Biggest Corps in Commercial History Can’t Figure Out How to Pay Songwriters

Here it is: Remember how Spotify, Google, Amazon, Pandora have literally dozens of lawyers arguing over song royalties for a good four years? Probably longer. Remember how these knuckleheads whined to Congress for yet another safe harbor in the so very modern Music Modernization Act? And remember how if they just had a global rights database they’d be able to pay everyone and pay them on time?

Well…as it turns out now these tech giants who can tell you what floor of your house you are Tweeting from say they can’t make an adjusting payment on time. This probably means they think the rates are going to increase, right? But here’s what Variety’s Jem Aswad says is going on:

Untold millions of dollars in legal and lobbying fees later, a decision on 2018-22 — officially called Phonorecords III — is expected in the coming days, and according to documents obtained by Variety, it appears the streaming services do not expect to be successful.

The streaming services have appealed to the Copyright Office for more time to pay that potential increase — and been soundly criticized by five U.S. senators in a letter obtained by Variety, who stated “serious concern about any requests that would delay important and necessary royalty payments to copyright owners and [oppose] any granting by the Copyright Office of an extension.”

This most recent back-and-forth began with a six-page letter to the General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights dated June 1 on the letterhead of Latham and Watkins — a law firm working on behalf of the Digital Licensee Coordinator, which represents music-streaming services — in which a five-point argument is made for delaying retroactive payments that may be incurred by Phonorecords III to ensure “that royalties continue to flow to copyright owners with minimal disruption and that any changes to the rates for prior time periods be addressed efficiently and effectively.”

First of all is that the same Latham and Watkins lawyer who used to be a lawyer for the Copyright Office as did the head lobbyist for Spotify? Revolving door, anyone? So there’s that.

The idea that these people need more time to get ready to pay higher rates that they themselves have lawyered up to delay for years is just a bit too rich. Watch this space, we’ll see how it turns out.

But–here’s something else we don’t need. Sometimes when it’s just “too complicated” to get it right, there’s a back room deal for a lump sum payment that settles the legal liability and also avoids the services doing any accounting.

What happens to that lump sum? Anyone’s guess. Probably goes into the same bank account with the other $500,000,000 that the MLC got its paws on and hasn’t paid out.

So no, let’s not do that again. The difference this time is that whoever steps up and says they can settle on behalf of all the publishers and songwriters in the known universe is probably lying.