“Pandora Suit May Upend Century-Old Royalty Plan”

I’m linking to this lawsuit news because it affects a lot of my friends — songwriters:

As the music industry races toward a future of digital streams and smartphone apps, its latest crisis centers on a regulatory plan that has been in place since “Chattanooga Choo Choo” was a hit.

Since 1941, Ascap and BMI, the two giant licensing organizations that dominate music publishing, have been governed by consent decrees with the Justice Department. These agreements were made to guarantee fair royalty rates for songwriters and for the radio stations, television networks and even restaurants and retail shops that play their music.

But with the industry struggling to make money from digital music, this system has come under attack. The streaming service Pandora is squaring off against Ascap in a closely watched trial over royalty payments. Big music publishers like Sony/ATV and Universal are calling on the government to overhaul the system, and technology companies are accusing the publishers of trying to skirt federal rules meant to protect them. …

“What’s happening with these court cases will determine the future of the music publishing and songwriting industries,” said David Israelite, the president of the National Music Publishers’ Association. “It is simply unfair to ask songwriters and publishers to be paid something less than a fair market rate for their intellectual property.”

And if you didn’t know what BMI and Ascap did — or know that every time you hear a song broadcast over the radio, the songwriter and publisher get a royalty — you might want to read the whole article.

By the way, I have never listened to music via Pandora. A friend had to explain to me what it was. “Oh,” I said, and continued listening to music on my radio. Which I am doing right now.

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