Benom Plumb, Assistant Professor of Music Industry Studies at the University of Colorado Denver, reviews the biggest stories of the week affecting music royalties. He is a music industry professional, not an attorney.
Benom’s Take: The rights in question have to do with U.S. copyright law vs. British copyright law and how the UK interprets U.S. reversion rights. The U.S. laws allow songwriters to recapture their copyrights that were previously signed to music publishing companies and so naturally, Paul McCartney is attempting to take back his songs that were previously bought by Michael Jackson - and then sold to Sony/ATV. We don’t know the details of the settlement, but my guess is that it’s one of two things:
Sony/ATV confirms Paul McCartney’s copyright recapture rights under U.S. Copyright Laws, perhaps, with some concessions like Sony/ATV remains the administrator of the Beatles catalog and McCartney promises not sue again.
Sony/ATV offered Paul McCartney a boat load of money to keep the copyrights under Sony/ATV ownership, with some concessions to McCartney like more boat loads of money and maybe some hefty donations to his “no meat” mission.
Even since before Michael Jackson bought the Beatles songs, Paul has been on a mission to get them back. Whatever the settlement, I’m very glad it was settled out of court. Paul McCartney’s struggle to get his songs back has been a long and painful journey.
Sony/ATV Buys EuropaCorp Music Catalog for $16.5M (Music Business Worldwide)
Benom’s Take: Speaking of Sony/ATV and buying songs, this latest acquisition by Sony/ATV includes approximately 1,500 copyrights of movie production music from the French company. The EuropaCorp catalog very likely has a strong cash flow of public performance royalties from all over the world. Any movie production music catalog that includes big movie titles are typically consistent performance royalty earners for years and decades to come. That’s probably why the price tag was a cool $16.5 Million.
Big Changes At Pandora As Top Execs Exit (Billboard)
Benom’s Take: I was wondering when Pandora CEO, Tim Westergreen, was going to step down. It seemed imminent considering all of Pandora’s recent woes. The exit is accompanied by Pandora’s president and chief marketing officer leaving as well, and now Pandora is left searching for new top executives. The interim CEO seems to indicate the traditional Pandora model of “passive listening” actually meets the streaming market demand of the general public and assures Pandora investors it can compete with on-demand streaming platforms.
Honestly, Pandora’s interim CEO sounds a little detached from reality. I would agree and support the statement if I didn’t have to “thumbs down” four songs in a row on a Pandora radio station. Everytime I use Pandora, I usually just end up switching stations or streaming platforms entirely, simply because I’m tired of Pandora choosing songs I’m not into. If the algorithm worked better, then maybe, yeah, they can compete. Otherwise, playlists and customization is the name of the streaming game.
Canadian Courts Can Now Force Google To Remove Illegal Sites From Searches (Music Business Worldwide)
Benom’s Take: This is good news in the fight against piracy. The ruling says that Google must eliminate websites known for illegal activity from their search results. Although, that probably should have been part of Google’s best practices from the beginning. “Don’t Be Evil”, right? Even though the ruling is not about piracy itself, it will greatly strengthen the fight against online piracy. Piracy is especially frustrating to me because our content in music is so easily pirated, copied, shared and incorporated into other mediums that are monetized. It’s not like stealing a semi-truck full of bulky physical product or robbing a store.
Online criminals can easily make money from music products, often without consequence or detection. When Google eliminates piracy websites from online searches, it will help prevent piracy from occurring in greater numbers. Sure, people can type in the web address if they know it, but eliminating them from searches will go a long way. The online piracy world siphons away millions of dollars in royalties that would otherwise be paid to the rightful owners. Canada’s Supreme Court made a just ruling this week that I hope other nations will take note of. Looking at you, America.