A2IM

Lawsuit against SoundExchange could gain much for SiriusXM, broadcasters, webcasters with little risk

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 11:10am

Kevin GoldbergIn the upcoming legal battle between SiriusXM and SoundExchange, the satellite radio broadcaster (along with broadcasters and others) has everything to gain, while SoundExchange and the CRB face potentially serious set-backs. So argues Kevin Goldberg, Special Counsel at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, in the CommLawBlog.

Last week news broke that SiriusXM had sued SoundExchange and the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), accusing the record industry organziations of interfering with its efforts to directly license the sound recordings (find RAIN's coverage here).

The eventual outcome of the lawsuit aside, Goldberg (pictured) says SiriusXM "made the right play... litigation is expensive, but not as expensive as the $200 million in royalties that SiriusXM claims to have paid last year," he writes. "Add in the fact that a victory would not only reduce that expense, but also afford SiriusXM more flexibility in future negotiations and the ability to innovate."

Moreover, broadcasters (and, RAIN would add, webcasters) stand to "reap the benefits" of SiriusXM's lawsuit "without any effort." Goldberg echoes Davis Wright Tremaine partner David Oxenford (RAIN coverage here) in reasoning that SiriusXM's direct licensing deals "would provide important concrete data – possibly the only such data – regarding the value of a digitally transmitted sound recording" in future CRB royalty hearings for both SiriusXM and broadcasters.

"This would be especially important if the broadcasters’ own worst case scenario – enactment of the Performance Rights Act – were to occur," writes Goldberg.

The outlook is less rosy for SoundExchange. The royalty collection agency faces, at the very least, a long and expensive legal battle, Goldberg argues. At worst, it could face "possible dismantling... or the imposition of some limiting consent decree... or the forced introduction of a competitor receiving agent."

Quote from Goldberg

The lawsuit may also "be enough to rethink the entire regime" of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), writes Goldberg. "From allowing SoundExchange to exist without competition to siding with SoundExchange on virtually every contested fact in the 2007 Webcasting II decision (and many other ratemaking proceedings), the CRB may have created the environment that allowed questionable, if not illegal, activity to flourish."

The constitutionality of the CRB and its appointment process have been repeatedly questioned and challenged in the past (RAIN coverage here, here, here and here).

But who wins or loses this particular lawsuit may be "beside the point," says Goldberg. "The mere initiation of the case may represent an early tremor signaling the onset of a seismic event, an event that would likely, one way or another, fundamentally affect all the players."

You can find Goldberg's extensive analysis and explanation of the SiriusXM lawsuit against SoundExchange and A2IM here.

Oxenford: SiriusXM's direct licensing deals could affect future CRB Internet radio rulings

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 12:45pm

David OxenfordThe outcome of SiriusXM's lawsuit against SoundExchange and A2IM may be "very important to the future of digital music" -- webcasters included -- according to industry attorney and Davis Wright Tremaine partner David Oxenford (pictured).

The direct licenses SiriusXM has been trying to obtain could impact future CRB rulings, Oxenford writes, as such deals "between music users and rights holders are traditionally the best evidence of the value of music." That's a good reason why SoundExchange and A2IM would oppose such direct deals, says Oxenford.

He writes:

"Were SiriusXM to be successful in its suit, and if it is in fact able to negotiate direct music licenses for substantial catalogs of music at rates lower than what it has paid under previous rate decisions, it would presumably introduce such evidence in proceedings before the Copyright Royalty Board (which is now in the process of setting the rates for the public performance of sound recordings by SiriusXM over its satellite service for the next 5 years), and argue that these direct deals are the best evidence of what a willing buyer and willing seller would agree to in a competitive marketplace."

But direct licensing deals between SiriusXM and rights holders could also impact future Internet radio royalty rate decisions.

"One of the biggest issues in all rate proceedings heard before the CRB has been establishing what a willing buyer and willing seller would agree to pay in a competitive marketplace like the one for which the rates are being set," writes Oxenford. "In most cases, as there are no direct licenses, the CRB has to extrapolate what willing buyers and willing sellers would pay for sound recording performance royalties in a noninteractive market from evidence of what companies pay in other markets...

Davis Wright Tremaine"Lower direct licensing rate could impact not only the rates paid by SiriusXM, but also other proceedings dealing with the sound recording royalty rate, including potentially proceedings for webcasting royalties (proceedings that will also affect the rates that broadcasters pay for streaming their signals)."

The next CRB proceeding for Internet radio begins in 2014 to set royalty rates for 2016-2020.

You can find Oxenford's full analysis of the SiriusXM lawsuit at the Broadcast Law Blog here.

Oxenford will interview U.S. Copyright Office General Counsel David Carson on-stage at RAIN Summit West 2012 in Las Vegas, on Sunday, April 15. You can find out more here.

Satellite radio operator complaint accuses record industry groups of anti-competitive behavior

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 12:45pm

U.S. satellite radio provider Sirius XM has filed a lawsuit against SoundExchange and the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), accusing the record industry organziations of interfering with its efforts to directly license the sound recordings. The complaint accuses SoundExchange and A2IM of being in violation of federal antitrust law, and New York state law.

The satellite radio firm, like webcasters, pays the owners of recording copyrights (that is, record labels) royalties to play music. Sirius XM reportedly pays SoundExchange 8% of its gross revenues for all the music it uses on its over-the-air programming, which SoundExchange distributes to the labels.

But this agreement ends this year, and the record industry will likely be pushing for significantly higher rates beginning in 2013. Moreover, Sirius XM says it wants a single license covering all its platforms (satellite, Internet, and mobile). So, "instead of relying exclusively on licenses either negotiated with SoundExchange acting as the record industry's collective or on the outcome of regulatory rate-making proceedings," Sirius XM felt it could get more competitive royalty rates by licensing music directly from the labels themselves, cutting SoundExchange out of the equation. In 2010, it began what it calls its Direct Licensing Initiative, offering labels rates of 5%-7% of "defined" revenues (see more RAIN here and here). Though they met with some success (Sirius XM says it has managed to secure almost 80 direct licenses with copyright owners), the company insists it would have been able to get many more if not for the alleged interference.

Sirius XM now contends that SoundExchange and A2IM, "along with major music industry organizations, have organized a boycott to prevent independent record companies from negotiating direct licenses with SiriusXM," alleging an "orchestrated effort" to prevent potential licensing partners from negotiating directly with Sirius XM.  

Sirius XM published a press release on the suit, which you can read here. There's coverage from The Wall Street Journal here, and Reuters here, Radio-Info here, and more here.

Industry legal expert David Oxenford examines the implications of this news for webcast licensing, in today's B story.

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