September 22nd, 2017
Content Creators Coalition (c3) Warns Congress About Artist And Songwriter Opposition To “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act”
Washington, D.C. – The Content Creators Coalition (c3) today sent the following letter to the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee warning that consideration of H.R. 3350, the so called “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act,” would spark a backlash in the artist community and could derail the Committee’s work to create a consensus copyright reform legislation:
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:
As an artist and songwriter-run advocacy organization, we write to express our strong opposition to H.R. 3350, the “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act.” Recognizing the importance of this issue to our constituents, this letter is signed by every member of our Executive Board.
The Content Creators’ Coalition (c3) strongly supports the Committee’s continual efforts to find consensus around broader copyright reform and to ensure that music licensing is more transparent, particularly to third party beneficiaries of recording contracts. There is little dispute among stakeholders that music licensing, in particular the licensing of musical works, is needlessly opaque. Publishers and record labels agree on this point, as do songwriters, performers and musicians, as well as music servicers and businesses who use music and musical works. There is clearly an opportunity for the Committee to find consensus on these issues.
However, H.R. 3350 does not further efforts to reach consensus – instead, it represents a one-sided approach that would fail to simplify music licensing. We are deeply concerned about the bill’s onerous registration system and financial penalty (forfeiture of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees) for songwriters or publishers who fail to register their works in a new database, created and run by the government.
As a matter of principle, an intellectual property right, like any other property right, should not be subject to forfeiture and the law should help creators understand and protect their rights – not create obstacles courses for them to navigate on pain of losing control over their creative work. This bill, by contrast, actually incentivizes the appropriation of creators’ work based on technical or other often innocent shortcomings, removing key deterrents that should discourage music services from doing so.
The record keeping mandates in the bill are voluminous and incredibly vague. Terms like “catalog number” are undefined and could mean a number of things. Other requirements are intricate, time consuming and in many cases, appear impossible to satisfy. How is an artist supposed to register every album on which one of her songs has been recorded, including recordings by other artists they may not even know about? If these requirements are time consuming and uncertain for successful and well-known songwriters and publishers, they will be impossible for independent songwriters.
Most importantly, the bill also thwarts the Committee’s to create a consensus copyright reform legislation. Both the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act,” creating a terrestrial performance right in the United States, and the “CLASSICS Act,” have support from music creators and digital service providers. While we respect the long standing and good faith efforts of Chairman Sensenbrenner to address these issues, H.R. 3350 only enjoys the support of businesses that use music and is so lopsided it would be a toxic “poison pill” in any copyright reform legislation effort.
We urge the Committee to reject H.R. 3350 and to press ahead at full speed with more genuine music licensing reform. Thank you for considering our views.
Melvin Gibbs, President
John McCrea, Vice President
Tommy Manzi, Treasurer
Jeffrey Boxer, Executive Director
cc: The Honorable Daryl Issa
The Honorable Jerrold Nadler
Before you think it can’t happen to Google or Facebook, remember–if you told a room full of MBAs in 1984 that in a few years time Drexel Burnham Lambert would be bankrupt and Michael Milken would be in prison, you would have been laughed out of the room. And also remember–they almost got Google on violations of the Controlled Substances Act. If you’re concerned, call your representatives at (202) 224-3121 and tell them you want an investigation into Google and its price fixing cartel the MIC Coalition.
The blinding rise of Donald Trump over the past year has masked another major trend in American politics: the palpable, and perhaps permanent, turn against the tech industry. The new corporate leviathans that used to be seen as bright new avatars of American innovation are increasingly portrayed as sinister new centers of unaccountable power, a transformation likely to have major consequences for the industry and for American politics.
That turn has accelerated in recent days: Steve Bannon and Bernie Sanders both want big tech treated as, in Bannon’s words in Hong Kong this week, “public utilities.” Tucker Carlson and Franklin Foer have found common ground. Even the group No Labels, an exquisitely poll-tested effort to create a safe new center, is on board. Rupert Murdoch, never shy to use his media power to advance his commercial interests, is hard at work.
“Anti-trust is back,
baby,” Yelp’s policy chief, Luther Lowe, DM’d me after Fox News gave him several minutes to make the antitrust case against Yelp’s giant rival Google to its audience of millions….
So Facebook should probably ease out of the business of bland background statements and awkward photo ops, and start worrying about congressional testimony. Amazon, whose market power doesn’t fall into the categories envisioned by pre-internet antitrust law, is developing a bipartisan lobby that wants to break it up. Google’s public affairs efforts are starting to look a bit like the oil industry’s. These are the existential collisions with political power that can shake and redefine industries and their leaders, not the nickel-and-dime regulatory games Silicon Valley has played to date.
