District Court Tells Yahoo, AOL To Pay Millions To Songwriters

from the watch-for-the-appeal dept

In the latest of many arguments about the various rights and payments companies need to pay for streaming music online, a district court has ruled that AOL, Yahoo and RealNetworks most likely owe millions to ASCAP for songs that they streamed to users between 2002 and today (and continuing on to 2009). This has nothing to do with the record labels -- ASCAP represents the songwriters -- but is yet another extraneous "license" where the terms are hardly clear, but basically serve to make it more difficult for anyone to play music. It was never in question that these sites would need to pay some kind of royalty -- the question was how much. The odd part of this ruling, though, is that the rate set by the judge is likely to be higher than the rate that traditional terrestrial radio pays. If there ever were a formula for making companies less interested in streaming music online -- this might be it. Of course, it's quite likely that this ruling will be appealed, so it's far from over.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Hellsvilla, May 1st, 2008 @ 5:14pm

    It was never in question that these sites would need to pay some kind of royalty -- the question was how much.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I find it completely fucked up that the songwriters get paid like this. I see no valid reason for ASCAP to exist, except corrupt gov't officials passing laws that never should have been passed. This is extortion because they can, not reimbursement.

     

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  2.  
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    Oh-Crap, May 1st, 2008 @ 5:47pm

    I owe billions

    Just the other day I had this song stuck in my head ...
    Wow I must owe them a bunch.

    Do other artists get paid every time their work is enjoyed ?
    Because I can remember several famous paintings I saw years ago, so do I owe for every day I can remember it ?

    Maybe I need a flashy thingy so that I will stop infringing upon these peoples works.

     

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  3.  
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    ehrichweiss, May 1st, 2008 @ 5:49pm

    Re:

    Can you then please tell us what incentive songwriters have to continue allowing others to play their songs if those writers don't actually perform? They could just as easily copyright them and sue the first person to infringe on that copyright. Oh wait, that's what the artists who play the songs do to people who infringe, isn't it.

    This isn't extortion. You aren't being forced to play someone else's song, you're doing it because you like it or it's popular or whatever other reason you come up with but regardless you chose to play it and you should pay the writer of the song though I would add the stipulation that you should only pay a percentage of your revenue so if you made $0, you pay $0.

    When you play a song you are, in essence, publishing a copy of that song and if I own copyright on it then I deserve to be paid for a few years(around 20-ish? but definitely not lifetime + 75 years) after initially copyrighting it otherwise we're going to lose writers of good songs and as it is, we don't have enough good songs.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 5:56pm

    lol....you assume songwriters have other talents.

    No offense...but it's just like an athlete....great...he can throw a nice pitch. If it weren't for the fans they would be shoveling asphalt on the side of some highway.

     

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  5.  
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    Debunked, May 1st, 2008 @ 6:04pm

    The Liscense is pennies on the dollar of revenue

    Mike quote:
    "but is yet another extraneous "license" "

    It is not extraneous to the songwriter and it is not extraneous to the internet entity that is streaming music because it is the core of their offering.



    Mike quote:
    "It was never in question that these sites would need to pay some kind of royalty -- the question was how much."

    Way to really dig in and research this. The actual rate is 2.5% of revenue. Think about it- this is for the core product offering of that internet radio station.


    And by the way rival songwriter collection BMI had already settled previously with Yahoo, AOL, RealNetworks.

     

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  6.  
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    M4dNe55, May 1st, 2008 @ 6:05pm

    DRM and copyright

    lol @ ehrichweiss "When you play a song you are, in essence, publishing a copy of that song and if I own copyright on it then I deserve to be paid for a few years"


    If I play a DRM song that I paid for on iTunes, which is copyrighted material, don't I in fact, own a percentage of that copyrighted material. I WANNA GET PAID TOO!!!

    -M4dNe55

    "In the land of the blind, the One-Eyed man is King!"

     

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  7.  
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    Iron Chef, May 1st, 2008 @ 6:17pm

    Too many hands in the cookie jar

    Geez. I ran into this a looong time ago.

    So my High School was one of the first in the nation that produced a CD Yearbook, and one of the first that also produced a Video Yearbook. I was somehow was roped into being a Technology Editor.

    I learned more in those few years about the sillyness of ASCAP/BMI rights as well as "Mechanical Reproduction" Rights.

    We had ASCAP rights. To be safe, we decided to hire a coverband for the songs we wanted.

    So we never could get Mechanical because the fucking jackasses wouldn't call me back for an address to send a check to.

