[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_color=”” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” center_content=”no” last=”no” min_height=”” hover_type=”none” link=””][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” class=”” id=””]

The plight of the “starving artist” is timeless and history is replete with stories of songwriters and artist being exploited for their intellectual contributions. In the mid 1800’s, when Stephen Foster wrote The Suwannee River, Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, and Old Kentucky Home, tImage result for stephen foster songshe 1790 Copyright Act only protected “maps, charts and books” and thus did not extend to musical compositions. The only way Foster could conceive of earning an income from his craft was to sell his sheet music to traveling troubadours and minstrel shows, such as “Christy’s,” that traveled the country. The strategy worked in terms of getting his music exposure, but without adequate protective remedies, it created an environment where unscrupulous and dishonest publishers “bootlegged” his work and sold copies for their own profit. While most of the country knew Foster’s work (even today) because of this exploitation, he died a pauper in 1864 with less than a dollar to his name.  So much for the post-Napster argument that illegally downloading and streaming music actually makes money for its creator by giving it wider exposure!

About 10 years following Stephen Foster’s death, mechanical sound recording technology was developed allowing reproductions of musical performances and thus began a revolution. Just over 50 years following that, transmission of sound waves via broadcast technology was invented and perfected, giving us the “music industry” as we knew it for over a hundred years. Had Foster lived another 20 years or so, he may have made millions of dollars as a result of his creations.

As a result of these nfostertombewfangled and emerging technologies, and at least in partial deference to Stephen Foster’s unfortunate demise, Congress finally passed the 1909 Copyright Act which provided copyright protection for musical compositions, giving them an initial term of 28 years with one 28-year renewal period for the purpose of “prevent[ing] the formation of oppressive monopolies” which might limit those rights. See, H.R. Rep. No. 2222, 60th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 7. Now, these newly protected musical compositions could be performed and embodied in sound recordings (although sound recordings were still not protected by federal law at this time), which could themselves be performed in broadcasts over the radio waves. It was an exciting time in the music business, which saw the rise of music publishers, record labels, radio stations, Harry Fox and all three performance rights organizations, ASCAP, SESAC and BMI, in that order.

The industry became a powerhouse. The radio stations played the sound recordings, inspiring their listeners to buy the product distributed by the record labels. The performance rights organizations would collect the royalties for performance of the musical compositions, and pay the music publishers and the songwriters. Everyone was happy, or so it seemed. Still there were flaws in the system.  The sound recordings – the the actual performances of a musical compositions fixed onto records – would not receive copyright protection for another 60 years when Congress passed the Sound Recording Amendment of 1971, and even then received only limited rights: derivative, distribution and reproduction. Five years later, the Copyright Act of 1976 created a specific category for sound recordings, and Congress has since given the authors of sound recordings the right to receive digital performance royalties, although they are still not entitled to terrestrial performance royalties, as are songwriters and publishers.

So, prior to February 15, 1972 when the SR Amendment took effect, the performances of the featured artists and musicians on those recordings were not entitled to any performance royalty, but rather were only paid the meager artist royalties that they received from the record labels, if they received anything at all. That deficiency left a significant gap for sound recordings created from circa 1874 until 1972, which were only protected under state and common law regimes – varying widely from state to state if they are even recognized at all – containing divergent scopes of protection, limitations and exceptions. Many attempts have also been made by the recording industry and other stakeholder to urge Congress to pass such acts as the Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1836) which would add terrestrial royalties to their list of rights and revenue streams.

As may be expected, this kind of legislative confusion has led to a great deal of state lawsuits as creators of pre-1972 sound recordings attempt to enforce their rights through state courts. In one such case brought by my good friend, Mark Volman of the Turtles, a court ordered SirrusXM to pay almost $100 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought in California, Florida and New York based on state laws governing pre-1972 recordings. In a similar case, the internet service Grooveshark had its business model decimated and was finally forced into bankruptcy as a result of its fight against labels over its use of pre-1972 recordings and whether the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor provision applied.

Such high-profile lawsuits often motivate legislators, who are in turn motivated by what motivates their constituents. As a result, last month, Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) of the 115th Congress introduced House Resolution 3301, the CLASSICS Act, an acronym for the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act. See, the full text here. The bill has six sponsors, among them is Tennessee’s Representative from the 71st District, Marsha Blackburn.

While the bill addresses the orphan status of pre-1972 gap sound recordings by providing them with the rights currently enjoyed by post-1972 recordings (i.e., reproduction, distribution, digital performance, and derivative rights), it stops short of full federalization of those recordings and continues to ignore the terrestrial royalty issue. The CLASSICS Act is short by today’s standards, addressing only a few key points.  Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction.  

In short, the CLASSICS Act addresses two of the significant issues raised by the two examples of litigation cited earlier: it makes very clear that the rights of pre-1972 sound recordings are on parity with later sound recordings; and that the DMCA notice and takedown regime is applicable. Notably, Section 1401(d)(1) of the CLASSIC Act “shall not be construed to annul or limit any rights or 9 remedies under the common law or statutes of any State for sound recordings fixed before February 15, 11 1972.” In other words, state law claims are still permissible.

H.R. 3301 is still “only a bill,” and is, as of now, “sitting [t]here on Capital Hill.” As we learned from Mr. Bill in that School House Rock classic written by Dave Frishberg and performed by Jack Sheldon, “it’s a long, long wait while [it’s] sitting in committee,” but a least we can “hope and pray” that one day it’ll be a law!  You can follow whatever progress it makes on Congress.gov.

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]






The first of the month (August 2016), the Department of Justice issued a summary of findings with regard to two court orders that govern the operation of two of the U.S. performing rights organizations (the “PRO’s”), ASCAP and BMI.  If it stands, the decision will also affect the third PRO, SESAC.

Songwriters and music publishers around the country were horrified with the DOJ findings, as were the PRO’s, with many songwriters claiming that they would now have to refrain from co-writing with songwriters belonging to one of the sister PRO’s.  This article will examine the logic of the reaction by the music community.  Is the proverbial sky falling, or will this event pass into obscurity and irrelevance?  We’ll sort out what all this means in this article.

As an aside, if you were not fortunate enough to tune into last night’s episode of my friends Heino and Scott with The Music Row Show on WSM 650, go to their website and check out the archives, as much of the information we share here was talked about in that radio program.  My appearance and conversation with The Music Row Show made me realize just how confused many songwriters will be about all of this legal maneuvering.  

Background

Before we look at the court orders, referred to as “Consent Decrees,” a little historical background will be helpful.  As I said, there are primarily three PRO’s, ASCAP, SESAC and BMI, and they were created in that order.   The two largest US PRO’s, ASCAP and BMI, make up the majority of the industry.  SESAC, by most accounts, has between 10-20% market share (although it is growing exponentially).

