Digital music distributors seek royalty reduction in US courts

This is something that we in Europe may not be aware of, but that will affect us in the future.

Google, Spotify and Pandora are in the US courts right now petitioning to reduce the amount they pay to songwriters. They are doing this despite the overwhelming pressure from music lovers and creators around the world to *increase* these percentages to an equitable amount.

As usual, the following Songwriters Guild of America release contains expert comments are well worth reading.


March 10, 2020. WASHINGTON, DC. The Songwriters Guild of America, Inc. (“SGA”), the longest established and largest music creator advocacy organization in the United States run solely by and for songwriters, composers and their heirs, spoke out again today against the action of various digital music distributors that SGA believes intend to “destroy the earning capacities of music creators purely in favor of generating short-term, unbridled profits.”

Specifically, SGA protested the assertions made this morning by Google, Spotify, Amazon and Pandora before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals as they seek to have overturned the 2018 ruling by the US Copyright Royalty Board (“CRB”) that raised the woefully under-market royalty rates the companies must pay to songwriters, composers and lyricists.

“Today’s demands by Google/YouTube and its allies to erase those long overdue increases in royalty rates for uses such as on-demand streaming,” stated SGA president and songwriter Rick Carnes, “are both counter-intuitive and completely counter-productive toward development of a healthier, more sustainable music industry economy.”

Carnes pointed to the recent, global trend toward increasing rather than eroding the ability of songwriters and composers to make a living as the proper course toward a more stable music community economy across all sectors. He also applauded the CRB’s leadership in that regard.

Carnes further cited the European Union’s recent recognition in its 2019 Copyright Directive that if musical culture is to thrive and economic viability for creators is to return, steps must be taken immediately to eliminate the enormous “value gap” between the tiny sums earned by music creators for the uses of their works, as compared with the vast proceeds that international digital distribution conglomerates currently realize from those same uses.

“The answer from the multi-billion-dollar distribution companies to those global developments came today in the form of an attempt to use the US judicial system to strike back at the same creative community upon which it depends for its current and future health,” he concluded.. “Rest assured that SGA will be fighting back on all fronts against this inexplicable attack on songwriters and composers.”

Carnes went on to thank Apple Music for refusing to join its fellow digital music distributors in what he further termed as their “unfathomable behavior toward those who provide them with the lifeblood of their existence: artistic content.” SGA will continue to monitor the progress of the case and intends to bring to the public’s attention further initiatives necessary to prevent future, catastrophic harm to music creators by the actions of the appellants.

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