Series 3 of The Artist Rights Watch Podcast is here! Nik, David, and Chris are joined by attorney Kevin Casini to talk about the latest with the Copyright Royalty Board and mechanical rates in the Phonorecords IV proceeding.
ARW Podcast S3E1: Unfreezing Mechanicals show notes
On the this episode of the Artist Rights Watch, Nik, David, and Chris sit down to talk about the recent developments with the CRB and mechanicals with lawyer and advocate, Kevin Casini. The Copyright Royalty Board who herein will more than likely be referred to as the CRB, ‘is a US system of three copyright reality judges who determines rates and terms for copyright statutory licenses and make determinations on distribution of statutory license royalties collected by the US Copyright Office.’ The US mechanical royalties are determined by the CRB and they meet every 5 years to determine the rate. Songwriter groups argued for a higher rate, and the CRB agreed. On March 29, 2022 the CRB agreed to unfreeze the $0.091 mechanical royalty rate which would commence a fight for a new rate in the 2023-2027 period. Over the past few years, there has been numerous criticisms about the constant rule for freezing the mechanical royalty rate. The royalty rate currently is $0.091 which was set back in 2006, and frankly, songwriters are making less money due to economic inflation.
Many readers participated in the Physical and Download Mechanical Rates Survey that various organizations have sent to their members over the last few weeks. Here are the results of the main questions for which we had 361 respondents who self-selected their participation. (Other answers included comments which we chose not to publish for privacy reasons.).
The results suggest that participants were mostly informed songwriters who had never been asked before what they thought about the issues in the Copyright Royalty Board. We would have to conclude that any of our regular readers would be a bit skewed toward knowledgeable because between the Trichordist, MusicTechPolicy, ARW, Hypebot and Celebrity Access we were probably carrying a very high percentage of the available information on the frozen mechanicals issues.
It also is striking how few respondents said they had ever been asked what they think about any mechanical rates (physical, download, streaming), an important and easily measurable issue. This is something to add to the learning from this episode. It may be that our data is skewed, but even so we didn’t expect that 68% would say they’d never even been asked their opinion. An easy way to find out what people think about something is to ask them.
The music industry has a sudden interest in being very ESG. The public messaging on the “Music Climate Pact” seems to focus on all aspects of the music business EXCEPT streaming. Now why might that be? It may be because streaming is about the least ESG music and movie distribution method out there. Remember, ESG is a popular acronym that labels a company suitable for investing by people like BlackRock’s Larry Fink (who has been called out for investing heavily in the People’s Republic of China by none other than George Soros, which kind of says it all).
I thought this might be a good time to revisit the “data center lobbying” connection that we first posted about three years ago.
While they like the ESG label, they actually don’t look too hard at what they are applying the label to. A quick refresher–“E” stands for “Environment” which streaming fails for reasons we will discuss on the podcast and are discussed in the Minute Earth video above–especially true for YouTube and TikTok. “S” is for “Social” which company’s like Spotify fail miserably due to their exploitative royalty systems, multibillion dollar stock buybacks that only benefit insiders and income inequality. “G” is for “Governance”, and again companies like Spotify don’t get out of the gate on G because of their supervoting shares of stock that give Daniel Ek and his insider pal Martin Lorentzon 100% control over all Spotify governance decisions regardless of what Spotify’s replaceable board has to say or votes. And we haven’t even mentioned Tencent, the PRC surveillance company or Ek’s own investment in digital munitions.
So there’s that.
But–there’s also a connection in the US (and probably other countries) between the physical location of Big Tech data centers and political power. That’s called Senator Ron Wyden, who just happens to be on the wrong side of every copyright issue (including the unrealized capital gains tax that would crush songwriters and publishers who are selling their song catalogs).
Be advised, then–when they start whinging about ESG, etc., for the music business, we should really be starting with streaming itself, and indeed, the entire Internet. And the political clout that goes with running that network of physical plant.
“Upload your latest holiday photos to Facebook, and there’s a chance they’ll end up stored in Prineville, Oregon, a small town where the firm has built three giant data centres and is planning two more. [Hello, Senator Wyden.] Inside these vast factories, bigger than aircraft carriers, tens of thousands of circuit boards are racked row upon row, stretching down windowless halls so long that staff ride through the corridors on scooters.
These huge buildings are the treasuries of the new industrial kings: the information traders. The five biggest global companies by market capitalization this year are currently Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook, replacing titans such as Shell and ExxonMobil. Although information factories might not spew out black smoke or grind greasy cogs, they are not bereft of environmental impact. As demand for Internet and mobile-phone traffic skyrockets, the information industry could lead to an explosion in energy use.”
“Data centers are the backbone of the modern economy — from the server rooms that power small- to medium-sized organizations to the enterprise data centers that support American corporations and the server farms that run cloud computing services hosted by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others. However, the explosion of digital content, big data, e-commerce, and Internet traffic is also making data centers one of the fastest-growing consumers of electricity in developed countries, and one of the key drivers in the construction of new power plants.
Google emits less than 8 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per day to serve an active Google user—defined as someone who performs 25 searches and watches 60 minutes of YouTube a day, has a Gmail account, and uses our other key services.”
In Google-speak “less than 8” usually means 7.9999999999. So let’s call it 8. As of 2016 there were 1 billion active gmail users. So rough justice, Google acknowledges that it emits about 8 billion grams of carbon dioxide daily, or 9,000 tons. And based on the characteristically tricky way Google framed the measurement, that doesn’t count the users who don’t have a gmail account, don’t use “our other key services” and may watch more than an hour a day of YouTube.