Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
lobbying, music, radio

riaa, soundexchange

SoundExchange Caught Lobbying, Despite Strict Rules Against Using Its Money For Lobbying

from the somehow,-this-doesn't-come-as-a-surprise dept

SoundExchange, which is a "non-profit" spinoff of the RIAA is supposed to be a neutral party, simply in charge of collecting certain royalties and distributing it to the artists. Of course, things aren't always the way they're supposed to be. After all, SoundExchange is famous for having trouble finding many of the musicians it's supposed to pay -- which isn't all that surprising since it gets to keep the money that goes unclaimed. However, part of the law that governs SoundExchange's existence makes very clear that the organization may only use its money for three things: administration of collecting and distributing royalties, settling disputes about the royalties and licensing and enforcement. One thing clearly not on that list is building a PR campaign and lobbying Congress to expand its ability to collect royalties from other sources. However, Eliot Van Buskirk over at Wired has discovered that's exactly what SoundExchange is doing, and it appears to be breaking the law.

You'll recall the recent stories about the music industry claiming that radio stations are getting a free ride in not having to pay musicians' royalties, despite the fact that, for years, the record labels felt they needed to pay the radio stations just to get airtime. This came out as a new lobbying group and PR campaign kicked off -- including the ridiculous assertion that radio makes people buy less music. It turns out that the group behind this lobbying effort, musicFIRST, happens to be funded in part by SoundExchange. It makes sense why SoundExchange would do this. After all, it would be in charge of collecting those royalties. However, the law seems pretty clear that SoundExchange can't use its money for lobbying (especially lobbying to expand its own power). Van Buskirk got the run around from SoundExchange on this, with the executive director ignoring the question and simply repeating the laughable statement that radio stations (who are promoting the music for the record labels) are somehow getting "a free ride." A lawyer for SoundExchange then tries to explain the situation away by saying that the royalty money being used for lobbying was authorized to be used this way by SoundExchange members. That's like saying it's okay that they broke the law, because they gave themselves permission to break the law. Very convincing.

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  1. identicon
    CharlieHorse, 6 Aug 2007 @ 1:22pm

    what about ....

    indy musicians, producers, et al - releasing their work under different licenses ? i.e. a creative commons type or gpl'd type license ? that way there wouldn't need to be individual licenses between the broadcasters and each and every musician/producer/songwriter/etc.

    in my understanding - that was the reason for soundexchange - i.e. to "standardize" or eliminate the necessity for broadcasters to make contracts for broadcast with each individual artist ... (although, we know in reality it was/is nothing more than a money-grab, control-grab by riaa members).

    so, if this was the *reason* for soundexchange - how 'bout artists simply release their stuff under a general license - that eliminates the need for a**clowns like soundexchange and/or riaa. broadcasters simply then need to themselves ascribe to the *generalized* license ...

    any artists not wanting to do so, but wanting their stuff broadcast simply make separate agreement with the broadcaster - or join soundexchange and get extremely limited airtime - their choice. because the reality is - soundexchange WILL die. the riaa model WILL die. yeah, they're going to sue and scream and holler and make every effort to get congress to pass asinine legislation designed to prop them up - but in the long run - it's game over. they know it. we know it. it's all over but the shouting ...

    ... my question is: does such a license exist for artists/musicians/producers/et al to release under ?

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