Music Artists’ Rights Groups File Joint Brief On Royalty Rates

The Music Artists Coalition (MAC) and the Songwriters of North America (SONA) have filed a joint amicus brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on the determination of royalty rates to be paid by interactive streaming services. The brief urges the court to affirm the decision of the Copyright Royalty Judges, which increases the royalty rates payable to music copyright owners.

Highlights from the brief include:

  • For over a century, songwriters have been subject to a compulsory license, now embodied in section 115 of the Copyright Act, that determines the price to be paid for reproduction and distribution of the musical works they create. There is no comparable example of a profession where the government sets the price for one’s labors.”
  • “After carefully weighing all of the evidence, the CRJs determined that songwriters should be paid more, and increased the rate for interactive streaming under section 115. Songwriters deserved that raise. Indeed, for some, the added income will be a critical factor in their ability to continue in their careers as professional songwriters.”
  • “In contrast to music publishers and songwriters, record companies are able to engage in free market negotiations to license their separate copyright interests in the sound recordings in which musical works are embodied. Without the constraint of a compulsory license, record labels are able to achieve greater relative value in licensing their recordings.”
  • “Under the updated formula adopted by the CRJs, if the record labels negotiate a better rate in the marketplace, songwriters may benefit even though they are otherwise living under the ‘ghost in the attic.’ Far from being unreasonable, as the Services suggest, the revised rate formula represents an important corrective to properly value the work of songwriters and ensure a fair return for their creative contributions.”

“I struggled for over a decade to make my living as a songwriter. I know how hard it is. Writers don’t sell tickets or t-shirts. They rely on publishing royalties for their income. Developing songwriters today have an especially difficult time since we can no longer rely on traditional record sales. Thank you to the CRJs for giving songwriters the raise they deserve. I hope the Court of Appeals will affirm this balanced and fair rate increase for songwriters,” said MAC Board member, Shane McAnally.

“It all starts with a song. The foundation of the music business is the songwriter and they deserve to be compensated fairly for their work. MAC felt it was important to let the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals know how vital it is that songwriters are paid a fair wage and that the rate increases should be upheld,” said MAC board member, Coran Capshaw.

“If I were trying to make it as a songwriter today dependent on digital royalties, I wouldn’t be able to sustain a livelihood the way I once did from the income of physical sales. Without sharing in master royalties, merchandising or touring revenue, most songwriters now have to consider holding down a second job. I sincerely hope the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirms the CRJs’ decision and takes the industry in the direction it desperately needs to go. Songwriters are counting on it,” said SONA co-founder and board member, songwriter Shelly Peiken.


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About the Author

Hollabaugh, a staff writer at MusicRow magazine, has written for publications including American Profile, CMA Close Up, Nashville Arts And Entertainment, The Boot and Country Weekly. She has a Broadcast Journalism and Speech Communication degree from Texas Christian University, (go Horned Frogs), and welcomes your feedback or story ideas at [email protected]

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