Copyright Royalty Board Preserves Current Rate At 9.1 Cents Per Song
The Copyright Royalty Board ruled that the royalty which songwriters receive on sales of CDs and digital downloads will remain at 9.1 cents per song for the next five years.
The Recording Industry Association of America, the record label trade group, was pleased that the rate was frozen for the first time since 1977, meaning that if song prices increase, royalties will make up a falling percentage of the companies’ costs. “No party got everything it wanted, yet at the end of the day, the certainty provided by this ruling is beneficial,” said Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the RIAA.
This was the first time in nearly three decades that the recording industry couldn’t set a fee on its own for sales of recorded music. The last government hearing to set the so-called mechanical royalty rate was in 1980 and was triggered by a change in federal law.
Part of the disagreement stemmed from the vast array of new ways of distributing music and the rise of digital downloads. Downloads had never been treated separately from CD sales, which are plummeting.
The National Music Publishers’ Association, which represented songwriters in the case, was happy the fees weren’t cut in a declining music market. “If prices go up, we’re not going to share in that increase, but if prices go down, we’re going to have a guaranteed value for that property,” said David Israelite, president of the publishers’ association, after the ruling.
For ringtones, the federal agency set a new rate of 24 cents, roughly in line with industry practice of paying songwriters 10 percent of revenue on each $2.50 ringtone. The rate was even higher than the 15 cents per song requested by songwriters and publishers.
The board also adopted an industry settlement made last week covering interactive streams and limited downloads offered by subscription services like Rhapsody and Napster. In those areas, digital operators agreed to pay songwriters and their publishing agents 10.5 percent of all revenue minus roughly 5 percent paid in performance royalties. That agreement is retroactive to 2001.