At the National Music Publishers’ Assn. annual meeting, RIAA chairman/CEO Cary Sherman addressed publishers by pointing out the many times that labels and music publishers act as adversaries instead of partners. But he urged the two camps to unite and act as one industry, a sentiment that was echoed by NMPA president David Israelite.
With copyright review and likely copyright revision on the horizon, the music industry will have its hands full holding off the so-called “copyleft” organizations, which will flex their lobbying muscle to likely seek shortened copyright terms as they try to block the music industry from seeking copyright protection and enforcement regulations. Such organizations, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have received broad and/or financial support from companies like Google and Facebook. These organizations are still feeling their oats from their successful campaign to torpedo SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Since these groups will ensure that their voice is heard on copyright revision and most congresspeople and senators will remember what happened the last time they crossed swords with those groups on behalf of copyright, publishers and labels will only shoot themselves in the foot if they don’t present a united front during copyright review. That means that before the review begins, they should consult with each other on which agenda to push in the upcoming months.
Publishers want to eliminate the compulsory license so they can negotiate what rate they’ll be paid for songs on records, but the labels like the current system. Should the copyleft organizations weigh in and let Congress decide, or should music industry members determine this now, so that whatever is decided will be presented in a united fashion during the review process?
Publishers also want the consent decrees modified so that publishing rights organizations can get what they view as fair payment for their songwriters and publishers. As it is now, major music publishers are withdrawing digital rights and going their own way in negotiations with digital music service providers.
In the upcoming copyright review, publishers and labels have to decide what battles they want to take on. If, in the spirit of compromise, the labels were to agree that the compulsory licenses can be eliminated, then it won’t be good enough to be silent: Labels will have to endorse it too, alongside the publishers.
For the industry to get a fair say in copyright review and revision, its members must stop thinking short term and start thinking long term.