    God Damn you RIAA, your partners, and everyone associated. God damn you and the horse you rode in on. You claim it's all about the artists, but...

    Could you even provide an address to send a check to?

    Nope.

    I would be happy to testify in court my experiences with working in this god forsaken industry.

     

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  8.  
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    Casey Howell, May 1st, 2008 @ 7:46pm

    Wussy Artsy Fartsy Songwriters Complain Again Blah Blah Blah

    Lets face it the bulk of songwriters are overpaid for doing something they're going to do anyway. If your some nobody songwriter you'll gladly pay people to listen to your songs as songwriting and most art is a look at me industry. Why then do we all cower in fear when this nobody has become a somebody and feels we as listeners shouldn't listen to his attention grabbing diddy without him receiving a hefty royalty check? Don't these free-loaders of society get enough pocket change from us as fans from ticket sales,merchandise,cd sales,and radio airplay? What about piped in music at restaraunts,elevators, and just about every office anywhere? If I absolutely hate an artists song that I'm forced to listen to shouldn't I be recompensated? About time we stood up and shouted back if we can't hear your music for free to make an informed decision on a later purchase then quit writing your songs that you feel we should all listen to and quit your whining we're fed up with it. Why is a whole CD worth so much when at least half the tracks are just so much cannon fodder?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 8:12pm

    The World is going to the dogs! >^..^

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 8:14pm

    Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    Although your comments are meant to be hyperbolic and are in fact ridiculous I would make one comment. Nothing in the culture provides more value to more people than songs. Cars are sold based on the MP3 players (but songwriters make nothing on the MP3 players or the cars)In fact everything you buy is sold with a soundtrack...

    In terms of songwriters getting overpaid for doing something they are going to do anyway, you are simply showing your ignorance here... 1st songwriters make practically nothing, I know because I have millions of records sold on songs I wrote and I am not rich... in fact I'm living like a Buddhist monk just to survive. And 2nd, because people have continued to steal the music instead of paying for it I
    have left the profession... along with all the other songwriters I know... So from now on you can write your own fucking songs... you weasley little sneak thieves.

     

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  11.  
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    Vincent Clement, May 1st, 2008 @ 9:00pm

    Re: Re:

    Shouldn't the person recording the song pay the songwriter a fee or a percentage of their royalties?

    When you play a song you are, in essence, publishing a copy of that song

    That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever read. So I have to pay to BUY the song. Then I have to pay to PLAY the song.

    Imagine buying a car from GM. And then having to pay GM for driving the car. But wait, even though the car you bought included tires, Goodyear also wants their cut from that driving.

     

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  12.  
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    Not Clueless, May 1st, 2008 @ 9:31pm

    Some people are pathetically clueless

    To all the people griping about having to pay for music, whether to the songwriter or performer, do you do your job for free?

    If you don't like someone's music, don't pay for it. But don't steal it either.

    Simple.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 10:02pm

    Just because someone thinks a songwriter...etc...may be over paid vs. someone with other skills doesn't mean they steal music. I've borrowed all kinds of music from all kinds of sources. Anything that I connected with I bought, everything else is in the garbage.

    A song can warm your heart and touch your soul, but at the end of the day it's probably better to have a cop on your corner or a doctor in your neighborhood.

     

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  14.  
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    PaulT (profile), May 2nd, 2008 @ 12:36am

    Re: Some people are pathetically clueless (especially "Not Clueless")

    "To all the people griping about having to pay for music, whether to the songwriter or performer, do you do your job for free?

    If you don't like someone's music, don't pay for it. But don't steal it either. "

    Ah, the same old idiotic FUD...

    Nobody minds paying the songwriter or performer. We don't expect them to do the work for free. This isn't about piracy, it's about radio.

    Let me break this situation down for you. The performers and songwriters HAVE ALREADY BEEN PAID for the music under their normal contracts. This lawsuit is about introducing an additional licence so that they can be paid AGAIN for the SAME work.

    I don't expect them to work for free. I also don't think they should be paid multiple times for the same piece of work just because people have found a different way of enjoying it. What's especially dumb is that this could help the decline of web radio, cutting off a valuable promotional channel that helps drive record sales.

     

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  15.  
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    PaulT (profile), May 2nd, 2008 @ 12:43am

    Re: The Liscense is pennies on the dollar of revenue

    "Mike quote:
    "but is yet another extraneous "license" "

    It is not extraneous to the songwriter and it is not extraneous to the internet entity that is streaming music because it is the core of their offering."

    You're quoting the wrong part of that sentence. The rest of the quote was "where the terms are hardly clear, but basically serve to make it more difficult for anyone to play music".

