Saturday, September 4, 2010

Face the music

Now even the music downloads for which fans are willing to pay are threatening to shake up record companies. An appeals court ruling in California could pave the way for artists to receive millions more in royalties. Here are the interesting bits:

Reversing a lower-court jury decision from last year, the court ruled that Eminem and his production company are entitled to nearly triple the royalties they've been receiving for track sales and ringtones on online services such as iTunes.
...Today's ruling could have fallout in the evolving world of digital music, experts said, pushing other artists to negotiate with their labels for higher online royalty rates. It could even pave the way for some holdouts, including Detroit’s Bob Seger, to finally offer their songs online.
That last sentence could make it easier for collectors or fans of old-timey music to find their favorite songs, some of which may have been out of print for years. NFL Films soundtracks, anyone? Dr. Demento's greatest hits?

The central question: When a label provides a track to an online distributor such as iTunes, is it licensing the song rather than selling retail copies?
In Eminem’s case, the appeals court wrote in its ruling that yes, “the transaction is a license,” a conclusion it said is supported by federal copyright law.
While iTunes and other online services have grabbed a greater share of the music market, some high-profile artists have declined to jump aboard.
Among them is Detroit rocker Bob Seger. His manager, Punch Andrews, said the ruling “absolutely” clears the way for Seger’s songs to be sold online.
Andrews, who called the decision “staggering,” said “every musician should read these 10 pages. It affects everyone.”
The Motown Alumni Association, whose membership includes Martha Reeves and the Four Tops, had filed an amicus brief on FBT’s behalf.
“All the Motown artists who now receive a penny (per download) may be in a position to negotiate a new royalty because of this decision,” said Martin.

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