The National Music Publishers of America’s top legislative initiative for this year is to get law written that will clarify that there is a performance right for audio-visual downloads, the organization’s president and CEO David Israelite said at its annual meeting, held in New York City at the Marriott Hotel on June 17. Israelite said the organization would continue to take on YouTube for its ongoing facilitation of copyright infringement online.
Israelite also said that while there are two separate and distinctive copyrights in a record, the publishing copyright and the master copyright, there is one music. He said that all aspects of the music industry have to work together going forward in order to keep its rights strong and to increase their economic value. That’s why NMPA is supporting the labels in their quest to get an artist performance royalty for songs played on the radio. But while doing that, “we want to make sure our own right isn’t harmed.” He says one-music supporters want to eliminate the destructive attitude that record labels' loss is publishers’ gain, or vice versa.
He also said that the NMPA has contacted all the websites infringing on song lyrics and has gotten 88% of those sites to either properly license the lyrics or to take them down. He said the organization will now begin litigation against those sites who are still infringing on copyrights.
Nowadays, mechanical licensing accounts for 39% of music publishing revenue; performance for 27%; synchronization for 24% and other 10%. Ten years ago, mechanical would have accounted for about 56% of revenue. While mechanical is shrinking, it is more important than ever, he said.
He said that the Copyright Board’s ruling in keeping the 9.1 cents rate for songs, and giving a mechanical royalty for streaming; giving the ringtone rate of 24 cents; and late fees were great victories for the music publishing community. But two things still threaten music publishers, said Israelite. The labels are appealing the late fee and the ringtone rate. And the overall CRB ruling could be impacted by an issue brought up in a lawsuit on whether the CRB itself is a constitutionally valid entity, since the judges are part of the Library of Congress and weren’t appointed by the President, the courts, and an administration department head.
“Serious lawyers see this as a real threat,” Israelite said.
In the keynote address, Marc Helprin, journalist and author of “Digital Barbarism," says that he is confused when he looks at the music industry as an outsider and sees bands giving away their music in the hope that they can sell concert tickets. That tactic reminded him of the story about how Eskimos would stick a knife into the ground with blood on it in the hopes that a wolf would lick it. Once the wolf licked it once, it would find an endless supply of blood so it would keep licking it.
Helprin said that story is a metaphor for how he sees the music industry. He said that songwriters labor to create their musical works, and by that fact those works are the industry’s legal rights and God-given rights. So why, he wondered, is the voice of the ideologues who think everything should be free on the Internet louder than those in the music industry?
Helprin said it is the ideologues who tell people they have to pay for cellphones and iPods but object to paying for content, without which the iPod would be a pile of useless junk. He says that the industry has to start taking its argument to the people, because it is they that influence the politicians.
The event closed with a performance by songwriter Kara DioGuardi, who was honored with the organization’s Songwriter Icon Award. In accepting the award, DioGuardi said that at a time when songwriters' copyrights are under pressure, songwriters need the NMPA to stand up for them and publishers. She also said that song publishers are the new labels and the power is shifting toward the publishers.