    What's extraneous is that here's a valuable promotional resource that's being cut off because there's an obscure licence with unclear terms that may be required that not even the major corporations seem to understand.

    "Mike quote:
    "It was never in question that these sites would need to pay some kind of royalty -- the question was how much."

    Way to really dig in and research this. The actual rate is 2.5% of revenue. Think about it- this is for the core product offering of that internet radio station.

    And by the way rival songwriter collection BMI had already settled previously with Yahoo, AOL, RealNetworks."

    That kind of says it all, doesn't it? The mere fact that there's rival songwriter collectives with different licences is a big part of the problem. Besides, the big problem here isn't the big corporations - they can afford this - but the non-profit or independent web stations. A percentage of profits is fine, but some licence seem to want a specific flat fee per play - impossible for some stations to cover.

    .. and all so that songwriters can be paid multiple times for one piece of work.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike (profile), May 2nd, 2008 @ 1:15am

    Re: Re:

    Can you then please tell us what incentive songwriters have to continue allowing others to play their songs if those writers don't actually perform?

    What incentives to journalists have to write? They don't get paid for each copy of a newspaper. They get paid to write an article.

    Songwriters will get paid to write songs.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    sonofdot, May 2nd, 2008 @ 7:00am

    Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    Ah, we should pay you sniveling, whining leeches for the next 75 years for your work? If it were any good, perhaps those "millions" you've sold would have actually made you some money. Sorry, but the fact that you've chosen a career which fails to provide you a decent living isn't our problem.

     

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  18.  
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    Paul Lake, May 2nd, 2008 @ 8:24am

    Artists are entitled to be paid for their creative works, whether under a purchase (CD) or "lease" (Internet stream). The licensing agencies are the problem! Try reading the ASCAP or BMI agreement(s) and see if you agree!

     

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  19.  
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    Willton, May 2nd, 2008 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What incentives to journalists have to write? They don't get paid for each copy of a newspaper. They get paid to write an article.

    Songwriters will get paid to write songs.

    By who? Songwriters are not rank-and-file employees. They don't get paid for punching a clock and turning in assignments like a journalist does. Songwriters get paid based upon the quality and the popularity of the songs that they write. That sort of thing cannot be ascertained prior to the song's dissemination to the public.

    Once again, your failure to understand how the music business works and why it works the way it does profoundly clouds your judgment. Perhaps you should do some research before you decide to comment on how songwriters should be compensated.

     

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  20.  
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    Willton, May 2nd, 2008 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    Sorry, but the fact that you've chosen a career which fails to provide you a decent living isn't our problem.

    It is your problem if you have an interest in hearing good music. If songwriters can't make money, then they leave the profession, fewer songs are created, and our culture suffers as a result. How is that a good thing?

     

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  21.  
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    mike allen, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:08am

    i wish

    i got paid for work i did even one year back perhaps i should copyright all my work then charge accordingly. hang on i got film on you tube hay guys pay me each time you watch.
    apart from that its the agencies that over charge then forget to pay the artist or writer IRAA etc. who keep the money for themselves

     

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  22.  
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    mike allen, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: The Liscense is pennies on the dollar of revenue

    it is not pennies on the doller it is pennies per play per listener whether the streamer makes money or not.!!!!!!!!!! there fore at sa 15 tracks played per hour and sa a thousand listeners at the British figures is £30 GBP or $60 US now work that out to the kind of figures yahoo or AOL would get in listeners the figures i quote for one hour.

     

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  23.  
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    SomeGuy, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well, you ARE benefitting from that driving, and you wouldn't BE driving if not for Goodyear and GM. And Amoco. And Valvaline. And...

    I mean, come on, Man. Think of the children!

     

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  24.  
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    SomeGuy, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    How it DOES work is very different from how it CAN work, and both are different from how it SHOULD work.

    A popular and successful journalist will be in higher demand than someone who's writing is clunky and uninteresting. There's no way to know that before they produce work. A computer programmer who write clean, functional code is in higher demand than one who botches basic data checks. There's no way to know that before they produce work. A writer who creates meaningful songs that can be put to moving music is in higher demand than one who churns out manufactured drivel.

    One of these things is not like the others; one of these things is not paid for service. But why not?

    It isn't how it IS done, but it COULD be done. Arguing that it can't be done is dumb, and arguing that it's the best way to do think because it's the current way to do things is ridiculous.