He’s worked with Carole King, Ani DiFranco, and a host of great Texas artists — but can music producer Mark Hallman keep his studio open in the age of streaming?
Everybody is talking about Spotify and the pros and cons of “free.” Musician and first-time filmmaker Rain Perry confronts a big issue by telling a small story – of the longest continuously operating recording studio in Austin, Texas, and the shopkeeper who runs it, Mark Hallman.
After recording Carole King, Ani DiFranco and many great Austin artists, Mark is struggling to keep the studio open in the era of streaming. Funny, sweet and insightful, with great music and interviews, The Shopkeeper captures the joy, resolute spirit and frustration of musicians today.
Jon Dee Graham
and many more
If you’re not aware of this indie film about producer Mark Hallman and his Congress House Studios, you really should check it out. Rain Perry tells the story that we all know from the point of view of a great craftsman. You can rent or buy the picture directly from the film maker here.
[Editor Charlie sez: From the “Stop Me Before I Infringe Again” Dept….]
Turns out that Google Drive is a whole lot less buttoned up than you may have thought.
The file-sharing service typically associated with spreadsheets and office life has a dirty little secret, and it’s one that our Mountain View overlords may not be so stoked on. Namely, the service is a haven for illegal file-sharing.
The offending goods reportedly include both your standard video files as well as a unique twist on the file sharing MO: Instead of uploading entire movies or shows to Drive itself, people are dropping in scores of unlisted YouTube links.
Essentially, the idea is that unlisted links are less likely to be spotted by automated systems crawling for this sort of thing and are therefore less likely to be pulled. Putting a collection of those links in one Drive and sharing it over social media is like passing around a secret phonebook containing the listings for all your favorite pirated content.
Radio’s relationship with the music industry has changed dramatically in a few short years.
In its prime, radio was the dominant medium for music discovery – both new hits and back catalog. Today, radio exists in a sea of options and online alternatives for music enjoyment.
For many people, radio is no longer the primary source for listening to music. Indeed, radio’s most frequent listeners are 20% to 30% less valuable to the music industry (in terms of per capita expenditures) than less frequent listeners.
“RATHER THAN RESIST THE DIGITAL AGE, RADIO MUST EITHER RIDE THE DIGITAL WAVE OR HAVE IT CRASH ON TOP OF THEM.”
We urge radio to adapt to the new digital reality because the global music ecosystem is better off with a vibrant, innovative broadcast radio industry.
But time is running out for broadcasters to change the way they do business.
[Editor Charlie sez: Here is the judge’s order:
ORDER denying 20 Motion for More Definite Statement. The complaint appears sufficient to allow the defendant to respond. The defendant is free to file a motion to dismiss if they truly believe the complaint is defective. The plaintiff filed a lengthy response which also contained a request for sanctions. Counsel should not mix apples and oranges in a single pleading. To the extent there is an actual motion for sanctions it is denied. Both counsel are cautioned that their language is excessive and personal attacks are not appreciated or helpful to the case. Counsel are also reminded that they must meet and confer before starting this bickering. Both sets of pleadings are too long. One can state the time of day without giving the history of their watch. (JBB) (Entered: 09/14/2017)]
In an important copyright lawsuit from a music publisher that Spotify faces over mechanical rights, a judge just denied a motion from the streaming company that suggested it doesn’t need to license those rights in the first place. Although the denial of the “motion for a more definite statement” means the case can proceed without a revised complaint from the plaintiffs, it does not prevent the company’s attorneys from continuing to make that argument.
In July, Spotify was sued by Robert Gaudio, a songwriter and founding member of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and Bluewater Music Services Corporation, which administers publishing rights for songwriters. The companies allege that Spotify infringed their copyrights by streaming compositions for which it hadn’t licensed “mechanical rights.”
In response, Spotify filed a motion in the Gaudio case for a more definite statement, arguing that the publishers complaints do “not set forth a cogent theory of infringement” because it has no obligation to license mechanical rights in the first place, although the company and other on-demand streaming services have always done so.
On Wednesday, the lawyer for the publishers, Richard Busch, who represented Marvin Gaye’s family in the “Blurred Lines” case, filed a response, as well as a third lawsuit. The cases are important for the entire music business: A loss for Spotify could hurt the company as it prepares for a public stock offering, while a win on these grounds could shake the music publishing business.
In an abstract case, which could hinge on the difference between a public performance and a distribution, the order denying Spotify’s motion is something of a sick burn: It says both sets of pleadings are too long, and that “one can state the time of day without giving the history of their watch.” But it does not rule on the merits of Spotify’s argument, and it points out that the company can file a motion to dismiss the case.