SiriusXM direct licensing deals may make it harder for SoundEx to claim CRB is "below market"

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Issue Date: 
Dec 18 2012 - 1:30pm

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During testimony in the recent royalty determinations (see yesterday's RAIN here), SiriusXM reportedly revealed it has secured "direct content licenses" with more than 60 labels, giving them even broader use rights at rates below those set by the Copyright Royalty Board.

Digital Music News reports SiriusXM will pay 5%-7% of its gross revenues for these licenses, covering more than 7,000 artists, 9,000 albums, and 110,000 songs (there were no reported details of how specifically the use of the licensed music is broader than is allowed by the statutory license).

These agreements are actual, real-world settlements between active players in the music rights market. As such, these deals (both the rates and expanded allowable uses of the music) will likely be cited in arguments against music industry interests who claim the CRB-determined rates for satellite radio (and webcasting, for that matter) are "below market value." It isn't clear whether the more favorable terms of these direct deals tempered the CRB's decision

As we reported yesterday, the CRB set sound recording royalties for satellite radio at 9% of gross revenue in 2013, increasing 0.5% each year (to 11% in 2017). Billboard estimates SiriusXM will pay between $1.02 billion and $1.22 billion in statutory royalties to SoundExchange from 2013 to 2017.

Hypebot reports SoundExchange pressed the CRB for satellite radio royalties that increased to 20% of gross revenue by 2017 (DMN says "one resident expert" pushed for 30%), calling the CRB rates "below market."

Last month industry attorney David Oxenford reported that much of the discussion in the rate-setting's oral arguments phase "focused on the value of music in a marketplace -– essentially the 'willing buyer, willing seller' question." Currently, the law mandates that the rate-setting for royalties for these media is to be governed by the "801(b)" standard (which the record industry has argued does not reflect fair market value) (RAIN coverage here).

In March Sirius XM 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 sound recordings. The complaint accuses SoundExchange and A2IM of being in violation of federal antitrust law, and New York state law (RAIN coverage here).

Digital Music News coverage is here. Read Hypebot here. Read Billboard coverage here.

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