    Paid by who? Well, why does that matter? Paid by who they work for. I don't care if they're hired by a specific band, if they're farmed out by a "Songs-R-Us" clearing house, or if they just collect Paypal donations online. How is much more important than who, because once you have the how you can build a model to satisfy the who.

     

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  25.  
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    SomeGuy, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    But an athlete doesn't get paid over and over again for throwing one pitch, no matter how nice it was. They must continue to perform or they're dropped from the team.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Re: The Liscense is pennies on the dollar of revenue

    I heard it was a flat fee OR a percentage of revenue, whichever was higher...

     

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  27.  
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    Hellsvilla, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:35am

    Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    Nothing in the culture provides more value to more people than songs.You're either a delusional idiot, or you're twelve years old.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    I propose that good songwriters ciould make a living, and only songwriters that can't hack it would have to leave.

    Er, no offense meant.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    Those aren't mutually exclusive classes.

     

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  30.  
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    Mike (profile), May 2nd, 2008 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    By who? Songwriters are not rank-and-file employees. They don't get paid for punching a clock and turning in assignments like a journalist does. Songwriters get paid based upon the quality and the popularity of the songs that they write. That sort of thing cannot be ascertained prior to the song's dissemination to the public.

    Yes, thanks to totally unnecessary and market distorting compulsory licenses like this one.

    Do you think journalists all do crappy work because they're paid on the clock?

    If it makes sense to pay musicians on a compulsory license, why not pay journalists the same way?

    Once again, your failure to understand how the music business works and why it works the way it does profoundly clouds your judgment. Perhaps you should do some research before you decide to comment on how songwriters should be compensated.

    Willton, has it occurred to you that I do know how the market works, but maybe (just maybe) I'm pointing out that it doesn't need to work that way? In fact, that it shouldn't work that way? You seem to have this bizarre belief that because the market works this way, thanks to market distorting policies, it always needs to work that way.

    It does not. That is all I'm pointing out.

    Your reasoning is like saying "You don't understand how the buggy whip market works. Automobiles are meaningless, because we make buggy whips and we will forever make buggy whips."

    Maybe, just maybe, some of us aren't totally drooling morons -- but are actually looking at where the market is heading -- not where it's been.

     

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  31.  
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    Mike (profile), May 2nd, 2008 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!


    It is your problem if you have an interest in hearing good music. If songwriters can't make money, then they leave the profession, fewer songs are created, and our culture suffers as a result. How is that a good thing?


    Uh. No. There are plenty of perfectly reasonable business models. It shouldn't be society or the gov't's job to find those business models.

    To say that fewer songwriters will be the result is just incorrect. It shows absolutely no recognition of the history of free markets. And you accuse me of not understanding the industry...

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2008 @ 11:26am

    Willton

    Just upload it to TPB(the pirate bay) AND LET EVERYBODY DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2008 @ 10:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    Uh. No. There are plenty of perfectly reasonable business models. It shouldn't be society or the gov't's job to find those business models.

    You're right: society and gov't are not charged with the duty to find business models that promote music. But that is not the point. Gov't chooses to do so because they feel that it is in society's best interests to promote literary and musical culture.

    By the way, if there are "plenty of perfectly reasonable business models," then feel free to spout of a few examples.

    To say that fewer songwriters will be the result is just incorrect. It shows absolutely no recognition of the history of free markets. And you accuse me of not understanding the industry...

    If songwriters are not capable of making a sufficient amoutn of money in their profession, isn't it logical to conclude that they will choose a different profession, thereby lowering the population of songwriters? How is that so incorrect?

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Willton, May 3rd, 2008 @ 10:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    Sorry, forgot to tag my writing.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Willton, May 3rd, 2008 @ 11:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, thanks to totally unnecessary and market distorting compulsory licenses like this one.

    Do you think journalists all do crappy work because they're paid on the clock?


    No, but I do think a journalist's work takes less creativity and is less risky than a songwriter's work. That's why papers will employ journalists on a salary basis: their work is more reliable as a selling tool, even if it is less rewarding. The converse is true as to why record labels/artists/producers will not do the same for songwriters: employing songwriters entails taking on a lot of risk, and they likely are not willing to shell out the money for it unless the work sells. Even seasoned veteran songwriters write stinkers that won't sell.

    If it makes sense to pay musicians on a compulsory license, why not pay journalists the same way?

    Because a journalist's work is typically a work made for hire. A songwriter's work is typically not. Plus, compulsory licensing is a statutory license imposed only upon phonorecords containing non-dramatic musical works. Freelance journalists who still own their works' copyrights at least still have some bargaining power with regard to those works.

