updated 08:35 am EDT, Thu September 17, 2009
ASCAP, others want online performance fees
Music royalty groups ASCAP and BMI are pressing online music stores like Apple's iTunes to pay performance fees not only for actual song downloads but also videos and even the 30-second samples used to preview the music in advance. While these stores already pay the distribution fees for the songs themselves, ASCAP, BMI and labels claim that just downloading and playing the content also counts as a live performance and should bring an extra fee.
The reasons vary depending on the format. For music, it's claimed that downloads or streams, including samples, count as a public performances as with the radio or in a venue, where performance royalties are already paid. Movie and TV royalties would be different as soundtrack artist are normally paid for when the videos are aired, which is commonplace for theaters and TV networks but doesn't occur for online formats.
However, critics such as the Digital Music Association, an online media industry defender that counts Apple, RealNetworks and others as members, counter that a legal precedent has already been set that considers downloads private and thus exempt from performance fees. They also accuse ASCAP and related firms of trying to collect double royalties, of violating copyright law in trying to collect from samples, and simply of trying to exploit successful online stores like iTunes.
"These guys are afraid that the business model is shifting away from public performances to a model of private performances," DiMA executive director Jonathan Potter told CNET. "They aren't getting paid for the public performance in a download because there is no public performance in a download."
Internet radio stations, including both generic streams and recommendation-based systems like Last.fm and Pandora, already pay royalties for each song streamed online. Those with the jukebox software playing the content are at least theoretically exempt as they only make the stations accessible.