Tech Companies Appeal an Increase in Songwriter Royalties

Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon have joined forces to appeal a decision of the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) they believe “harms both music licensees and copyright owners.” In separate filings, the companies are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the decision regarding “recently issued … U.S. mechanical statutory rates” that they said “raises serious procedural and substantive concerns.” With the rule as it stands, songwriters would receive a 44 percent increase in payments. Proponents suggest the rule is necessary for songwriters in a digital age.

Variety reports that, according to sources, “Apple Music is alone among the major streaming services … not planning to appeal.”

National Music Publishers Association president/chief executive David Israelite stated that the companies appealing the ruling are “declaring war” on songwriters. “When the Music Modernization Act became law, there was hope it signaled a new day of improved relations between digital music services and songwriters,” he explained. “That hope was snuffed out today when Spotify and Amazon decided to sue songwriters in a shameful attempt to cut their payments by nearly one-third.”

“No amount of insincere and hollow public relations gestures such as throwing parties or buying billboards of congratulations or naming songwriters ‘geniuses’ can hide the fact that these big tech bullies do not respect or value the songwriters who make their businesses possible,” he added.

Joining Israelite in decrying the appeal, Nashville Songwriters Association International executive director Bart Herbison noted, “many songwriters have found it difficult to stay in the profession in the era of streaming music.” “You cannot feed a family when you earn hundreds of dollars for millions of streams,” he added.

The CRB decision to dramatically increase songwriter royalties was split, with a single judge dissenting. That judge argued that the two judges in the majority “create[d] a new combination that nobody had presented.” The companies appealing the ruling pointed out that the judges made a decision before there was a chance for all the parties to discuss rates. The appeal was lodged in the 30-day window after the CRB decision was officially published in early February.