This is because ASCAP and BMI were both created out of controversy and strife and that highly competitive environmental produced some robust and resilient entities.  ASCAP arouse out of the Tin Pan Alley days.  Several of the key songwriters, IRVING BERLIN, VICTOR HERBERT and JOHN PHILLIPS SOUSA, began to see their songs being performed in restaurants, hotel lobbies and other venues, and they realized that they were not receiving royalties from these performances, a right that was first granted in 1897 and then incorporated directly into the 1909 Act.  These famous writers banded together to form the first coalition of songwriters and publisher, the American Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers.

Their efforts may have been received well in the music community, but the entities that used the music did not share that enthusiasm.  Certain NYC restaurant and hotel magnets, namely Shanely and Vanderbilt, questioned whether they were required to pay the composer for performance of a song in their establishments, even though they charged no admission for those performances.  The music, they maintained, was just a side show and not the main focus of what their customers were paying for.

The case, Herbert et al. v. Shanley et al. went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Writing for the majority, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled in favor of ASCAP and songwriters, saying:

Music is part of the total for which the public pays and the fact that the price of the whole is attributable to a particular item which those present are expected to order is not important.  It is true that music is not the sole object, but neither is the food, which probably could be got cheaper elsewhere.

As a result, ASCAP had the stamp of approval from the highest court in the land.  They started an aggressive campaign to acquire licenses from venues where performances of music occurred, including broadcasters like television and radio stations. 

BMI arose as a direct result of ASCAP’s aggressive licensing activities.  From 1931-1939, ASCAP increased its royalty rates to radio and television stations over 400%, to the point where a group of broadcasters decided to get together and form Broadcast Musicians Incorporated in 1939.  They started signing their own composers and begin licensing non-ASCAP works for their catalog.  After a few years, most radio and television stations stopped using ASCAP music and would only use BMI-licensed music.

BMI and ASCAP have been adversaries ever since.  ASCAP, of course, had the upper hand, since they were first to market and arose out of the Tin Pan Alley environment.  ASCAP did not take kindly to being shut out of the lucrative broadcast market and the two organizations began a decades long fight for the music users.  This conflict ultimately caught the attention of the DOJ, who sued each entity under the Sherman Act (anti-trust) to address their comparative market power and balance the weight of power.  The result of the DOJ’s involvement were the consent decrees that, to this day, govern how terrestrial radio (Either AM/FM) digital rebroadcasts, and/or venues such as bars and arenas, license the performance of compositions.

SESAC, a European PRO at first licensing mostly classical, slipped into the U.S. in 1939 amidst all of this sibling rivalry and began licensing in the U.S., but as a private entity as opposed to operating as a non-profit like ASCAP and BMI.  They are not subject to any consent decrees and to this day remain under the radar, although the DOJ periodically audits them as well.

The ASCAP/BMI consent decrees defining what the PRO’s can and cannot not do – most notably, it requires them to issue “blanket licenses” to certain users.  These have been amended in 2003 and 1994 respectively.  The decrees also require that both entities offer licenses are similar terms and to similar clientele.  Importantly, for this discussion, the consent decree require that the PRO’s license to a user like Pandora one a request for license is made, regardless of whether a rate has been negotiated.  If the PRO’s and the user cannot agree on a rate, it is then presented to the “rate court” set up by the consent decree to decide.  The catch is that while all of this legal wrangling is going on, services like Pandora can continue performing the music.

The Recent DOJ Ruling

The gravamen of this issue happened in 2013 when several large music publishers, SONY ATV, EMI and Universal, among others, withdrew their “new media” licensing rights from ASCAP and BMI, leaving them to collect only their terrestrial right (read broadcasted radio or television).  They did this for a couple of reasons:  first, the consent decree do not allow the PRO’s to negotiate a market rate with digital streaming services; so, secondly, they did it in order to negotiate better deals directly with Pandora.  In 2013, Pandora negotiated a favorable percentage rate with Sony and Universal based on their gross revenues.

With their hands tied and major publishers going direct to digital stream services, ASCAP and BMI had no choice.  Streaming revenues have been increasing for years, and without these major players bringing in revenue, their revenues were decreasing.  So, in short, ASCAP and BMI went back to the DOJ seeking clarification with regard to the consent decrees with regard to operation and effectiveness.  Among other things, ASCAP/BMI ask that the decrees be modified to allow publishers/songwriters to “partially withdraw” their works.  This prompted a new review of the Consent Decrees by the Department of Justice that begin in 2014.  The DOJ released its findings on August 4, 2016 of this month.

The DOJ said that the ASCAP consent decrees doesn’t allow a publisher to withdraw partial shares.  It stated that consent decrees require a PRO “license to perform all the works in [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][its] repertory…” That meant, according to the DOJ, that it could not “rewrite the decree” to let publishers pick and choose how works are licensed and allow fractional shares.  This has great impact on the existing deals already negotiated with Pandora.  Specifically, the DOJ said:

The licensing of works through ASCAP is offered to publishers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Specifically, the DOJ ruled:

1)  That the consent decrees would not be modified or abolished

2)  That the consent decrees to DO NOT allow “fractional” licenses that convey only fractional shares and required additional (read other PRO) to perform the works, i.e, the DOJ interpreted the consent decrees to require “full-work” licensing.

This new and dramatically different interpretation requires the PRO’s to convey licenses to radio, television, bars and digital music services giving them the right to public perform “100%” of their repertoires without the risk of adverse infringement.  This new “full-work licensing” principal applies even if ASCAP or BMI only represent a small fraction of a song’s copyright, which is almost always the case.  The problem, of course, is that ASCAP and BMI do not generally have the legal right to convey 100%!

Ironically, the DOJ findings state that “the current status quo system [used by the PRO’s]. . . has served the industry well for decades and should remain intact.”   This is confusing, since historically the PRO’s have licensed fractional shares, contrary to the DOJ’s findings.  A single song most often is written by multiple songwriters and those songwriters are generally affiliated with different performance rights organizations and only own a fractional interest in that song.  When a song such as All-American Girl, is written by Carrie Underwood, whose performance is licensed by BMI, with two other ASCAP songwriters, traditionally BMI would license 33.33% of the song and ASCAP would license the other 66.66%.  Now, according to the DOJ, either BMI and or ASCAP would have to license 100% of the song and report and pay the royalties for the other songwriters to the other PRO.  Imagine how these historic competitors view that prospect!

