I haven’t done a copyright post for a while, but I haven’t stopped reading on the subject. Because once you have been exposed to the laws of copyright and how those laws are meant to protect the creator but all they do is protect the organisation who holds the rights, well, I just can’t look away. Because the creator never had a proper seat on the negotiation table. In order to get a chance to make music, they had to give away their rights to their music for a long time.
First up is a little snippet on how much an organisation makes by holding on to copyrights. The organisation her is Sony.
For a three month period, Sony was paid just over $654 million for streaming. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s some serious money.
How much of it went to the artists, well that is a different story? And because Sony has a publishing arm, that division also received $375 million. This is $375 million which is meant to go to songwriters.
Again, how much of this makes its way to the songwriters, is unknown?
And I’m not sure if people are aware, but Copyright laws do have a termination clause, which allows an artist to reclaim their copyrights after 35 years have expired.
But the labels like Sony are not letting go easily. So these cases are in the courts, because the labels know that if they don’t have an extensive copyright collection of songs, they have no income. Because at this point in time artists who released big selling albums in 1985 can reclaim their rights to those albums.
Next year, Jon Bon Jovi can reclaim the rights back for “Slippery When Wet” and then he will own his biggest selling album, with all streaming monies to go back to his organisation. The year after, in 2022, Guns’N’Roses, Whitesnake and Def Leppard can reclaim back the rights to “Appetite For Destruction”, “self-titled 87 album” and “Hysteria”.
Do you reckon the labels will allow that to happen so easily?
They will either throw some extra millions at the artist or off to the courts.
PRS For Music is an organisation in the UK which collects copyright payments on behalf of songwriters, composers and publishers. For the 2019 year it collected a record £810m. The amount involves a few different segments, like public performance, streaming, radio, TV and international. With public performances being put on hold because of COVID-19, streaming subscriptions are becoming popular.
But the streaming money pie is not distributed evenly. What the labels get and what they pay back to the artists is based on contracts and what monies have been given to the artist vs what needs to be paid back. And if the artist owns their own rights, then they are in position to negotiate better especially if they have had some success in the past. Metallica and Motley Crue come to mind, as artists who own their own rights.
The thing that streaming companies do wrong is that they treat it as a pool of money and then they work out what ratio each artist is entitled to, based on the streams played on the artists songs divided by the total streams for the service.
So even though fans of Metallica, Tool, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, etc, listen to those artists, their subscription monies are also distributed to Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and all of the rest of those high streamers.
I know as a consumer, I want my subscription fee to go to the artists I actually listen to and not to a central pot, where the money is divided on a percentage basis against every single artist on Spotify. But the system is as fair as it could be right now.
And here is what happens when an IT organisation creates a streaming service to allow music to the spread to the masses because in reality, the labels were negligent in their duty of care to the artists to do it much earlier on.
So for Spotify it’s court case after court case. Because people who contribute nothing to culture and made some serious money because they hold the rights to other artists songs, still want that money train to continue.
There is this dude from the U.S called Jake Noch who has an independent label called Sosa Entertainment and he has his own collecting society called PRO Music Rights.
So Spotify removed his labels recordings from the service because Noch was manipulating the streaming count of his labels music.
This scam is common, where the teams behind artists, create enough streaming accounts to just stream the music of the artist so they get a bigger piece of the pool of monies distributed to the rights holders. Noch didn’t like how Spotify pulled his labels music and he sued. He accused Spotify of “unfair and deceptive practices” and Spotify called him a “fraudster”. And via his collection society PRO Music Rights, he has accused every other streaming service of copyright infringement.
It shows the amount of manipulation involved here by a record label, who hired a bot farmer to set up millions of streaming accounts (all of them on the free ad-supported tier) who would then listen to the songs on the service. 99% of the revenue for Sosa Entertainment came from the free-ad supported tier.
Smells on Payola, it is Payola.
Finally, remember those MTV shows from the 80’s which actually had music videos and interviews. Well the Internet Archive uploaded heaps of em. It shows the early stages of MTV and the steps they took to become a cultural icon. All of the material is from a user’s own VHS tapes of MTV recordings.
But these have been taken down on copyright grounds. Basically an organisation which holds the rights to an artist has made a claim to censor a part of history. Or it could be the VJ themselves via an organisation. Whatever the reasons, history is being censored and locked up. Copyright was never intended to censor. From day one, back to the 1700’s it was to give a creator an incentive to create more works by giving them a monopoly to monetize their works for a certain period of time.
And it gets worse and will only get worse, because after the death of the creator an organisation holds on (in other words, locks up) the copyright for another 70 years after death and they are pushing for another 20 more to take it to 90 years.
P.S. Remember the British invasion in the 60’s and early 70s.
It happened because all of the blues and folk music created between the 1930 and 1940 had expired and become part of the public domain because they all had 28 year terms. Classical music was already in the public domain and a lot of jazz standards were as well.
And suddenly we had artists who pieced all of these styles together.