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Amazon pulls out of MIC Coalition

By | Published on Friday 5 June 2015

MIC Coalition

After the recent ‘cunt off’ we staged between Apple and Google (you’ll remember Google won on penalties), some of you phoned in to ask why the dicks at Amazon had been excluded from the competition. Well, first of all, by your own admission, they’re dicks not cunts, and secondly, well…

Amazon has withdrawn from the previously reported MIC Coalition, stating that the trade group of American tech giants, broadcasters and other corporate music users has become primarily focused on collective licensing rules and rates, and the proposal to add a general performing right to sound recordings. But Amazon, it seems, was primarily interested in lobbying on the need for something akin to the abandoned Global Repertoire Database.

As previously reported, back in April companies like Amazon, Google, Pandora and iHeartMedia joined with trade groups representing broadcasters, retailers and restaurants to present a united front in the various debates that are occurring in the US just now on music rights issues. Those include efforts by the music publishers to reform collective licensing rules and increase the rates paid by digital services, and an initiative by the labels to secure a general performing right on sound recordings so that AM/FM stations and public spaces playing recorded music would have to start paying them royalties (as they already do in most other countries, but not the US).

The MIC Coalition has various stated aims, but says it is primarily “committed to a rational, sustainable and transparent system that will drive the future of music”. But it turns out that for Amazon – which, as an online service, already pays royalties to the labels and isn’t so bothered about what’s happening with collective licensing – it was the ‘transparent system’ bit that was the top priority.

Which is to say that the online retail giant wants a database that tell it who owns what music copyrights so that it knows who to pay when it uses songs or recordings. Which most people in the music community would consider a perfectly reasonable request, even if no one can provide such a database. No, not even on BBC Music Day.

But, it seems, asking music rights owners to make it easier to pay them money isn’t so high up the agenda of the rest of the MIC Coalition. Confirming his company was pulling from the enterprise, Amazon’s VP Of Digital Music Steve Boom said, according to Billboard: “When we joined the coalition we had a particular agenda topic that we were interested in, and that was transparency. What has become clear to us since MIC went public is that part of the agenda – transparency – is getting lost in the wilder noise surrounding rate-setting”.

He continued: “By transparency, we mean having a centralised database of rights ownership so we can identify who the rights owners are and have their contact data so we can pay them. A centralised database would advance transparency and make payments easier. That was our agenda item, but it clearly got consumed. [MIC is] no longer a vehicle for us to push for transparency”. So there you go. Not a cunt. Not even a dick. Oh, hang on, I forgot about all that tax stuff. Yeah, OK, still dicks.

Nevertheless, musicFIRST, which is campaigning for some of the aforementioned reforms in music copyright law Stateside, welcomed Amazon’s pulling from MIC. Executive Director Ted Kalo told CMU: “We applaud Amazon for withdrawing from the anti-artist MIC Coalition. We do not expect Amazon to be the last to question the Coalition’s true agenda”.

Putting pressure on other members of the Coalition, he continued: “We call on all members of the MIC Coalition who do not share the agenda of trying to cut pay to music creators to follow suit. We wonder why, for example, National Public Radio, who artists have worked so closely with over the years, would be involved in a Coalition apparently so laser-focused on cutting artists’ pay? Amazon raises important issues and we welcome a constructive dialogue that can benefit everyone who loves music. Music services and music creators can and should work together as partners”.