Herein lies a big part of this current problem.  If we look to copyright law, as we must, the answers may be clearer.  Under section 201(a), the author of song is the owner of the song.  But as all songwriters in Nashville are prone to collaborate, we have to factor in a second author/owner.  When that happens, the copyright law treats each owner as a tenant-in-common, just like two spouses who jointly own a house.  In other word, each one owns 100%.  So what does that mean?

That means that “[e]ach co-owner may thus grant a nonexclusive license to use the entire work without the consent of other co-owners, provided that the licensor accounts for and pays over to his or her co-owners their pro-rata shares of the proceeds.” United States Copyright Office, Views of the United States Copyright Office Concerning PRO Licensing of Jointly Owned Works (2016).  Of course, the songwriters can alter this default situation through signing a collaboration agreement, but no one ever does because that would “harsh the songwriting vibe.”

Furthermore, in a joint author situation, either author of the work may enforce the right to exclude others from using the work.  So, each author of a joint work “has the independent right to use or license the copyright subject only to a duty to account for any profits he earns from the licensing or use of the copyright.” Ashton-Tate Corp., 916 F.2d at 522 (9th Cir.1990). Accordingly, a joint copyright owner may not exclude other joint owners or persons who have a license from another joint owner. 

But there is another part of this analysis that can’t be ignored, and that is the doctrine of indivisibility.  Under the prior, 1909 Copyright Act, the author(s) could NOT divide the copyright, meaning that if the copyright was licensed, the entire copyright had to be licensed, not just one of the exclusive rights.  So, I would not be able to issue a print license apart from a license to perform the work.  The 1976 Act eliminated this doctrine and effectively made the copyright divisible.  Specifically, Section 201(d)(1) of the Act states that the ownership of a copyright may be transferred in whole or in part by any means of conveyance or by operation of law.  Further, the following section 201(d)(2) specifies that this principle of divisibility applied to each of the exclusive rights – print, adaptation, distribution, reproduction and performance – which could be divided, transferred and owned separately.

Now, for the first time, an author could license only the performance rights.  But more specifically, the author could license only a portion of his/her performance rights.  So, you see, the idea of transferring fractional shares of a copyright, or one of the exclusive rights of a copyright, is actually built into the copyright act.  This is something the DOJ ruling completely ignored in its analysis when it interpreted the Consent Decrees to require the PRO’s to offer 100% licensing of their catalog. 

The DOJ, however, was focused primarily on the user of the music, completely ignoring the creators.  For the user, the DOJ felt it was egregious to have to go to all three PRO’s to get a license to perform one work.  To be fair, the PRO’s have tiptoed gingerly around this issue for years.  A license from one songwriter/publisher to perform a work should, in theory, be sufficient.  That is, after all, the meaning of a non-exclusive license.  The industry has avoided the user aspect of partial rights grants for years, requiring each user to obtain a “blanket license” from all three PRO’s in order to perform each PRO’s catalog (and consequently, glossing over the fact that a license to perform one individual work from the owner of copyright would suffice to perform the work).  In this way, each PRO could distribute the royalties collected on the benefit of their members to each one respectively according to their own algorithms. 

That process may change if the DOJ’s consent decree remains in effect.  Each PRO would have to agree who collects for a particular license, and then credit the other with their share.  This would require each one to adjust their rates accordingly and account to and pay some of the royalties received to the other PRO’s.  While it can’t be stated definitively, one just feels that this process will somehow negatively impact the songwriters and publishers, and not the PRO’s or the venues.

Most people in the industry predict that application of this “full-work” licensing approach will throw the music industry in complete and utter chaos – and they’re probably correct.  But, as I said earlier, all hope is not yet lost.  First, the DOJ gave ASCAP and BMI one year to get their act together and start operating on the 100% licensing principle they outlined.   Second, for perhaps the first time in history, ASCAP and BMI are bedfellows (you know what they say of politics) in that they have agreed to a course of reaction:  BMI is appealing the DOJ’s ruling while ASCAP is lobbying Congress for relief.   ASCAP and BMI both announced that they would join forces to fight this common foe.

The president of BMI, Michael O’Neill, was quoted in the Tennessean in response:

The DOJ’s interpretation of our consent decree serves no one, not the marketplace, the music publishers, the music users, and most importantly, not our songwriters and composers who now have the government weighing in on their creative and financial decisions.  Unlike the DOJ, we believe that our consent decree permits fractional licensing, a practice that encourages competition in our industry and fosters creativity and collaboration among music creators, a factor the DOJ completely dismissed.

For her part, CEO of ASCAP, Elizabeth Matthews stated that:

The DOJ decision puts the U.S. completely out of step with the entire global music marketplace, denies American music creators their rights, and potentially disrupts the flow of music without any benefit to the public.  That is why ASCAP will work with our allies in Congress, BMI and leaders within the music industry to explore legislative solutions to challenge the DOJ’s 100 percent licensing decision and enact the modifications that will protect songwriters, composers and the music we all love.

Most people outside the industry will have no idea how significant it is that both of this PRO’s are cooperating with each other on this issue.  ASCAP’s and BMI’s joint efforts may serve to put pressure on Congress to address an aging Copyright Act and implement some of the recommendations made by the Copyright Office in 2015, namely, the creation of a mega “Music Rights Organization” or MRO that, among other things, licenses all exclusive rights of the copyright owner, including both performance and mechanical rights.  The Copyright Office also recommended an elimination of the Consent Decrees.  U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to recommend changes to the Copyright Act that could be taken up on the 2017 Congress.

In the midst of all of this activity, SESAC is again quietly biding their time, acquiring Harry Fox (mechanical rights) and Rumblefish (a “record label” including digital performance rights) in preparation for becoming perhaps the first effective “MRO.”

No one truly knows the ultimate outcome of all of this but one thing is certain:  the history of performance rights organizations in America continues to evolve.  The copyright law is very complex and have evolved over the years since its passage in 1976.  That law took almost half a century to pass and there is no reason to believe that a new revision wouldn’t take just as long given the multiple competing and often conflicting interests of various stakeholders.  But patience is not the songwriter’s only recourse here:  write your elected representative in Washington and plead your case, as free speech is the only right that will make a difference in this fight.

