Monday, October 3, 2011

Supreme Court Rejects Music Download Case

Gavel striking image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal on a ruling that could have had serious revenue implications for all songwriters, with virtually 100's of millions of dollars at stake.

ASCAP had sued the United States government in the hopes of changing a traditional Internet download of sound recording to that of a public performance of the recorded musical work under federal copyright law. ASCAP had argued that digital downloads were also public performances for which the copyright owners must be compensated, but a federal judge and the appeals court rejected that argument, so the organization took it's final appeal to the highest court in the land.

"Music is neither recited, rendered, nor played when a recording (electronic or otherwise) is simply delivered to a potential listener," the appeals court ruled.

Being a songwriter myself, I'm all for getting more royalties at a higher royalty rate, but in all honesty, I just can't see how this argument holds water. A live performance and a recorded performance are simply not the same, as any engineer or producer will tell you. They're completely different animals. If the Supremes would have reversed the decision, it would have opened a huge can of worms with CDs, radio and streams eventually having to pay extra, potentially collapsing the whole music distribution system as we know it.

On second thought, maybe this was a missed opportunity to start all over again. What do you say Supremes; care to take another look?

The case is ASCAP v. United States, No. 10-1337, if anyone is interested.

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