Artist Payouts Improve Year Over Year at TuneCore

Glenn Peoples reports for Billboard that TuneCore paid $33.2 million to its artists in Q2 2014, that is up by 18.4% from the same period last year. TuneCore continues its momentum from the announcement last week that it has registered more than one million artists. The company’s growth is attributed to the music publishing division as well as the increased distribution into foreign markets with new distribution deals in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

“Happy Birthday” Song Copyright Dispute

Here is an interesting fact: Warner/Chappell Music Publishing claims to still own the copyright for the music and lyrics to the song “Happy Birthday”. The Guinness Book of Records says the song is the most recognizable in the world (1998 edition). Warner/Chappell acquired another publisher, Birch Tree Hill, that registered the copyright in 1935, therefore that copyright is extended through the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. But there is a lawsuit filled in US District Court that claims that the melody of the song comes from a song penned by the Hill sisters in 1893, called “Good Morning To All”. Therefore does not qualify for the exemption and is now in the public domain. from Variety’s website: “The suits filed last summer contend that Warner/Chappell has been collecting license fees for the song even though it is in the public domain. The plaintiffs claim that the song “is neither copyrighted nor copyrightable,” and that the public began singing it “no later than the early 1900s.”” The Judge will first decide if Warner/Chappell owns the copyright, then, depending on the outcome, will look at what other laws have been broken. There is potential this could grow into a class action lawsuit to recover money previously paid for the license. Curious what “Good Morning to All” sounds like? Here is a quieter version on YouTube.

Justice Department Requests Documents from PROs & Major Publishers

The US Department of Justice sent CIDs (Civil Investigative Demand for Documents) to a group of PROs (Performance Rights Organizations) and major music publishers. It is speculated by the recipients that this request is in connection with the examination of the consent decrees but the investigation will also include the possibility of collusion between major publishers and the PROs during the rate trial with Pandora. The judge from that trial determined “In her rate-setting decision, Judge Denise Cote, the ASCAP rate court judge, wrote on page 95 of her decision that Pandora has shown the Sony and UMPG licenses (which were direct deals, cut after the publishers withdrew digital rights) to be the product of, at the very least, coordination between and among these major music publishers and ASCAP.”

Many moving pieces here, this article in Billboard helps to lay out the detail.