 

 

[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

We just put the finishing touches on my great client, Sammy Mitchell’s, exclusive co-publishing deal with Jackie Boyz/Razor & Tie Music Publishing joint venture.   The partnership between Jackie Boyz (the Grammy-award winning songwriting/producing team of Battey brothers) and Razor & Tie was formed at the end of 2014 for the purpose of developing fresh new songwriters.  Congrats to Sammy, who is one of those new faces and executed the papers earlier this week.  Razor & Tie has offices in New York, Nashville and L.A., and, in addition to the Battey brothers, is home to several great writers, including Phillip Larue wo co-wrote Whiskey in my Water, by Tyler Farr, which hit #1 on Country Radio and has been certified as Gold by RIAA.Photo

Sammy started playing the guitar at the age of 10.  He had a pension for punk and, go figure, country music.  Some of his biggest influences on the uncountry side of the fence were The Beatles, Third Eye Blind, Rage Against The Machine, Refused, Dr Luke, Aaron Sprinkle, Matt Goldman.  As for his Oklahoma country side,  he admits “I love the textures used in classic recordings [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][such as] Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, etc.”  After high school, Sammy began touring with a band (The City Lives) for a couple of years, which ultimately ending up on Edmond Records (owned by Mike Kennerty and Tyson Ritter of The All American Rejects).  After disbanding, Sammy decided to moved to Nashville and enroll in Belmont University’s Mike Curb School of Music Business.

After college, Sammy considered going to law school, but his love of music and producing kept calling him back.  So instead of law, he refocused his energy on producing music.  He began dabbling on the recording equipment that had been with him since his bNew Signings: Jackie Boyz Team with Razor & Tie, Son Lux to Glassnote, OWSLA Grabs Carmada and Moreedroom in Oklahoma.  He sent a few tracks to Steven Battey in LA.  The Battey brothers had platinum success with the likes of Justin Bieber, David Guetta, Madonna, and Flo Rida, just to name a few.  At that time, Jackie Boyz had just acquired new management under Iain Pirie (Co-Producer of American Idol, 19th Entertainment, Carrie Underwood).  Steven Battey was planning on moving to Nashville to develop his own writing in country music.  He liked what Sammy sent him, so the two met in Nashville and hit it off.  They immediately started writing/producing tracks together and doing co-writes with various songwriters in Nashville.  Before long, Sammy found himself writing with the brotherly team, including Carlos, and the three formed a unique bond.  Sammy’s deal with the Jackie Boyz/Razor & Tie venture came as a result of the momentum that built from his experience with Steven & Carlos Battey, with whom he formed a tight knit writing and production team.

Sammy describes the amazing opportunity this way:

All the while [we were] shopping our songs to different publishers, labels. I was super green and I was sorta thrown 360 degrees. I hadn’t had much experience in writing sessions or building tracks at a scheduled pace.  I don’t think I left my studio for 10 months just trying to develop my skill in new ways, listening and studying music in every genre, just really became obsessed with the process of getting sounds. That was probably the biggest growth period of my career so far. As time went on Iain began managing my stuff and we started growing together as a team. We met with a bunch of major and independent publishers and as time went on formed a good relationship with Razor & Tie. After about 8 months or so of working with their writers and discussing various publishing options, we felt we had a good home with them. They had just hired Brad Kennard (formerly VP of creative at Big Yellowdog) as VP of publishing at Razor & Tie to head Country Music.  [So, that is why] I signed to them as a producer/writer.  [My] goal is to focus on building my songwriting as well as pushing my track work as a producer. I’m focusing on 90% country music. I love the freedom that exists in country music right now, its a trend that lends to so many different styles. I have always been a fan of Older country music. It was always around while growing up in Oklahoma.

The corroborative effort is sure to exercise all of Sammy’s skill set, and now Sammy has the opportunity to further hone those skills writing with one of the production teams and one of the greatest publishing entities in current music.  As he indicated, he is now managed by the same famed manager as Jackie Boyz, Iain Pirie.  We wish Sammy great success.  I know it is going to be a long and prosperous road and I look forward to growing with him as he succeeds.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Since taking over Mary Beth Peters as Register of Copyrights in 2011, Maria Pallante has been listening and responding to the concerns of a number of her constituents, particularly those in the music industry, and it most certainly shows. In the last few months, several pieces of Maria_Pallantework product have been delivered by the Copyright Office and/or Congress that have significant impact on the music industry and, in particular, those of my readers who practice the craft of songwriting. If you are a songwriter, you should pay particular attentions to two of these things specifically. The first is the Copyright Office’s report, released in February 2015, titled Copyright in the Music Marketplace. The second, more directly aimed on the songwriting community, is the Songwriter’s Equity Act reintroduced to Congress in this term.

The Copyright in the Music Marketplace Report.

Anyone who works in the music or entertainment industry should take the time to read the full report, available here. The report begins in the Preface by pointing out that “both music creators and innovators that support them are increasingly doing business in legal quicksand” (Emphasis added). This “legal quicksand” that the Copyright Office references refers to licensing as it relates to both sound recordings and musical works, and the disparities that have developed over the past decade or so as a result of various amendments to the 1976 Copyright Act. For example, with regard to performance royalties for musical compositions, ASCAP and BMI have operated under consent decrees issued by the Federal Courts for years. In addition, the rate courts establish the rates that must be paid for public performance under what is referred to as a “fair market value” analysis in which the court attempts to determine the price that a willing buyer and willing seller would agree to in an arm’s length transaction. The court also gives substantial weight to antitrust concerns in this regard. For the more astute readers, you may be wondering about SESAC. SESAC generally operates as if it is subject to the consent decrees, even though technically it was not a party to them. BMI and ASCAP frequently call attention to the fact that there is disparate treatment as to SESAC. The process of setting rates for the performance rights organizations in the rate courts can be lengthy and complicated, leaving music publishers and songwriters complaining that there should be a more efficient way to set the rates.

As for mechanical royalties for reproduction of musical compositions in sound recordings, the Copyright Royalty Board (“CRB”) establishes those rates. For this purpose, the CRB operates pursuant to the compulsory licensing guidelines in Section 115 of the Copyright Act, using the four‐factor, public policy‐oriented standard in section 801(b)(1). Not complicated at all right?

That brings us to Section 116(6) of the Copyright Act, which provides royalties to sound recording authors for digital transmissions of their works. The rates for the digital performance of sound recordings is proscribed in Section 114 using dramatically different standards, depending on the type of use. This the reason royalties received from Spotify look so much different than royalties received from Sirius or terrestrial performances. Older services such as Sirius XM, the only remaining satellite service, and Music Choice or Muzak, the only remaining subscription services, are governed by the same four‐factor standard as mechanical reproductions of musical works subject to compulsory licensing under section 115 as regards royalties. According to SiriusXM’s own website, the “U.S. Music Royalty Fee” for 2015 was 13.9% of the subscription fee charged for a particular service. That fee is placed into a fund that is used to pay royalties. Meanwhile, royalty rates for Internet radio services and newer noninteractive subscription services, and for all ephemeral recordings under Section 112 regardless of the type of service, are established under the so‐called “willing buyer/willing seller” standard, which many believe yields more market‐oriented rates than those established under section 801(b)(1).

