Navigating the rules of using music in a digital media platform is complicated. Whether you’re a streaming music service, offering podcasts, downloads, videos with music from your site, or simply creating ads for advertisers, chances are you’re creating a public performance when you’re doing that, which in the digital world means you have to have a license and pay a fee. In many cases, statutory or blanket licenses already exist. Which means all you have to do is figure out which ones apply to you…
To make that much easier, my friend David Oxenford of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine has created an excellent resource. Guide to the Basics of Music Licensing is essential reading for anyone in the digital audio space. (It’s free!)
Oxenford is the most knowledgeable guy I know in areas related to copyright issues and digital audio. He has represented webcasters in lots of royalty negotiations including the settlement last summer between pureplay webcasters and SoundExchange. He’s also a busy FCC attorney for lots of broadcasters. He’ll be speaking at RAIN Summit West on April 12th as well.
Last week, “Pureplay” webcasters and Sound Exchange came to agreement on royalty rates for the use of sound recordings by Internet Radio stations for the period from 2006-2010. The deal, and analysis of it’s benefits, have been well summarized by David Oxenford (the attorney that represented the webcasters) here, and by Kurt Hanson, Publisher of RAIN: The Radio and Internet Newsletter on his blog.
As Hanson explains, the deal benefits “webcasters who … who have aspirations of earning more than $1.25 million in revenues per year — but are not wholly-owned divisions of multi-billion-dollar companies (e.g., AOL & Yahoo and CBS & other terrestrial broadcast groups). Those webcasters, and some of the known parties in the group, are Pandora, AccuRadio, Digitally Imported and Radioio.
Like the deal negotiated by broadcasters with Sound Exchange earlier this year, this agreement saves these webcasters from further costly CRB (Copyright Royalty Board) negotiations, establishes performance royalty rates that are lower than the rates established by the CRB, and gives smaller webcasters fixed percentage of revenue rates until they hit annual revenue marks somewhere over a million per year.
While there are critics, there’s no doubt that this deal benefits the certain group that participated in the negotiations, giving them relief from CRB-established rates. Congrats to David Oxenford, Kurt Hanson, Joe Kennedy, Ari Shohat, Mike Roe, and others who participated in the negotiations – I know from previous experience that it’s a long and frustrating process. More importantly, it’s a very expensive process – other webcasters that benefit from this option owe thanks and perhaps more to the companies that stepped up to get it done.