed by a heaping serving of astroturf, we should not be surprised.  (Read the bill here.)

While this legislation currently applies only to songs and sound recordings, other creators should not feel that they’ve dodged a bullet.  I hear that the House Judiciary Committee staff is planning on closing the loop and making all copyright categories subject to the same “register or lose it” approach favored by Lessig, Samuelson and their fellow travelers.  If you thought that we are in an era of the triumph of property rights, that must be a different Congress you’re thinking of.

The bill perpetuates the myth of the “global rights database” that no one who understands the complexities believes will ever be created.  It sounds logical, right?  We have county recorders for real estate, the DMV for cars, why not a database for music?

That is an 11th century idea being welded onto a 21st century problem, the Domesday Book meets a unicorn.  The problem isn’t knowing who owns a particular work which evidently is either what they believe or want you to believe.

The problem is that the users don’t want to seek permission or beg forgiveness, either.  They want to get away with it.  This bill demonstrates that unassailable fact in colors bold as the Google logo.

Think about it–by the time you finish reading this post, 1000 songs will be written and 500 songs will be recorded somewhere out there in the world.  Or more.  (Not to mention photographs taken,  paintings painted, chapters written and so on.)

Do you think that songwriters around the world are thinking, now I know what lets do, let’s rush to go register that new song in the U.S. Copyright Office–in the database, the registration section, the recordation section?  Otherwise, I’ll never be able to afford the lawyer to sue Spotify if they don’t pay me.  I don’t think they’re thinking that at all and are about to fall into the MIC Association’s trap for the unwary.  Why the MIC Coalition?  We’ll come back to them.

mic-coalition-no-npr

MIC Coalition Members

In a nutshell, the bill requires the extraordinarily heavy burden of requiring all songwriters and recording artists (or their publishers or labels)–all, as in the entire world seeking to sue in the U.S., not just the US writers–to register numerous fields of data in a yet to be created database if they plan on suing for statutory damages:

[I]n an action brought under this title for infringement of the exclusive right to perform publicly, reproduce, or distribute a nondramatic musical work or sound recording, the remedies available to a copyright owner [ANY copyright owner] that has failed to provide or maintain the information [required] shall be limited to…(A) an order requiring the infringer to pay to the copyright owner actual damages for the public performance, reproduction, or distribution of the infringed work; and…(B) injunctive relief to prevent or restrain any infringement alleged in the civil action.

That means if you haven’t undertaken the formality of registering in this new database, then the user has no exposure to statutory damages and will not have to pay the victorious songwriter or artists attorneys’ fees.  And this new safe harbor applies apparently even if that songwriter or artist has filed a copyright registration under existing law.

There is nothing in the bill that actually requires the protected class to actually look up anything in this new database, or actually be in compliance with existing statutory licenses (such as the webcasting or simulcasting licenses).

So who is in the new protected class entitled to the Nanny State’s protection from those collusive and pesky songwriters and artists?  Let’s look at the victimology of the “ENTITLEMENT” paragraph.

Well, actually, there’s no “ENTITLEMENT” paragraph for the entitled, it’s actually called “APPLICABILITY” (see “newspeak”, WAR IS PEACE, etc.).  The connected class includes five different categories of cronies.

First, the defined term “An establishment” gets the new even safer harbor.  “Establishment” is a defined term in the Copyright Act (in Sec. 101 for those reading along at home):

An “establishment” is a store, shop, or any similar place of business open to the general public for the primary purpose of selling goods or services in which the majority of the gross square feet of space that is nonresidential is used for that purpose, and in which nondramatic musical works are performed publicly.

Like the members of this organization, the National Retail Federation:

mic-coaltion-8-15 Retailers

Then another defined term “A food service or drinking establishment”.  Kind of like these people:

mic-coaltion-8-15 Booze

That is, the National Restaurant Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association  (aka those who put their kids through college thanks to SXSW) and their suppliers, the American Beer, Wine and Spirits Retailers.

