How Copyright Affects Music Streaming

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As technology has evolved so has copyright laws for musicians, especially when it comes to music streaming. What must you know to protect yourself?

The music industry is rapidly changing due to digital music streaming. Listeners go the Internet to connect and listen to music and musicians are working with companies to get their songs out to many people. Various digital services are flourishing and changing the way the industry treats musicians and streaming services because of these behaviors. As the digital marketplace becomes more diversified, there’s even more need for protective copyright legislation.

Music copyright owners must ensure their work is protected by copyright licenses to get credit and paid for their work. While creators and listeners have access to most services, musicians are still not fully benefitting from their work. With the expansion of digital streaming services and copyright laws, it’s possible for an artist to have greater control over the flow of their music across the globe.

Physical sales from albums have sharply decreased whereas revenue from digital services is just beginning to replace declining figures. Musicians must be aware of copyright laws that affect them and the industry. It’s necessary for musicians, producers and distributors to work with digital services that track and pay for any published music. Operating in one location may be simple for a musician to handle, but tracking everything in a country or across the globe is too much for someone to handle.

Music copyright foundation

When Congress brought copyright to music in 1972, they gave power to musicians making it so that owners of the music could reproduce and distribute recordings exclusively to anyone. Congress created the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to set and review the terms of music regulations. The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recording Act (DPRA) was passed in 1995. It provided a small loophole for music with the advent of the Internet. The 1996 rights established by the WIPO Internet treaties allowed the marketplace to further grow from digital streaming services. 1998 saw the introduction of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which brought webcasts under copyright protection laws. This specifically affected Internet radio, satellite radio, and television music channels.

SoundExchange is considered the Librarian of Congress by collecting, recording, and distributing royalties from multiple services. In 2008 and 2009, the Webcaster Settlement Acts granted SoundExchange the power to negotiate royalty payments for certain webcasters. The company negotiated with various webcasters to increase the amount of money that would be made from per-performance plays.

The industry’s current stance

Musical composition rights and sound recording rights are the two major areas of focus for copyright laws depending on the involvement with the music. Music composition rights consider the producer, lyricist and other others involved with original elements of the song. Sound recording rights focus on the ways in which the various sounds are combined for the final recording. Music composition rights have historically had difficult times establishing royalty rates, licensing and other musical business. Depending on the placement of the company, it would complicate the process. Sound recording rights have rates set with the CRB, SoundExchange or direct contract negotiations are balancing the control of money in the industry.

The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) created the Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund to make the royalty payments possible. SoundExchange negotiated so that royalty payments were distributed to those involved with the recording. 50 percent goes to the sound recording copyright owners, 45 percent goes to featured artists, and 2.5 percent to featured musicians and vocalists.

The most noticeable change in the digital marketplace has occurred from music streaming services, not music download services. Music streaming is a powerful sales channel and still growing in the industry. Whether it’s a service that is in demand or offers a customized flair, these services act as sales channels for musicians. Musicians get paid anytime their recording is listened to from digital streaming services. Contracted musicians generally receive smaller initial payments then physical sales but get far longer residual payments. Music streaming and its services have the potential to create a more sustainable industry for everyone involved.

Find a business balance in music

People in the music industry are paid from copyright laws brought about through governmental regulation on the recordings. While some are helpful to people, others are antiquated and no longer help anyone. The Internet brought change to the music industry and through recognizing the digital marketplace, brought even greater change and power to musicians. Legal copyright issues and money payments have become a focal point, while musicians attempt to make a living from their recordings and music streaming.

As music services and music streaming further grow in the industry, music copyright owners must benefit from the work they create. Some services access music without paying artists for its use. Others find ways around laws by paying the minimal amounts and recategorizing the music. This is noticeable with popular ad-supporting platforms and the royalties they pay to artists. Exclusive rights to created musical materials ensure a fair processing between right holders and music listeners. More copyright regulation will be needed to balance the royalties from music streaming finances of the industry.

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