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Music Industry Heavyweight goes Head-to-Head with YouTube

March 3, 2015

Irving Azoff, former Executive Chairman of LiveNation Entertainment, threatened to pull over 20,000 of his clients copyrighted songs from Youtube in light of Google’s planned launch of Music Key, a YouTube subscription service to compete with Pandora and Spotify.  Azoff does not believe YouTube has made all necessary deals for this service.  Big record labels made deals with YouTube, but smaller independent labels reacted negatively to the licensing terms.  His clients include John Lennon, Pharrell Williams, Boston, Smokey Robinson, and the Eagles.  

Azoff wants to make a statement regarding higher royalty payments to songwriters and is fronting a new venture named Global Music Rights, which aims to use Azoff’s negotiating leverage to extract higher performance rights royalties for songwriters through IP licensing services.  Owners of songwriter and publishing rights traditionally struggle to receive compensation from digital services.  Azoff’s message is that, as consumers gravitate more to streaming services, these should contribute more compensation to the composers. 


Modern MP3 Technology Raises Licensing Questions

January 30, 2015

The development of MP3 players and other modern portable and electronic music-playing devices has changed the way that people listen to music.  People who utilize these technological advances are generally not in danger of infringing U.S. copyright law.  Businesses, on the other hand, may very well be.  If a business plays stored and reorganized music in a public space, they may infringe the public performance rights of the rights holder.  In this helpful essay, G.S. Hans of the University of Michigan Law School examines how licensing pertains to public performance rights in the digital age.

Read the essay here.


Musical Movements and Notes

November 23, 2009  

The War Between the Music Industry Titans Might Just Finally Be Over   

The New York Court of Appeals recently ruled that Warner Music Group mogul Edgar M. Bronfman Jr. is not obligated to pay former Simon & Schuster CEO Richard E. Snyder the more than $100 million Snyder was seeking for what Snyder had alleged was a significant role in Bronfman's 2004 acquisition of Warner Music from Time Warner for $2.6 billion.  This effectively terminates 


Snyder's final two claims in the suit.

October 22, 2009  

You Just Might Not Owe ASCAP or BMI any Royalties for Receiving a Phone Call in Public   

A court recently ruled in effect that you do not.  The suit was brought by ASCAP against Verizon Wireless and AT&T, and ASCAP might be precluded by this ruling from suing you, although BMI probably is not precluded since it was not a party to the suit.  

In the decision, the court noted that Verizon and AT&T already pay mechanical license fees to download the 30-second snippets of music.  The court held that ASCAP cannot demand additional royalties for the times the ringtones go off in a public place, such as in a restaurant or at the beach.  

The court ruled that the act of being played once the phone rings does not qualify as a “public performance” due to an exemption in the Copyright Act for "those performances of a musical work that occur within the 'normal circle of a family and its societal acquaintances.'"  The court said the "expectation of profit is important to determining whether a performance fits within [this] exemption" and, here, ASCAP produced no evidence that any subscribers are playing ringtones for any 'commercial advantage,' such as charging an admission or otherwise getting paid for these performances.  Instead, the court cited evidence by Verizon and AT&T that the only revenue they make from selling the ringtones to the subscribers, which is covered by the mechanical license fees.  

According to the New York Law Journal, after the decision, a spokesperson for ASCAP commented that, "We have always pursued fair payment for individual music creators whose creative works are used to build the businesses of others, and that effort will certainly continue."  Michael Salzman of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, who had filed an amicus brief on behalf of BMI, added, "BMI believes that the ringtones are public performances and songwriters should be paid for the downloads."  

The decision was of course based on the facts presented, and it therefore remains an open question whether ASCAP or BMI can or will pursue royalties from individual mobile phone users for “performing” the music in legitimately purchased ringtones since both ASCAP and BMI appear to believe that the licenses to the wireless networks for the ringtones do not include the right to perform the music in public, and this decision provides a blueprint for the type of additional evidence they would need to pursue public performance royalties in the future.   


Read more stories here.