[Editor Charlie sez: Because MIC Coalition members got legislation passed that violates international law, the U.S. lost a WTO arbitration so the U.S. taxpayer paid royalties to Irish songwriters that American songwriters don’t get paid. It would have been cheaper for the taxpayer to stop this crony capitalism and require the restaurants to pay songwriters like everyone else.]
The part of the U.S. Copyright Act that exempts some small restaurants and bars from paying public performance fees to collecting societies could be costing rightsholders more than $150 million a year, according to a study by the consultancy PMP Conseil.
The study was presented today (Nov. 8) by Keith Donald, chairman of the Irish Collecting Society IMRO, at a meeting of the International Council of Creators of Music. The research was funded by GESAC, the organization of European composers groups, in an effort to push the U.S. to change its copyright laws.
The issue stems from 1998, when Congress passed the Fairness in Music Licensing Act, which let more bars and restaurants play music on a stereo or television without getting public performance licenses from ASCAP or BMI. (The bill was attached to the Copyright Term Extension Act.) Although more sweeping exemptions in the original text of the bill were withdrawn, the final version allows restaurants and bars of less than 3,750 square feet to play music without a license, provided they meet certain conditions.
After the law took effect, the European Commission began a dispute proceeding against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization, on the grounds that the exemption violated the Berne Convention — which the U.S. is obligated to abide by under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). The WTO ruled in favor of the Commission, and in 2003 and 2004, under the terms of a settlement, the U.S. paid into a European Union fund to benefit songwriters. But it hasn’t paid since then.
Obama like many political leaders has relied upon songwriters to shape his public persona and image. But Obama has also allowed his antitrust division to relentlessly persecute songwriters in ways that benefit Silicon Valley firms that are among his largest campaign donors.
Politicians, especially democratic politicians have always appealed to songwriters and performers for help campaigning and in shaping their images. But once the election is over we never see anything in return. Not even a “thank you.” But our long running abusive relationship with politicians seems to have hit a new low. It appears the Obama DOJ purposely waited until after all those celebrity/songwriter/performer campaign rallies were finished before they renewed their “100% licensing” legal crusade against songwriter non-profits BMI and ASCAP.
The US Copyright Office has been given a brutal Silicon Valley-style sacking, the first time the Copyright Register has been dismissed in 119 years.
Maria A Pallante was locked out of her computer on Friday, according to Billboard, on the instructions of her boss, a new Obama appointee, Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.
“Officially, Pallante has been appointed as a senior adviser for digital strategy for the Library of Congress, although it’s clear she was asked to step down,” Billboard’s Robert Levine notes.
Critics see the move as in line with Silicon Valley asserting its influence over the US Government via its agencies in the dog days of the Obama Administration. Just last month, as Hayden started the post, the Google-funded group Public Knowledge attacked the Copyright Office for upholding the copyright laws.
“Pallante was the only one standing between Google and what is left of the copyright system,” wrote David Lowery on the Trichordist blog, which campaigns for better deals for songwriters and musicians.
Controversial decisions by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission have all resulted in proposals or decisions that advanced the business interests of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.
[Editor Charlie sez: The title of this post could have been “Usual Suspects Are At It Again”]
In a letter submitted to the FCC late last week defending the Commission’s deeply flawed set-top box proposal, a group of professors make an incredible claim: Everyone is perfectly free to distribute copyrighted works online however they please. No license? No problem! According to these professors, many of whom teach copyright law, copyright owners have no distribution right in cyberspace. If you think this sounds wrong, you’re right! This claim sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous, and it’s simply amazing—and troubling—that professors would mislead the FCC in this way.
The professors argue that a copyright owner’s “right to distribute encompasses the distribution of physical copies of a work, not electronic transmissions.” In support, they cite no case law whatsoever. There’s a good reason for this: None exists. The reality is that every single court that has ever considered this argument on the merits has rejected it. Time and again, this argument has been summarily dismissed by the courts. As the Nimmer on Copyright treatise puts it: “No court has held to the contrary on this issue[.]” Yet, the professors present this to the FCC as an accurate description of the law, with no equivocation whatsoever.
The FCC has called off a planned Thursday vote on a proposal that would require that cable and satellite operators offer a free app so subscribers could forgo the rental of a set-top box.
“We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commission Mignon Clyburn and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement released about a half an hour before the meeting.