Analysis

Songwriters speak up over publisher withdrawals and safe harbour


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There’s another row brewing involving songwriters, and this time the target of their ire is… publishers. The US National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) to be specific.

A group of songwriter representative bodies has distributed an open letter “to the American Music Publishing Community” questioning moves by some publishers to withdraw their rights from ASCAP and BMI, in order to demand direct licensing deals with digital services like Pandora.

The writers are angry that the NMPA refused their request for talks as “inappropriate” and likely to “prove fruitless”, and claim that publishers do not have the legal right to withdraw rights on their behalf.

“We feel strongly that the songwriters, composers and others we represent maintain their right to decide who collects performing rights royalties on their behalf,” claims the letter. Watch this one rumble if publishers follow through on their threats to withdraw.

Meanwhile, British songwriters are throwing their weight into another digital debate: the one around ISPs, music piracy and safe harbour provisions.

UK body BASCA says it is supporting a recent report claiming ISPs should be more accountable for tackling piracy – although we should make it clear here that BASCA appears to be thinking more about digital services like YouTube that host content, rather than necessarily ISPs that provide access to those sites.

“ISPs need to not only be ‘more proactive’ in taking down multiple copies of infringing works; they need to take down and stay down all copies of infringing works, not just the specific cases they are notified of,” said CEO Vick Bain.

“We would also encourage the UK government to go even further particularly on the subject of safe harbour provisions, which are being systematically abused by some platforms.”

Stuart Dredge

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