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(Credit: Ryan Arnst)

Music

Copyright Royalty Board votes to raise songwriter royalty rates

The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has passed a vote to set a new rate which raises mechanical royalties for publishers and songwriters. 

The long-awaited vote was passed on Friday last week and has concluded the Phonorecords III remand proceedings, favouring songwriters and publishers by raising their streaming rates from 10.5% to 15.1% over the years 2018-22. 

Overall, the rate re-evaluation has been described as a mixed result, or a draw, with digital service providers also getting some of their wishes granted. Streaming platforms and other digital services appealed to the CRB, resulting in the decision to return the Total Content Cost (TCC) and bundle sale definitions to the higher Phonorecords II levels.

Updating the royalty rates for the first time since 2006 has been in very slow progress since 2018. The initial proposal recommending a raise from 10.5% to 15.1% over five years was returned for revision due to a procedural error. The proposal has since been subject to further assessment and revision by the three-judge panel, following another challenge from the streaming platforms last year. 

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According to a press release from the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), the revenue received by labels has now been capped off back at the old levels. The label revenues had risen from 22% to 26.1% over the period 2018-22. 

Earlier this year, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) launched the ‘Justice at Spotify’ campaign to increase awareness of the streaming giant’s unfair payout rates. In response, Spotify launched its ‘Loud & Clear’ web portal as a gesture toward transparency about payouts, following protests organised by the UMAW.

In other news, Hebden has recently succeeded in his ongoing court battle with his previous label, Domino Records, over fair distribution of royalties. 

In the lawsuit, Hebden claimed that the label was in breach of contract over its 18% royalty rate, which Domino applied to record sales, and that a “reasonable” rate of 50% should have been given to downloads/streams.

Revealing his success in court, Hebden wrote on his Twitter feed: “I have a bodacious update on my case with Domino Record Co. They have recognised my original claim, that I should be paid a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads, and that they should be treated as a license rather than the same as a CD or vinyl sale.”

He continued: “It has been a difficult and stressful experience to work my way through this court case and I’m so glad we got this positive result, but I feel hugely relieved that the process is over.”

“Hopefully I’ve opened up a constructive dialogue and maybe prompted others to push for a fairer deal on historical contracts, written at a time when the music industry operated entirely differently.”

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