    Willton, has it occurred to you that I do know how the market works, but maybe (just maybe) I'm pointing out that it doesn't need to work that way? In fact, that it shouldn't work that way? You seem to have this bizarre belief that because the market works this way, thanks to market distorting policies, it always needs to work that way.

    It does not. That is all I'm pointing out.


    The problem is that you seem to think that we can fit a square peg into a round hole. Mike, the journalism business and the music business are apples and oranges, and while you may be more sophisticated in economics than I may be, there are rather obvious shortcomings in your proposal that you seem to not want to address. Making a bald assertion like "Songwriters will get paid to write songs" without explaining why, how, or in this case by whom, renders your argument weightless.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Willton, May 3rd, 2008 @ 11:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    I propose that good songwriters ciould make a living, and only songwriters that can't hack it would have to leave.

    Um, I'm pretty sure that's how the system works now.

    Er, no offense meant.

    I'm no songwriter, so none taken. I just happen to have had an intimate experience working in and learning about the music industry.

     

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  37.  
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    Mike (profile), May 4th, 2008 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    You're right: society and gov't are not charged with the duty to find business models that promote music. But that is not the point. Gov't chooses to do so because they feel that it is in society's best interests to promote literary and musical culture.

    But what if the research shows the opposite is occuring, and that by creating artificial scarcity, the gov't is *shrinking* the market?

    By the way, if there are "plenty of perfectly reasonable business models," then feel free to spout of a few examples.

    There's a wonderful thing called the search engine. It's up in the right hand corner, and you can find plenty of examples that we've listed out over the past decade.

    Here are a few starting points (and note that there are many, many, many more where this came from):

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20030912/1032238.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/ 20070503/012939.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20050214/1311237.shtml
    http://www.techdirt. com/articles/20080115/095022.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080304/162842435.shtml
    http: //www.techdirt.com/articles/20041230/1415204.shtml

    The business models work. Many musicians are putting them in place and discovering it increases their ability to make money -- and to do so in a way that grows their audience and makes their fans more loyal.

    What's your problem with that?

    If songwriters are not capable of making a sufficient amoutn of money in their profession, isn't it logical to conclude that they will choose a different profession, thereby lowering the population of songwriters? How is that so incorrect?

    What's incorrect is the false assumption that songwriters wouldn't be capable of making sufficient amount of money. If every other aspect of the music industry is doing better than ever before in history (as it is), then there will be tremendous demand for good songwriters. The business models that will pay those songwriters will quickly follow. Read your Coase...

     

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  38.  
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    Mike (profile), May 4th, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, but I do think a journalist's work takes less creativity and is less risky than a songwriter's work.

    I know both journalists and songwriters who might disagree with that statement... but ok.

    The converse is true as to why record labels/artists/producers will not do the same for songwriters: employing songwriters entails taking on a lot of risk, and they likely are not willing to shell out the money for it unless the work sells.

    Ah, yes, but you're going back to the false assumption that we're *selling* music in this model. We are not.

    Even seasoned veteran songwriters write stinkers that won't sell.

    Just as seasoned journalists screw up an article every once in a while.

    The problem is that you seem to think that we can fit a square peg into a round hole.

    I don't know, the hole looks pretty square to me. I think it's only round because the gov't is shrinking it with artificial monopolies.

     

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  39.  
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    Willton, May 4th, 2008 @ 4:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    The business models work. Many musicians are putting them in place and discovering it increases their ability to make money -- and to do so in a way that grows their audience and makes their fans more loyal.

    What's your problem with that?


    My problem is that this model only seems to work for musicians and artists. It does not explain how this is supposed to work for the songwriter.

    The focal point in each one of those examples is the performer of the content, like the musician. It does not say how this model benefits the content creator, like the songwriter. It seems to want to treat the content creator like a factory worker that can churn out material at a regular pace. I'm sorry, but if you're endorsing a model that turns the content creator into the proletariat, then I don't see how that will drive more people to become songwriters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 4th, 2008 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Weasley little sneak thieves STFU!

    My problem is that this model only seems to work for musicians and artists. It does not explain how this is supposed to work for the songwriter.

    You seem to have skipped over the part of my response that answered that (funny, that...). If more musicians are making more money than ever before, and part of that is that they need better and better songs, there are business models for song writers, some of which I described. But, as Coase notes, even if you can't think of them, that doesn't mean they don't exist. Given the demand for songwriting, the business model to support it arises.

    It seems to want to treat the content creator like a factory worker that can churn out material at a regular pace.

    Actually, no, that's not what I said, but if you want to misread what I write, that's your problem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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