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US Copyright Office Releases Extensive Report on Music Copyright Issues

Kanye West's storming the stage to protest singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Beck's Album of the Year during the recent  Grammy Awards broadcast on CBS wasn't the only eyebrow-raising moment of the show. Another - one that far more legitimately affects music industry professionals - came when Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow urged Congress to ensure that "new technology [pays] artists fairly."

Portnow's comments parallel much of the content of a 250-page music-licensing report released just three days before the broadcast by the US Copyright Office. The comprehensive study titled Copyright and the Music Marketplace provides an exhaustive review of what many believe is an aging and outdated system and offers recommendations that Congress ultimately will consider enacting as law.

Among the top recommendations included:

  • "More equal footing" for master and musical work rates: Currently, record labels currently earn up to 12 times more digital performance royalties than publishers. US copyright officials aim to make changes that will allow for more parity in payment for each. Music labels are expected to fight this one, as publishers gains will be labels' losses.
  • Bundled rights: This recommendation calls for the creation of music rights organizations akin to performing rights agencies like ASCAP and BMI. Music publishers would license their mechanical and performance rights to these organizations, and in turn, digital download and streaming services would receive blanket bundled licenses.  Advocates say this alone would significantly simplify music licensing.
  • Extending of public performance rights in sound recordings to terrestrial radio: This means that for the first time, record labels and performers receive royalties for AM/FM airplay. Currently, only songwriters are paid radio royalties.
  • Federalized copyright for pre-1972 recordings:  Songs recorded before Feb. 15, 1972 are covered under copyright by state law. However, modern services like SiriusXM and Pandora, which deliver music in ways never dreamt of in the 1970s, do not recognize that copyright protection or pay royalties on those recordings. Enacting this recommendation would force digital music providers to begin paying royalties to artists and record labels. However, it's a catch 22 for record labels because it also would give artists the right to terminate copyright and claim pre-1972 recordings for themselves.

If you're a songwriter, musician, record label owner or other music professional, make sure you understand the applicable laws and get your fair share of music-generated revenues by enlisting the help of an experienced copyright attorney. Call 866-37PATENT to schedule a consultation with Orlando's Daniel Law Offices today.

See the full Copyright and the Music Marketplace report here

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