So what about Spotify, you may ask? Spotify is, by far, the largest interactive streaming service available in the marketplace, and in many ways sets the tone for what a “willing buyer” is willing to pay. According to its response to the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry, it pays out “70% of all money it receives to rightsholders.” But those songwriters who have received paltry royalty checks from Spotify revenue might question the accuracy of that statement, wondering why they don’t see more. That is because Spotify doesn’t pay on a “per song stream” model, as royalties get calculated when it comes to mechanical uses. Rather, they set aside the royalties and the total royalty pie is split among all rights holders based on the percentage of total Spotify streams their songs garner. But according to a New York Times article, the company does, in fact, calculate the per rate royalties, estimating that the average song generates between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream in royalties. That is why, to songwriter in particular, this may seem like a pittance. That’s why Taylor Swift recently announced that her new album would not be available via Spotify. But Spotify’s counters these objections, producing data that it says illustrates that the numbers really do add up for big artists such as Swift. The company reports that the most-streamed album on the service each month typically generates more than $400,000 in royalties.

Finally, with regard to performance royalties, musical composition copyright owners enjoy performance royalties froRoyaltiesm terrestrial radio while the owners of sound recording copyrights do not. The radio industry has successfully convinced Congress on numerous occasions that it operates on a “quid pro quo” basis with the record industry so that there is no need for royalty payments. After all, without the marketing that radio provides by playing the records, there would be no hit records. This may seem like an antiquated loophole in the system, because it is. There is no reason why the owners of the sound recordings should not be compensated for performance over terrestrial radio, just as music publishers and songwriters are. This loophole needs to be closed to eliminate that obvious inequity.
So, as you can see, the rate setting standards under these various statutory licenses and consent decrees differ greatly, based on what rights are implicated and the use at issue. But even for arguably similar services, such as Spotify and SiriusXM, the structure produces inconsistent results and the royalties that are paid vary widely.
In addition to the disparity in setting royalty rates in the music industry, the report called attention to the fact that there is a general lack of transparency in regard to royalty streams and ownership. For the songwriter, the concern has always been that there is money being generated from the copyright that is not finding its way into royalty check. Now, with all of these disparate royalty streams being generated from new digital sources, particularly those involving direct deals between record companies and digital users, the songwriter legitimately feel as if those revenues are not being shared. For example, the labels ostensibly negotiated an 18% stake in Spotify, which is probably the real reason they love the service so much.

All of these concerns, among others, led the Copyright Office to articulate four guiding principles derived from their discussions with “stakeholder” during their research in regard to which it says it “appreciates and agrees.” The four principles are as follows:

  1. Music creators should be fairly compensated for their contributions;
  2. The licensing process should be more efficient;
  3. Market participants should have access to authoritative data to identify and license sound recording and musical works; and
  4. Usage and payment information should be transparent and accessible to rights owners.

However, the Office acknowledged that there was no consensus on how to achieve these goals, and in the end, developed some additional principles it believed should govern any future reform of Copyright Law:

  1. Government licensing processes should aspire to treat like uses of music alike;
  2. Government supervision should enable voluntary transactions while still supporting collective solutions;
  3. Rate setting and enforcement of antitrust laws should be separately managed and addressed; and
  4. A single, market‐oriented rate setting standard should apply to all music uses under statutory licensing.

If these principles are implemented, it would be dramatic changes in the way royalties are paid, collected and distributed. The Copyright Office was not kind to the compulsory licenses provisions under Section 115 of the Copyright Act, known to many as the “statutory royalty” provisions, proposing that we “sunset” these as they expire. The existing structures under Sections 112 and 114, on the other hand, it felt worked fairly well. There are various implications for organizations such as Harry Fox and others if these changes were to occur.

Overall, however, the report was fairly balanced, and songwriters should receive more favorable treatment from Congress if it follows these principles. It remains to be seen what Congress will do with the research developed by the Copyright Office in this report. That leads us to the next topic of discussion, and that is the Songwriter’s Equity Act, introduced in March.

Songwriter’s Equity Act

This Bill was originally introduced in February 2014, but died in committee. Now, it has been reintroduced by a bipartisan coalition to both houses of Congress and, with strong Republ5237697662_f8e465b716ican support and control, there is much more optimism. The Bill, introduced by Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga), seeks to amend Section 114 and 115 of the Copyright Act to implement some of the suggestions proposed by the Copyright Office’s report. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a senior senator and member of the critical Judiciary Committee, co-sponsored the legislation and has frequently been an advocate for songwriters. For one thing, it would allow the royalty courts to adapt the “fair market rate” standards when setting mechanical license rates under Section 115, and allow them to consider royalties paid to recording artist when setting rates for songwriters under Section 114. Most people believe that this would be a more profitable structure for songwriters and music publishers.

When testifying in front of Congress in regard to last year’s identical legislation, National Music Publishers Assn. president David Israelite said that

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][t]hree-quarters of a songwriter’s income is regulated by the federal government. While most property rights are valued in a free market, songwriters have suffered under a system that devalues their work and takes away their most basic property rights.”

Israelite applauded the legislatures for standing up for songwriters.

As the Copyright Office report on music licensing discussed above recommends, if songwriters’ royalties must be regulated by government, then they should at least be based on fair market value. Collins told the Tennessean that tell songwriters and publishers that “they’ll have a friend [in me] who’s going to fight for this bill.” The bill has support from both sides of the aisle, including not only Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, but U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood.

In conclusion, I think it’s about time Congress considered the equitable situation of the songwriter, the lowly work horse of the music industry.  NSAI has been saying for years that “it all begins with a song,” a phrase that was quoted in the Copyright Report, by the way, and that is, in fact, where it all begins.  But over the past decade, the significance of the songwriter has diminished and the loss revenues from record sales created by illegal downloading made it impossible for most to practice this traditional craft.  These legislative efforts seek to remedy some of that loss.