Next, “A terrestrial broadcast station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission”.  I guess that would include the National Association of Broadcasters, iHeart, Salem and Cox (which of course raises the question of whether this entitlement also applies to Cox’s Internet group), kind of like these people:

mic-coaltion-8-15 radio

Don’t forget “An entity operating under one of the statutory licenses described in section 112, 114 [webcasting and simulcasting], or 115 [mechanical licenses].”  Note–not that the statutory license applies to the particular song or sound recording in the way it is used that is the subject of the lawsuit, just that the entity is operating some part of its business under one of those licenses regardless of whether the service that is the subject of the lawsuit operates under one of these licenses or not.  (Pandora’s on-demand service compared to webcasting, for example, could be out of compliance with its sound recording licenses but claim the safe harbor because it is “operating under” one or more of the statutory webcasting license in the radio service or the statutory mechanical licenses for songs.)

It appears that would include these people:

mic-coaltion-DiMA Members

and don’t forget these people who are DiMA members and need the government’s protection from songwriters and artists:

Amazon logo

white apple logo

Microsoft Logo

Spotify_logo

And then I guess you could throw the Consumer Technology Association and CCIA in there, too.

So I think that’s everyone, right?

Last but not least there’s this group as “belt and suspenders”:

An entity performing publicly, reproducing, or distributing musical works or sound  recordings in good faith as demonstrated by evidence such as [i.e., but not limited to] a license agreement in good standing with a performing rights society or other entity authorized to license the use of musical works or sound recordings.

Note:  The license need not be for the musical works or sound recordings for which the “entity” is being sued, just any license for any musical works or sound recordings.

There are loopholes in the bill that you could drive a fleet of Street View cars through, so you have to assume that the loopholes will be hacked given who is involved.  Don’t let anyone tell you “oh that’s just legislative language, we can fix that.”  The whole thing has to be voted down.

Let’s call this bill what it is:  Crony capitalism, the triumph of the connected class.  The Domesday Book writ large.

It’s some of the biggest companies in the world deciding that they don’t want to hear from songwriters or artists anymore.

So shut up and sing.

[This post originally appeared on Music Tech Solutions]

 

 

Funny How that Works: @edchristman reports: Irving Azoff, Top Radio Groups Reach Temporary Licensing Agreement

December 27, 2016 Comments off
mic-coalition-rmlc

The MIC Coalition

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.)

As Ed Christman reports in Billboard:

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.

 

The MTP Podcast: Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley of SONA and David Lowery on DOJ’s “Union Busting” Gambit Against Songwriters

August 17, 2016 1 comment

In an explosive conversation, Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley talk with David Lowery and Chris Castle about Songwriters of North America, their experiences with lawyers from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division in the lead-up to the DOJ’s decision on “100% licensing,” and disingenuous behavior by the government’s lawyers that crossed the line into “union busting.”

Michelle and Kay

Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley

—in an ex parte communication, Antitrust Division Section Chief David C. Kully advised a witness in an ongoing Justice Department inquiry to withdraw from ASCAP as a solution to 100% licensing, knowing she was represented by counsel.

—Justice Department lawyers chose to conduct meetings and telephonic communications with songwriters in which DOJ lawyers read aloud from proposed text of their 100% licensing statement in an effort to build a false consensus among songwriters and refused to provide a written draft of the statement for public comment.

hesse

—At the direction of former Google lawyer and DOJ official Renata B. Hesse, the lawyers also told SONA members that no transcripts existed of these telephonic communications.  If true, it is highly unusual for the Justice Department to engage in such contacts with interested parties without preserving a record of such meetings to be made available to the public and preserved as customary federal record keeping.  The lawyers’ statement is more likely another lie or obfuscation.

 

 

Show notes:

Links to documents we discuss on the MTP Podcast with Michelle Lewis, Kay Haneley, David Lowery on the DOJ’s new policy on 100% licensing.

Songwriters of North America Website

@wearesonala

The Trichordist

cranky

Podcast theme from “March of the Billionaires” written by Davey Faragher, Johnny Hickman, David Lowery & Michael Urbano, performed by Cracker from their 2014 album, Berkeley to Bakersfield used courtesy of Cracker.

Doc McStuffins

Department of Justice Statement on 100% Licensing

MIC Coalition Letter to DOJ Lawyer Renata Hesse

BMI’s Premotion Letter to Judge Stanton re Obama Justice Department Ruling on 100% Licensing

The Obama Administration Is Lame Ducking An Unworkable Burden on Songwriters: 4 Reasons Why It’s Bad Law by Chris Castle (Huffington Post)

Guest Post by Stephen Carlisle: ASCAP and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DOJ Decision That’s Going to Create Chaos in the Music Industry

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