Are song writers entitled to a "public performance" copyright royalty when their songs are downloaded? A case pending in New York federal court will be answering that question. For an excellent discussion of the subject, see this article by Steve Gordon", noted entertainment lawyer and expert in digital music, and regular columnist for Digital Music News, which appeared on April 13th on The Register:
Are songwriters double-dipping?
When a performance isn't a performance
By Steve Gordon
Published Friday 13th April 2007 08:28 GMT
Should songwriters get paid for a public performance when you download a song? Thanks to a New York legal case, we'll soon find out.
In the United States, three organizations license "public performance" rights for music on behalf of their music publisher and songwriter members: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Typical public performances include live performance in clubs and concert halls, radio, television, and streaming music on the Web. Until now, "downloading" music has not been considered to be a public performance.
But in late February, ASCAP filed papers in federal court in New York demanding the court rule that downloading music constitutes a "public performance" for which its songwriter and publisher members should be paid. AOL, Real Networks and Yahoo have responded that downloads are not public performances, and that ASCAP has no right to demand that they pay public performance royalties for downloads.
This article analyses the legal basis for ASCAP's claim, which is tenuous, and the strong economic forces that compelled them to try to add downloads to its income pool. Those reasons, surprisingly, may have more to do with the future of how people will watch TV programs and movies, rather than listen to music.
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