[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Is it time for Congress to draft a replacement for the 1976 Copyright Law? In point of fact, the law was drafted almost half a decade ago now and its last major amendment came in 1998 with the addition of the DMCA. Many argue that the advent of digital technology, driven of course by the ubiquitous Internet, makes the current iteration of the Progress Clause obsolete.
Recently, in March 2014, the current Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, made just such a proposal to Congress, urging them to create “the next great copyright act.” You can read those remarks here. But contrary to that proposal, other advocates of the status quo point out that Congress has amended the current law to keep it up to date. In fact, Pallante acknowledged as much in her remarks when she said “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][a]s a general matter, Congress introduces bills, directs studies, conducts hearings and discusses copyright policy on a fairly regular basis and has done so for two centuries.” Her push is a part of a coordinated movement with the House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) to leave a mark on copyright law.
While I do not necessarily disagree with the Register of Copyrights that perhaps a consideration of a new consolidated law may be necessary to combine these various amendments, I am bothered by the fact that much of the urgency for a new law is driven by the various interested parties on the Internet who believe that just because a copyright finds its way into digital form, it is no longer protected and should be free for all to use, “mash up” or do whatever the hell they want to with it. These radical thinking individuals, such as The Pirate Bay, Lawrence Lessig, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others use heated rhetoric and emotional appeals to call for a lessening of the copyright protection that has made America the most idea-rich country in the world. While these illogical and emotional appeals are a good way to drum up support dollars and defeat well-meaning and good legislation such as SOPA, they do very little to advance the philosophical and legal debate and should not be the driving force behind our legislation, good or bad. Good emotional causes make for very bad law.
These dramatic appeals for changing the copyright act are most often done with a lack of understanding as to its philosophical underpinnings, and often demonstrate ignorance of the business realities faced by those who create the arts and sciences, as well as the benefactors who support them.
One of the things that bothered me most about Pallante’s remarks was the total absence of any discussion of these philosophical underpinning of the copyright construct. There was no discussion of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of our Constitution (the Progress Clause) or any reference to some of the chief architects of its current form, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Charles Pickney, just to name a few. It also worries me when Pallante suggests that the current term – Life + 75 – “is long and the length has consequences,” thereby questioning the validity of the Supreme Court’s proclamation to the contrary in Eldred v. Ashcroft. The latter, of course, is one of about a half a dozen cases the aforementioned anti-copyright advocates has levied against the law over the years.
Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, summed it up well in an opinion piece for The Hill entitled “Protect rights of artist in new copyright law.” She said “Should Congress take on the challenge of updating the Copyright Act, it must do so guided by sound principles, and its deliberations must be based in reality rather than rhetoric.” At least Aistars points out that the principle of copyright law is driven by the fact that “protecting authors in in the public interest” and based on “stable property rights.”
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 gives Congress the right “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Madison and Jefferson debated the various components of this clause with some degree of fervor in their massive collection of actual correspondence, with Madison defending the idea that if our society gives up a monopoly (copyright) to creators, the value of that monopoly will generate the creation of widespread ideas that would ultimately reward society. There is no doubt that the equitable component that was bestowed upon authors and inventors the day the Congressional Congress approved the Progress Clause has created the America we know and love today through the wealth of new ideas and expressions that have been created in the form of books, music, films, visual arts, scholarly research and inventions. Without that value in the patent or copyright, there would be no Apple, no Microsoft, no IBM, no Ford, no Chevrolet . . . you get the point. This is the reward that Madison envisioned our society would gain by giving individuals control over their creations, a theory that Locke and others disseminated long before the new nation of America was conceived.
As Aistars summarized in her article, “Ensuring that all creators retain the freedom of choice in determining how their creative work is used, disseminated and monetized is vital to protecting freedom of expression. Consent is at the heart of freedom, thus we must judge any proposed update by whether it prioritizes artists’ rights to have meaningful control over their creative work and livelihood.”
The most important thing for Congress to consider if it picks up the gauntlet laid down by Ms. Pallante is this idea that society benefits by giving a monopoly to creators. Given an individual who has created a work of authorship stable property ownership in that work is the foundation of our great Country and is the primary goal of copyright. To take that away takes away one of our inherent and valuable Constitutional rights, even greater perhaps than our Freedom of Speech and Assembly. Any new proposal much cherish the rights of the creators that the current Copyright Act has created and retain the same privileges and advantages. The future of our Nation in the Internet Age depends on it.
[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

We recently wrapped up the exclusive songwriting agreement between my client, Logan Brill and Carnival Music.  Logan and her family are from the Knoxville area.  She moved here to pursue a logan1music degree at Belmont University, but ended up with a major in French and a minor in vocal performance.  Logan is writing with other Carnival talents such as David Nail, Troy Jones, Scooter Carusoe, and others.  Carnival is owned and operated, of course, by producer Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Lee Ann Womack).  Liddell recent took home the coveted Producer of the Year award from

the Academy of Country Music.  Carnival’s prolific group of writers is responsible for generating eleven number ones in the past decade, including cuts by Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Reba McEntire and the Dixie Chicks.   She has recently begun writing for her forthcoming project with producers, Matthew Miller and Oran Thorton.  Logan’s debut performance was at the Tin Roof at the head of Music Row, Nashville.  She also performed as the opening act for Edwin McCain at the Square Room in Knoxville.  Logan is set to begin extensively touring during the summer of 2012.

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  I expect to see great things from Logan in the near future.

Logan at the Square Room in Knoxville
A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators… and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.  –Bono (New York Times, January 2010)

