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Music Media Your Rights Online

RIAA Wants Songwriter Royalty Lowered 343

Posted by kdawson
from the more-for-meeeeee dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Lest there be anyone left who believes the RIAA's propaganda that its litigation campaign is intended to benefit the 'creators' of the music, Hollywood Reporter reports that the RIAA is asking the Copyright Royalty Board to lower songwriter royalties on song file downloads, from the present rate of 9 cents per song — about 13% of the wholesale price — down to 8% of wholesale. Meanwhile, the big digital music companies, such as Apple, want the royalty rate lowered even more, to something like 4% of wholesale. So any representations by any of these companies that they are concerned for the 'creators' of the music must henceforth be taken with a boxcar-load of salt."
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RIAA Wants Songwriter Royalty Lowered

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  • by piltdownman84 (853358) <piltdownman84&mac,com> on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:18PM (#22302210)
    Aren't they supposed to be on the artists' side?

    The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry.

    Reducing costs is good for the Industry.
  • by lancejjj (924211) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:41PM (#22302440) Homepage

    Meanwhile, the big digital music companies, such as Apple, want the royalty rate lowered even more, to something like 4% of wholesale. So any representations by any of these companies that they are concerned for the 'creators' of the music must henceforth be taken with a boxcar-load of salt."
    This 4% proposal is for Internet Radio, not for Digital Music Sales. From the article:

    "New-media companies want the rate to go even lower, contending that it should disappear when music is digitally streamed
    To me, this means that some "non-label" companies think that Internet Radio should take on the common terrestrial radio songwriter royalty plan, instead of being treated substantially differently merely because the transport is the internet instead of the airwaves.

    Of course, streaming internet radio is quite different than music sales.
  • by webword (82711) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:42PM (#22302454) Homepage
    Nails frontman [Trent Reznor] urges fans to steal music [yourguide.com.au]

    "Steal it. Steal away. Steal, steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealing," Reznor, who has been dubbed the Ralph Nader of the music industry, said.

    Steal NIN music too? He steals he says. Read that article. Interesting.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:49PM (#22302502)
    "Imagine if musicians had to pay out of pocket for every song that was distributed"

    ROFL, oh but THEY DO!!!! the traditional RIAA contract has the artist paying for all the costs out of their royalties. essentially companys RIAA represent take an artist onboard and fund the album, making the artist pay it all out of their royalties at an inflated price as well as taking their cut of the profits, so if an artist is very lucky they might walk away not owing them money... studio's are a pit of snakes, make no mistake.

  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768.comcast@net> on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:49PM (#22302504) Journal
    They want the 4% royalty rate for STREAMING... IE internet radio, which right now is treated much different than terrestrial radio where the songwriter gets practically nothing for. They are saying that they shoudlnt be treating internet radio as if it is somehow different than normal over the air.
  • by RobBebop (947356) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:52PM (#22302530) Homepage Journal

    It always seems to come down to that nasty RIAA.

    The RIAA represents the big four [wikipedia.org] and many smaller [riaa.com] record companies. You shouldn't direct any special malice against Sony BMG... but identify songs by RIAA artists [riaaradar.com] and then use your own judgment.

    I actually prefer searching for songs that are distributed under Creative Commons-style licenses [jamendo.com], as these are often pretty high quality and always free-and-clear of all litigation worries.

  • Re:Why the RIAA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:11PM (#22302654)
    This isn't the RIAA setting any sort of internal payment policy for it's members.
    This isn't even a matter of paying the artists at all.

    This is a matter of the NMPA (an industry association of publishing companies representing composing artists), and the RIAA (an industry association of record labels representing performing artists) squabbling over which middle man ought to get a bigger cut of online sales.
    How much either of them passes on to the artists they supposedly represent is a separate issue.

    And, meanwhile, the DiMA (an industry association of online music sellers) is chiming in to suggest that they both keep their prices low to speed growth in online sales while CD sales tank.
  • Re:Why the RIAA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by RobBebop (947356) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:20PM (#22302710) Homepage Journal

    The RIAA is a trade group, and it wouldn't surprise me if they had some kind of power/influence written into all the contracts they administer to control where royalties are paid.

    They do have some goals [wikipedia.org], which are not *all* related to litigation.

    • (this one is litigation) to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists;
    • (this one is self-preservation) to perform research about the music industry;
    • (this one is lobbying the nation) to monitor and review relevant laws, regulations and policies.

    So you see, they do lots of things besides sue their customers.

  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:21PM (#22302728)
    Same thing with the games industry. You first have to pay back all that money the publisher gave you as well as the cost for advertising and distributing your game before you can have your 10% of the royalties.
  • by novakyu (636495) <novakyu@member.fsf.org> on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:25PM (#22302768) Homepage
    The only problem is, songwriters don't have a full control over their creative work. The mechanics of the system goes under various names, such as "compulsory license", "statutory license", or in TFA, "mechanical license". Lessig's Free Culture [free-culture.cc] gives a better account than I can, but the most songwriters can do is refuse to write more songs, not refuse to license their already-published work.

    Given the usual release cycles of albums (probably the real difference between the music industry and TV shows), they will need to do be able to sustain their strike for one year or longer—how many strikes have you seen that lasted one whole year?
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:48PM (#22302938)

    What?! Should we try Communism ONE MORE TIME because THIS TIME we'll "do it right"? Ha. Come on. ;)

    You should be careful about such comments. One would think you were talking about "communism" the economic model since you are comparing it to capitalism, instead of "communism" the political ideology. This is important because "communism" the political ideology generally tries to apply extreme "socialism" as economic policy and has basically nothing to do with "communism" the economic model aside from the political parties that misleadingly stole the name. This is also important because "communism" the economic model is alive and well for those who apply it to small communist cell sizes. The most common example of this would be the family unit, which comprises a communist cell by buying and selling goods and services collectively (although these cell sizes are shrinking in the US). Other applications of communism that have stood the test of time are monasteries, co-op housing, co-op stores, credit unions, municipalities, etc.

