updated 09:05 am EDT, Tue October 4, 2011
Supreme court rejects ASCAP attempt at double-dip
The US Supreme Court late Monday rejected ASCAP's attempt to claim that song downloads are public performances. Its verdict upheld an earlier appeal ruling without added comment. The earlier, federal-level judge pointed to basic logic for support, contending that a digital recording isn't necessarily being played live to a wide audience just because it had been transferred over the Internet.
The new decision also enforces the previous appeals court's view that RealNetworks (having split off its Rhapsody music service) and Yahoo can ask for lower royalty rates. It may also affect an earlier demand that charged Verizon $5 million simply for offering ringtones.
ASCAP has tried to argue that it's losing millions of dollars in royalties if denied the rates. Music stores and critics alike have responded by accusing the performance society of trying to double-dip for its artists, letting them charge once for the music itself and again for the choice of format even though it's no different in practice than buying a CD.
The Supreme Court verdict could have a significant benefit for iTunes, Amazon MP3, and other stores or streaming music services. Along with keeping prices down on tracks, it should end disputes over whether 90-second song samples constitute performances.