A Parade Of Horror Stories From Copyright Collection Organizations
from the not-a-panacea dept
We recently wrote about the band Uniform Motion’s problems with SACEM, the French collection society that seemed to be taking a lot of money from the band and working against the band’s own interests. We’ve noted this repeatedly with collection societies around the globe. While they are often held out as being good because they (unlike the labels) have more of a mandate to actually get money to artists, we’ve seen time and time again that their actions often do more to harm the market and harm artists than to help them. And yet… thanks to the complicated nature of the music industry today, it seems that a lot of people have been pushing the idea of some sort of “collective licensing” regime as a solution to many of the problems the industry faces. This would be a mistake. We already see that just in how such systems end up, often locking in a particular way of doing business at the expense of innovation and larger, healthier markets for musicians.
Jonathan Band has put together a fantastic white paper, detailing “cautionary tales” related to excess of and problems caused by these Collective Rights Organizations (CROs) around the globe. It’s quite eye opening. As he notes:
The episodes collected below reveal a long history of corruption, mismanagement, confiscation of funds, and lack of transparency that has deprived artists of the revenues they earned. At the same time, CROs have often aggressively sought fees to which they were not legally entitled or in a manner that discredited the copyright system. While properly regulated CROs in some circumstances enhance efficiency and advance the interests of rights holders and users, policymakers must be aware of this history as they consider the appropriateness of CROs as a possible solution to a specific copyright issue
The paper categorizes these problems into two categories. First up is a collection of stories that show how these organizations are quite frequently “Bad For Artists,” covering things like corruption, mismanagement of funds, bad distribution of funds, lack of transparency, lack of choice, diverting funds & attention from small artists to large, etc. The second group is “Bad for Users,” covering things like monopolistic control (and pricing), trying to ignore fair use, price fixing, and aggressively trying to get licenses for things they have no rights over. What’s amazing about the report is just how many examples there are. This is not a case of a few rogue CROs acting badly. It’s difficult to look through the paper and not see evidence of how these CROs are almost systemically designed to actually be very bad for both artists and the public (though perhaps helpful in keeping the status quo for gatekeepers).
Just doing a quick count, I see over 90 examples of actions taken by these collection societies that have either been bad for artists or for users. This is a serious problem, not a “solution” to fixing whatever inefficiencies there may be in the music industry today.