Sony Stops Licensing Of Digital Streams As It Allows DRM-Free Music

from the interesting-timing dept

The timing on this one may be something of a coincidence, but it’s worth noting that at just about the same time that Sony is getting a ton of press for finally realizing that DRM doesn’t make sense, the company has also told the Harry Fox Agency to stop licensing its music for digital streaming (via Mathew Ingram). As Ingram points out, this decision is really about the rather arcane details of copyright law and two (of the many) different license requirements that are out there. The RIAA labels have all been pushing (not surprisingly) for whatever combination of licenses that will bring them the most money. This isn’t new, of course. We saw it in the battle over what licenses satellite radio had to pay. The same battle is now happening with digital streaming services. The Digital Media Association has asked the copyright board for a ruling saying that an audio stream should only be required to pay a performance license (as it’s a performance) rather than a reproduction license (like for a product that’s actually being distributed). Because of that, Sony has basically said it won’t be distributing any more music for streaming until this is settled. It’s likely the other labels will follow as well. It’s hard to see how they can really argue that an audio stream isn’t simply a performance, since the whole point of a stream is for it to be fleeting, like radio, rather than a fully stored download. Yet, when you’re unwilling to look at new business models, it’s no surprise that you look for any opportunity to use whatever laws and government subsidies you can to your advantage.

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Sony Stops Licensing Of Digital Streams As It Allows DRM-Free Music”

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Some Guy says:

Re: Typically dumb...

Actually, there’s talk around here that the RIAA guys are pressing for Radios to pay the same (or similar) fees and licenses as “internet radio” and others. I think Techdirt even had an article about how the radio guys are getting upset about it, too little too late. It’s all the same: the RIAA is putting lots of effort into making it difficult to ever learn about their music.

Bob3000 says:

Sony's idea of DRM-free music

Infoworld – Users will be able to download just 37 albums DRM-free from Sony BMG

“To obtain the Sony-BMG tracks, would-be listeners will first have to go to a retail store to buy a Platinum MusicPass, a card containing a secret code, for a suggested retail price of $12.99. Once they have scratched off the card’s covering to expose the code, they will be able to download one of just 37 albums available through the service, including Britney Spears’ “Blackout” and Barry Manilow’s “The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.”

Nick (user link) says:

not as easy as RIAA bashing.


I’m never one to take the side of the “man” but a little clarification:

– This is Sony ATV PUBLISHING company (Not Sony BMG – the two have completely different artist rosters) that is restricting the issue of mechanical licenses.
– It’s largely seen as a defensive move in reaction to DiMA’s (an organization which includes Apple, AOL, Yahoo and others) brief to the Copyright board asking that INTERACTIVE streaming (not radio-esque non-interactive streaming such as SOMAFM) is not counted as reproduction and therefore not subject to a mechanical license.

Whether you side with DiMA or Sony in this siutation, the point is that this is not Sony BMG. Artists have much more favorable terms with publishers and, due to the abhorrent terms in most record contracts, can see the majority of their income in their later careers come from the publishing side.

For example, see Radiohead’s decision to re-up with Warner/Chappell Publishing even after they dumped EMI – which leads me to another point –

Radiohead recently signed an “experimental” deal with Warner Chappell publishing which effectively CUTS OUT Harry Fox and other collecting socieites and brings all licensing duties in-house to the publisher. I’ve heard the theory that this move by Sony is a pre-cursor to a similar move by that company.

And what will be the effects of cutting out HFA? Well, at least one effect will be more favorable licensing terms, as well as the ability to license music for all of the novel new ways people want to use music these days. In the end, this could be another salvo in the digital evolution of the publishing industry.

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