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Big players in tech and broadcasting form coalition to fight copyright reform Stateside

By | Published on Thursday 30 April 2015

MIC Coalition

Big tech – including Amazon and Google – lined up with the American broadcasters yesterday to present a united front on the various copyright reviews underway in the US.

As previously reported, the music rights community Stateside is hoping to reform copyright rules in the country so to reduce the regulation covering collective licensing (so that publishers can pursue direct deals on digital while still licensing radio and live through their societies) and to introduce a general performing right for sound recordings for the first time (so radio stations and venue owners would need a licence to play recorded music). Both these initiatives would bring US copyright law inline with Europe.

Meanwhile there are ongoing battles – in the copyright courts and before the Copyright Royalty Board – about the rates that should be paid to publishers and labels under the compulsory and collective licensing arrangements for streaming services like Pandora.

Perhaps sensing that the record companies and music publishers are starting to gain the upper hand in these debates – with their claims that rules written in the early days of digital (or, in the case of the collective licensing ‘consent decrees’, decades earlier) need overhauling – various major players and trade bodies representing digital firms, broadcasters and other licensees of music have launched a new organisation called the MIC Coalition (which, they then need to explain, is “pronounced ‘mike’, as in ‘microphone’).

Although the group’s membership seems to be mainly tech firms, broadcasters and trade groups for restaurants and hotels, MIC calls itself “a coalition of companies, associations, consumer groups, venue owners and artist advocates”, the latter of which is interesting, and a reminder to the music rights sector that it needs to involve its artists and songwriters in the copyright debate – and the evolution of the entire digital licensing framework – or risk having its rivals in the lobbying sphere claim ownership of the artist community.

In its mission statement, the MIC Coalition says it is “committed to a rational, sustainable and transparent system that will drive the future of music and ensure that consumers and consumer-serving businesses, such as retailers, restaurants and hotels, have continued access to play music at affordable prices”.

It goes on: “This is a critical period for the future of music and the policies that govern it. Issues are being considered that will significantly impact how and where music is played and what users and consumers pay for it”.

Needless to say, those lobbying on the other side of the table were quick to criticise the new alliance of the tech and broadcast sectors. Ted Kalo of musicFIRST told reporters: “The supposedly new ‘MIC’ coalition looks like little more than some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest corporations – and the trade associations they fund – hiding behind a new website and a gauzy mission statement as they continue their campaign to deny fair pay to working musicians, to stiff artists on AM/FM radio, and to ignore the pleas of elderly performers seeking their due”.

He went on: “The MIC group claims to support balanced solutions so that ‘artists can be compensated’ for music. But you cannot pretend to support that while opposing an AM/FM performance right as MIC member the NAB most surely does. They claim to support innovation in how consumers find and access music – but will they stand up for a level fair market value playing field so music services compete on the merits, and not on the strength of their loopholes?”

Concluding, he added: “They can’t hide their true agenda behind lofty statements of principle when their actions speak so loud and clear. And they can’t beat the people who create music and those who love it in the drive for Fair Play Fair Pay”.

So, that’s all fun, isn’t it? Either way, expect plenty of lively debate ahead as copyright reform continues to go through the motions Stateside. Meanwhile explore the MIC agenda at