    Most Americans seem to have some messed up ideas about communism and socialism, both as political ideologies and as economic models. For example, public schools are an example of socialism, although those schools seem to have failed to educate their students as to that fact. Most people with an even cursory education in economics, however, will tell you that communism, socialism, and capitalism are all present in every economy in the world and what usually leads to disaster is when an economy becomes extremist and failing to balance these aspects. Extreme capitalism is just as unstable and disastrous as extreme socialism or extreme communism... that is the lesson we all should have learned from history.

  • Re:Why the RIAA? (Score:4, Informative)

    by shark72 (702619) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:55PM (#22302980)

    "Why is the RIAA even able to set any sort of financial policy for its parent companies? I thought it was just a big bunch of lawyers! Should not each recording studio set compensation based on the contracts it signs with the artists?"

    Remember -- mechanical royalties are set by law. This isn't a contract issue. You're thinking of the royalties paid to the performers on the recording -- those are contractual.

    Since the songwriting royalties are set by law, it's in the best interest of the record industry to use their trade group to fight to get the law changed. And, that's what the RIAA is -- a trade group. They're much like the AMA is to doctors... it's the AMA which you see lobbying congress, not individual MDs.

  • Re:Why the RIAA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by shark72 (702619) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:00AM (#22303008)

    "I heard it was too complicated to do it that way. Maybe with modern computers it may be easier. It used to be that radio-stations etc. would simply[1] keep a list of each song they played and periodically handed that list over to the RIAA, who applied a set even percentage and collected corresponding fees to be distributed. It worked well for several decades. In fact, I think that patents should follow a similar technique so that you don't get slammed with surprise royalties."

    Huh? The RIAA doesn't deal with terrestrial radio... that's ASCAP and BMI, who represent artists. That's the beauty of terrestrial radio royalties... it goes directly to the artists. The record companies don't see any of it.

    This is exactly why the RIAA wanted to get its paws on the royalties from streaming radio. They've missed 90 years of radio royalties; thus, they successfully got the rules changed. Thus was formed SoundExchange [wikipedia.org]. The artists still get much (or most) of the money, but now the record companies line up for their share, too.

  • by kandresen (712861) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:05AM (#22303060)
    Under the current situation it might make sense to make this move by the RIAA:
    1) In USA there are virtually no free media - everything is owned by one large corporation or the other
    - This include radio, TV, magazines and so on - tell me one TV station or national radio station - or even a one state radio station that is independent of big companies likes of NBC, Time Warner, Viacom, News Corp., and so on.
    2) The Internet is not yet established enough as a channel of new music
    3) In the current system you need - lets say 50 000 people listening to you to break even and be able to live by the art you make, by reducing the payout this will reduce the number of artists out there who may make enough to live by making music, however as they control the media, they may increase the airtime of fewer artists making them stay firm while the rest "disappears".
    4) By focusing on online media as broadcasting, thus reducing artists revenue further, they may limit the possibility even further for artists using the online media as an alternative channel.

    Prepare for even more commercials in music videos etc. Artists will likely need to more frequently require brands to pay part of their initial promotion to get media attention.
  • by w3woody (44457) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @03:25AM (#22304194) Homepage
    Sometimes it is better to go to the horse's mouth than requote an article written by a third-party who doesn't know the difference between a sale (such as the sale of a song through Apple's iTunes store) and streaming audio (such as what you stream through Yahoo! Music's Internet Radio). What the DiMA (which includes Apple, YouTube, and Yahoo) has asked for is to clarify the rules such that mechanical royalties for Internet streaming (not Internet sales) is paid using the same formula as for broadcast on the radio. [digmedia.org]

    To quote from the brief:

    For the reasons briefly set forth above, DiMA believes that "interactive streaming" of a sound recording does not constitute a Digital Photograph Delivery under Section 115 of the Copyright Act. In their written direct cases, by contrast, both NMPA and RIAA have proposed rates and terms to apply to internet streaming, arguing that Section 115 is triggered by such activities.

    This assumption, made by the RIAA and NMPA, that streaming is the same as selling a music track, is what triggered a whole stream of Slashdot stories about how the RIAA was trying to destroy Internet radio, such as: Webcasters Call Bunk on SoundExchange DRM Ploy [slashdot.org].

    This would have nothing to do with Apple iTunes Music Store sales of music, which are considered the electronic delivery of an album.

    As a side note, I'm astonished how quickly so many otherwise intelligent Slashdot readers seem to pile up on one side or another of an issue, such as Internet Radio royalties, depending on how the winds happen to be blowing--because they fail to think for themselves. If supposedly more intelligent than average Slashdot readers are this easily manipulated, then God help us during tomorrow's Super Tuesday elections...
  • Re:gangsters (Score:4, Informative)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @04:42PM (#22312972) Homepage Journal

    bribe politicians, shortchange clients (musicians), ruin people's lives, etc
    Or conspire to commit extortion, illegally invade computers, and use unlicensed investigators [blogspot.com]. In fact, in Oregon the Attorney General [blogspot.com] is after them, and in Massachusetts the state police [blogspot.com] are after them.

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