The passage of the Digital Economy Act in England last year has resulted in a surge of articles that claim that the negative impact of illegal downloading of MP3’s on the record industry has been “debunked” and that, in fact, studies confirm the opposite, that there is no significant impact.  I recently addressed one such claim on my blog in the article entitled 90% of All Statistics are Made Up on the Spot:  Fact is, copyright infringement DOES kill jobs, which addressed an article by Rick Falkvinge.  Matther Lasar of Ars Technica recently posted another article essentially making the same claim, entitled Did file-sharing cause recording industry collapse? Economists say no.  Lasar’s article is based in large part on a research paper by Bart Cammaerts and Bingchun Meng of the London School of Economics and Political Science entitled Creative Destruction and Copyright Protection: Regulatory Responses to File-sharing..
In response to the DEA, one of the “key messages” of Cammaerts’ and Meng’s study is that common refrain that the decline in sales of CD’s cannot be attributed solely to illegal downloads of their digital equivalents.  To be precise, here is their key finding:
Decline in the sales of physical copies of recorded music cannot be attributed solely to file-sharing, but should be explained by a combination of factors such as changing patterns in music consumption, decreimageasing disposable household incomes for leisure products and increasing sales of digital content through online platforms.
Does this not seem like a circular argument to anyone else that the conclusion that a decline in sales cannot be attributed by file-sharing, a significant change in how music is consumed, is supported by the assertion that it is better explained by a “combination of factors such as changing patterns in music consumption”?   This conclusion by the “researchers” is based in significant measure, as are most of the conclusions in the report, on reports and studies done by others, including the long-since refuted study by Oberholzer-Gee and Stumpf conducted in 2004, entitled The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis.    Oberholzer-Gee and Stumpf erroneously concluded that the impact of illegal file-sharing on the music industry was, in their words, “null” but have since revised their conclusions and now argue that illegal file sharing is responsible for about 20% of the decline in the decline of revenue in the music industry.  See File Sharing & Copyright 2010. It seems on the surface that the study is nothing more than rehash of old information.  Based on review of these reports, Cammaerts and Meng concluded that “the claims by the music industry regarding the detrimental impact of infringing file-sharing on sales are flawed.”
The fact is all but a handful of the surveys related to the subject confirm illegal file-sharing reduces consumer spending on legitimate music, and confirm that the dramatic decrease in the sales of recorded music is caused by illegal file-sharing.  See, e.g., Norbert Michael (The Impact of Digital File-Sharing on the Music Industry: An Empirical Analysis, 2006), Rob & Waldfogel (Piracy on the High C’s, 2006) and Alejandro Zenter (Measuring the Effect of File Sharing on Music Purchases, 2003).  A 2006 study by Professor Stan Liebowitz, File-Sharing: Creative Destruction or Just Plain Destruction? concludes that all  “. . . papers that have examined the impact of file-sharing . . . find some degree of relationship between file-sharing and sales of sound recordings.”  Oddly, the only study that finds zero correlation is the Oberholzer and Strumpf study, which it has been frequently discredited.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (“IFPI”) recently released the IFPI Digital Music Report 2010:  Music how, when, where you want it reports what most economists and others who have studied the effect agree on:  “Overall music sales fell by around 30 per cent between 2004 and 2009.” p. 6.   The good news to be gained from the IFPI report is that overall sales of digital music increased to 27% of the industry’s revenue in 2010, a significant jump from almost zero in 2004.
All of this I say not really to fuel the flames of the the debate related to the cause of the decline in the music industry, but to point out that in the midst of all the studies, all the reports, and all of the conversation, there is one group of people whose voice is often not heard:  the songwriter.  I began this post with a quote from the incomparable singer-songwriter, Bono, who states flatly what is often overlooked:  the people it hurts are the creators.  If you read closely through the reports I have linked to in this article, you’ll find very little, if anything, about the impact of illegal file sharing on the songwriter.  Yes, there a some vague references to “authors” and sometimes “creators,” but for the most part the researchers focus their impact on the more broad category of impact on the overall sales of recorded music.  Very little attention is given to the trickle-down impact, i.e., how it affects the songwriter and the small music publishing companies that line the streets of Music Row here in Nashville.  The only report of which I am aware which includes a significant sampling of songwriters is the one conducted by Mary Madden for the PEW Internet & American Life Project in 2004 entitled Artist, Musicians & the Internet.  I won’t rehash all of the argument I made in 90% of All Statistics are Made Up on the Spot: Fact is, copyright infringement DOES kill jobs, except to say that most of these studies ignore the songwriter, on which the illegal downloading of songs has arguably made the greatest impact.  Even back in 2004, when the study was conducted, 75% of the respondents (which included a pool of artists and musicians in addition to solely songwriters) stated that they held down a second non-songwriting-related job which was their primary source of income.  I know for a fact that almost all of my songwriting clients hold second jobs, which prevents them from creating music.  The decline in these songwriter’s revenue is a direct result of the loss of mechanical royalties resulting from the massive decline in sales of physical product, not to mention a decline in performance royalties as a result of fewer artist being played on the radio, which is a result of fewer record labels investing in the career of new and developing artists.
This brings me to my last, and perhaps the most disturbing, observation raised by the new IFPI report.  The report states that
Illegal file-sharing has also had a very significant, and sometimes disastrous, impact on investment in artists and local repertoire. With their revenues eroded by piracy, music companies have far less to plough back into local artist development. . . .
The impact of declining revenues and illegal file-sharing on the availability of venture capital is another factor that is rarely if ever considered by many of the so-called reports on the decline in this “lost decade” of the music industry.  Why would any entity risk investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new artist when there is no perceivable source of revenue from which to gain a return on investment?  The answer is that they do not.  The impact of the Internet on the creative industry does not stop at the music industry.  Other industries that are starting to feel the impact of lost revenues are the movie industry, the television industry, the print publishing industry and the fashion industry.  Anywhere that creative endeavors are conducted for profit, the profits are being diminished in one form or another by the impact of P2P file-sharing.  My wife has a saying about people who live together when they are not married:  “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”  This also applies in the creative industries:  people do not generally pay for that which they can get for free.
The chief executive of Kudos, Stephen Garrett, said it best perhaps:
We are in danger of creating a world where nothing appears to have any value at all, and the things that we make…will become scarce or disappearing commodities.
I hope that danger does not become a reality.  Being deprived of the talents of, say, a Don Henley or a Bono, simply because we are unwilling to shell out a buck for a mp3, would, in my humble opinion be a real shame.

What songwriters can do to protect their ideas when submitting demo tapes to publishers

Every songwriter has heard the words “sorry, we’re not accepting unsolicited material” from at least a dozen publishers. In fact, in a recent informal survey conducted by Law On the Row, two-thirds of the thirty publishing companies contacted indicated that they do not accept unsolicited material. Additionally, the survey revealed that none of the “major” publishers accept unsolicited material.

As unfortunate as this information is for the aspiring songwriter, it is a good business model for the publisher because it avoids idle submission claims — the theory that a publisher “stole” an idea from a songwriter’s demo tape and used it to write another song based on the same idea or concept. This genre of litigation is also prevalent in Hollywood, where movie ideas are stolen almost as often as hooks in Nashville. Is there anything a songwriter can do to protect his or her material when submitting it to a publisher? The answer, of course, is yes.

Register the copyright. While the $30 fee is sometimes a burden on the struggling songwriter’s budget, registration of the copyright is a beneficial and necessary first step in the process of protecting a copyright. Even though the copyright effectively exists from the moment a song is created, registering the copyright empowers the writer to collect statutory damages (i.e. proof of actual damages is not necessary) and attorney’s fees in a submission claim.

Keep good records of all submissions. The first element a songwriter must show in an idea submission claim is access by the defendant publisher (hence the reason many publishers do not accept unsolicited material). You can establish access by maintaining accurate business records of communications and submissions. (The second element, substantial similarity, is a more subjective determination which must be proven by expert testimony).

