News

Online music going for a song; bill seeks more money for composers

Online music going for a song; bill seeks more money for composers

MUSIC MAN: The measure, introduced by Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, would give songwriters more leeway in arguing for higher royalties before a special court that mediates disputes over payments. Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Songwriters need to make more money when their music is played on online services like Pandora and elsewhere, according to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday by a Republican congressman.

The measure, introduced by Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, would give songwriters more leeway in arguing for higher royalties before a special court that mediates disputes over payments.

The proposal is supported by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI), which license about 90 percent of music heard online on services, in restaurants and on television.

“There are a lot of powerful interests that use music but don’t like the idea of paying songwriters a fair market value,” said David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers’ Association, which also backs the bill.

If the measure passed in the House it would need also to pass the U.S. Senate to become law.

Israelite said the songwriter was the “least compensated” of those involved in the process of getting music written, produced and performed.

Currently, a “rate court” based in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York mediates conflicts between ASCAP and BMI and companies who want to play songs.

Songwriting and recordings are licensed separately.

Collins’ legislation would allow BMI and ASCAP to point to the amount of money paid to performers in order to argue for more money for songwriters. This comparison is now banned.

“A service like Pandora will pay the owners of the sound recording a certain rate, and that rate is much higher than what the publishers (who represent the songwriters) get,” said Stefan Mentzer, a copyright expert with the law firm White and Case LLP.

“This legislation is part of a larger debate between copyright owners, music services and policy makers about what is the appropriate price of music online and how this gets determined,” he said.

The bill, which would also have to have Senate backing to become law, is supported by the major music publishing organizations.

“We are locked arm-on-arm on this,” said Paul Williams, president of ASCAP and composer of hits like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays.”

ASCAP distributed $828.7 million to its 460,000 members in 2012, according to its annual report. BMI has 600,000 members and distributed $814 million in the 2013 fiscal year.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Storey and Andrew Hay)

Latest Stories

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: July 30

Fresh
elvis

The Hollywood headlines that made history.

in Music

Soundgarden fan sends death threats to Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden performs at Rock on the Range on Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.

An obsessed fan of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell has been arrested and charged with sending death threats to the rocker and his family.

in Music

Arcade Fire confused by fans’ love for free downloads

Win Butler and Reed Parry of Arcade Fire perform at the 2014 Big Day Out Festival.

Arcade Fire are baffled by the avalanche of online file-sharing because fans will regularly buy expensive coffee but expect to get records for free.