CC deals with labels might provide marketplace benchmark for more equitable CRB royalty rates

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Issue Date: 
Oct 1 2012 - 4:55pm

From Issue:

"In setting (webcast royalty) rates, the (Copyright Royalty Board) looks to establish rates that reflect what a willing buyer and a willing seller pay in the marketplace. In past royalty proceedings, that willing-buyer, willing-seller price had to be estimated, as there were no real deals to use as a benchmark. And the estimates all went against webcasters. With a deal like that with Big Machine... the pro-record company outcome of the CRB proceedings may well be changed if these deals can be shown to be representative of the real value of the public performance of the sound recording."

That's industry attorney David Oxenford's take-away from recent "direct deals" between broadcasters and record label for both terrestrial and digital sound recording royalties (the latest of which involved Clear Channel and Glassnote Entertainment, covered in RAIN here).

Copyright Royalty Board judges, per the 1998 DMCA, don't set royalties considering the fairness and "mimimal disruption" of their decision (as is called for in the Copyright Act's "801(b)" standard, which is used in royalty determinations for other forms of digital radio). They are mandated to set a rate at what they think a "willing buyer" would pay and what a "willing seller" would accept. Critics point to this different and unpredictable standard as the reason Internet royalty has been saddled with sound recording royalties that, as a percentage of revenue, are many multiples of those paid by satellite and cable radio. It's also the impetus behind the recent Internet Radio Fairness Act, introduced to both chambers of Congress (in RAIN here).

Oxenford is suggesting that should deals like Clear Channel's and Entercom's (both groups have reached agreeements with Big Machine Records) start to spread to other companies, they could very well represent the "marketplace" agreements with willing buyers and willing sellers that could set "a precedent for lower royalties in future proceedings."

The next round of proceedings to set webcasting royalties starts in 2014 (to set the rates for 2016-2020).

Read Oxenford, a D.C.-based partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, in Broadcast Law Blog here.

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