Establish a relationship with a reputable publisher. By establishing a good, working relationship with a reputable publisher, you minimize your risks and increase your chance of success as a songwriter. Of course, this is the “catch 22”: how to establish a relationship with a publisher without submitting material.Exposure, exposure, and more exposure. Play or have your material played at every opportunity you can — showcases, writer’s nights, gigs, etc. Don’t play your best material — play your “B” songs, i.e, those that are good but don’t necessarily “knock your socks off.” This is not to imply that every audience is full of infringers waiting to take your hook into the studio and “steal your song,” but the fact is that the typical Nashville audience is probably full of other songwriters whose subconscious minds might “soak up” your idea and regurgitate it in the form of a new song incorporating your idea.

Hire a reputable song-plugger. Nashville has a generous supply of good song-pluggers — people who pitch your songs to major labels for a fee, usually $150-300 per month. Find one with a good reputation and hire him or her. Remember to have all agreements reviewed by an entertainment attorney.Join NSAI. Nashville Songwriters Association International is a good organization with services that will assist you in developing as a songwriter and reaching reputable publishers.

Of course, none of these suggestions will guarantee that your submitted material will not be used illegally by a publisher or songwriter. If you feel you have been the subject of blatant theft of intellectual property, contact a reputable attorney.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of Law on the Row, Volume 1, Issue 1, on September 9, 1999.

Link to Politico Interview

As a follow up to my previous post on the subject, the radio widget above should play Politico’s interview with Smashing Pumpkin’s founder and frontman Billy Corgan following his testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee in support of HR 848, the Performance Rights Act.

Corgan testified on Capitol Hill on behalf of the musicFIRST Coalition yesterday.  Corgan testified that the current sytems is “hurting the music business” because of radio stations’ failure to compensate musicians for performing their music.

My readers know my thoughts on this subject.  While I agree with Corgan’s overall sentiment, I stand by my emphasis yesterday that the legislation as it is written may be drafted in favor of the record labels more so than the performing artists. 

HR 848 should have a provision that provides for direct payment of royalties to the artists who performed on the sound recording and which specifically does NOT rely on the record labels to distribute these royalties “in accordance with the terms of the artist’s contract.”  (See my previous post).  This kind of language contained in the House version of the legislation at Section 6 only assures that the record labels would receive all the performance royalties and that performing artists would have to overcome numerous obstacles to ever see any of the additional income, inevitably leading to more disputes with the record label.   The current artists agreements with record labels simply do not contain provisions addressing payment of these types of royalties and, even if they did, the artists who have unrecouped balances on their ledger sheets would never see a dime. 

My proposal is that the current system for collection and distribution of performance royalties for musical compositions be utilized.  Specifically, why not allow BMI, SESAC and ASCAP to collect and distribute the performance royalties for sound recording copyrights on behalf of member artists, allowing these organizations to pay 50% of the income directly to the artists (the original owners of the sound recordings) and 50% to the record labels (the assignee owners of the sound recordings).  This structure is identical to the distribution of performance royalties for owners of the musical composition copyright.  It’s a systems that has functioned well since the turn of the 20th century and it is a systems that, overall, works fairly well. 

In general, members of the performance rights organizations have fewer royalty disputes with these entities over  than artists do with record labels, since these entities, for the most part, do not function as profit generators.  There is no doubt that this idea has some flaws as well, but in comparing the alternative, it seems to me that this would benefit the artists and musicians much more than giving the money to the record labels.

Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc. today announced the lineup for this year’s KCRS Live! event during the radio industry event, CRS-40, scheduled for March 4 – 6, 2009 at the Nashville Convention Center.  The ASCAP-sponsored KCRS Live! event will Wednesday, March 4 from 5-6:20 p.m.

The event almost always features some of Nashville’s top songwriting talent.  ASCAP writers and artists scheduled to perform this year include the following:

Jimmy Wayne Jimmy Wayne – Jimmy Wayne’s “Do You Believe Me Now,” the title track from his first new album in five years (Do You Believe Me Now), was worth the wait.  The much anticipated release was a Top 5 debut on the Billboard Country Album chart, while the single went all the way to No. 1.  The follow-up single, “I Will,” is headed in the same direction.  His first release was a Top 10 success, garnering a string of hits on the Billboard Country chart, including “Stay Gone,” “I Love You This Much,” “Paper Angels” and “You Are,” all co-written by Wayne.  He is scheduled to perform on the “American Saturday Night” tour with Brad Paisley in the summer and fall of this year.

Kelley Lovelace – Franklin, Tennessee resident and graduate of Belmont University, Kelley Lovelace is no stranger to hit songs, havingKelley-Lovelace-(No-Hat) written several that were recorded by artists such as Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Montgomery Gentry, Jason Aldean, Terri Clark, Joe Nichols, Jason Michael Carroll, Kristy Lee Cook, Tracy Byrd and many others.  Fifteen of those songs turned into Top 20 Billboard hits, and 10 of them reached the No. 1 position.  His credits include “Ticks,” “He Didn’t Have to Be,” “The World,” “Online,” (Brad Paisley), “The Impossible,” (Joe Nichols) and “I Just Wanna Be Mad” and “Girls Lie Too” (Terri Clark).

Ashley Gorley – Danville, Kentucky native and Belmont University  graduate Ashley Gorley scored his first No. 1 with Carrie Underwood’s 2006 hit “Don’t Forget To Remember Me.”  In 2008, Carrie brought him his second No. 1 with “All-American Girl.”  His third chart-topper came only a few weeks later with Trace Adkins’ No. 1Ashley Gorley smash, “You’re Gonna Miss This.” 2009 began with yet another No. 1 hit, the Brad Paisley / Keith Urban duet “Start A Band.”  Gorley has already won three ASCAP Awards and been nominated for two Grammys and a CMA Award.  His most recent single is Darius Rucker’s “It Won’t Be Like This For Long.”

Jonathan Singleton – Music Row’s “Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year” in 2008, Jonathan Singleton announced his presence in Nashville with the 2007 Gary Allan smash “Watching Airplanes,” a song that earned him an ACM nomination for Single of the Year.  The Jackson, Tenn. native is also a performer, recently playing gigs opening for artists like Joe Nichols, Phil Vassar, Jonathon Singleton Carrie Underwood, Jason Michael Carroll, Blake Shelton and Eric Church.  Singleton also wrote the latest Billy Currington single “Don’t,” and was featured in a recent “Legends and Lyrics” episode on PBS.

“We look forward to KCRS Live! every year.  It gives ASCAP an opportunity to showcase some of our best songwriter/artists to radio in a more intimate setting,” said Connie Bradley, ASCAP Sr. VP.

“For years, KCRS Live! has showcased some of Nashville’s finest songwriters at Country Radio Seminar.  This year looks to be no different, and we are grateful to have ASCAP once again sponsoring this event,” added CRB Executive Director Ed Salamon.

More information about the event can be found at www.crb.org.