The US Copyright Office Is Taking a Look at Spotify’s Contracts…

What’s the point of copyright, if creators have no rights?  In the fallout of the leaked Spotify/Sony Music contract, that’s a question that has now been posed to decision-makers the US Copyright Office…


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24 Responses

  1. Bandit

    Ummm….the copyright office is the wrong place to pose this question. Their heart is in the right place but the only policy they can change right now concerns orphan works and adticircumvention rule making. Better to pose the question to the USPTO Internet Task Force. They are more concerned about IP business on the internet and they also carry more political clout.

    Unfortunately, even the copyright is in their name the Copyright Office is simply a part of the Library of Congress and impotent when it comes to matters involving business outside the Library’s walls

  2. David C lowery

    Must be no American “international managers.” Otherwise they’d realize they just dropped a Memorial Day Weekend “Friday news dump.” As an artist I have to say this is typical music manager incompetence. Have a good weekend all.

    • Troglite

      Agreed. This feels like grandstanding. As if they’re trying to demonstrate that they’re fighting for their own constintuents. I suspect the sender knows it won’t result in change, but they want to maintain appearances. If so, then it’s nothing more than bullshit that just happens to contain a bit of truth.

  3. tcooke

    How would one befriend the US President, Congress, and Judiciary to the idea that copyright law needs to be changed? Appeal to their sense of duty based on these tenets:
    1) music plays an important role in our cultural expression to the rest of the world; and,
    2) music is an important aspect of our sense of national pride.

    • Bandit

      Maria Pallante gave her testimony and also made this comment (off record and paraphrasing here) “the existing legal regime is already torturing the music community.” She also said that no performance royalty for terrestrial radio was “indefensible as a matter of law and embarrassing as a matter of policy.”

      But nobody on the hill gives a rats ass because writing new law takes work and they have an election coming up so……..

  4. Anonymous

    The problems addressed in this letter are important, but they aren’t copyright problems.

    Artists earnings are based on copyright, whereas label and publisher earnings are based on servicing artists. When artists are trading their rights in business agreements with labels, publishers, and collective management organisations, the agreements need to function to incentivise creativity.

    Copyright is a right that is created under law – much like regular property rights, such as those you have in your car, or other intellectual property rights, such as patents. Putting to the side moral issues, one of the primary reasons for the legal creation and enforcement of these rights is to enable the owner to make use of the relevant property. This includes the right to not use it, and the right to use it stupidly or make bad deals concerning that property.

    They seem to be requesting that the copyright office not only be concerned with the direct purposes of the legal recognition and enforcement of copyright, but also with how a copyright, once recognized, is then freely used by the original owner. This is an outrageous request – the same logic could be extended to requesting that the government monitor the way you use your house: private property rights are legally recognized in order to (among other things) encourage the productive use of resources, therefore the government should require that if you have any arable land with your home, you must use it to grow a veggie garden.

    The problem is that some artists have made bad deals that transferred away some or all of their copyrights in exchange for something else that, at the time, the artists valued more than those copyrights. This is not a problem with copyright, it’s a problem with how individuals are making use of that right. The solution, moving forward, is for artists to stop making bad deals in which they get insufficient value in exchange for their copyrights.

    This should be an open letter to artists explaining the ramifications of entering deals that leave loopholes for the label/publisher/whoever to profit from your copyright without sharing that value with you, that don’t entitle the artist to relevant information, and that don’t give the artist any practical way to monitor and verify performance of the other party.

    That letter should be followed up with many more about how to address these issues in negotiations, how to cover them in contracts (including sample contract language), and heavy education on alternative options to signing with a label/publisher in the event that they insist on unacceptable terms.

    Paul asks: what’s the point of copyright, if creators have no rights?

    That’s a stupid question. Creators do have rights. When they bargain those rights away or otherwise enter bad deals that limit or impair their rights – that’s on them. Apparently the dysfunctionality of the music market extends to inability to even accurately identify problems … and if you can’t identify the problem, you probably can’t solve it.

    • tcooke

      Hi, someone asked a question for an attorney about the full spotify/sony contract article. Maybe you could help over there?

        • Troglite

          I asked that question. 🙂

          I would love your input because everything you wrote here reflects my understanding of these concepts. I regularly deal with contract issues involving IP and privacy, so I can typically grasp legal concepts fairly quickly.

          • Sarah

            Answered 🙂
            It’s a tough topic to discuss generically, because there are so many fact-specific issues, exceptions, etc. If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch, I’d be happy to try to help.

    • djg

      “The solution, moving forward, is for artists to stop making bad deals in which they get insufficient value in exchange for their copyrights”

      I agree with this statement and more and more artists every day express their dissatisfaction with the deals struck between the labels and streaming services.

      However, I disagree with the idea that business transactions and contractual agreements that involve the distribution of works under copyright cannot be affected or controlled by amending existing law or the enactment of new law.

      The very basis of digital music streaming services business model is determined by legal definition. If enough artists are getting screwed by on-demand streaming services it is quite possible that it would be found that it is in the public interest for a law to be passed that redefines on-demand streaming payouts and from now on they will be determined by a rate court. Spotify and Sony would no longer get to negotiate in private they would be cast down into the Pandora circle.

  5. Ed Jennings

    US Copyright Office plays a major role with Fair Play Fair Pay and royalties going forward. Is it any wonder Spotify hired four US Lobbyists and two European lobbyists. The fight is on for digital music.

    Artists and fans have a significant voice and vote here.

    • Name2

      I vote with my dollars. They’re called dollar votes.

      And I vote for Spotify.

      • FarePlay

        What do you have a PAC or something? Or just working for one of the four lobbying firms Spotify just hired?

        Put your money where your vote is……………

        • Name2

          If I ran a lobbying firm, I’d get my boilerplate published as full-on “news” “articles” at DMN.

          I wouldn’t be wasting my time in the comments section.

  6. Name2


    Only two positions in the music value pipeline are essential: I) creators and II) consumers: Fan to artist, artist to fan.

    Pay no attention to the worker bees who are maintaining apps, providing tech support to customers, keep the servers cool, up, and running; do the billing and security, pay for the bandwidth, write the hype copy and curate the playlists that get anyone to stream a song they haven’t heard of; design attractive storefronts which keep customers engaged, etc. Basically, everything retailers used to do before they were thrown under the bus.

    Because who WOULDN’T want to use an online service Taylor Swift runs out of her Manhattan breakfast nook?

  7. FarePlay

    Is there a time, in the not so distant future, when a class action suit by the artists signed to these labels, particularly those with no digital compensation clause a consideration?

    • Sarah

      The material facts probably vary too much between cases for a class action to be appropriate. Artists would likely do better with individual lawsuits after a favorable precedent has been set (the first case should be by an exceptionally sympathetic plaintiff).

        • Sarah

          Right, sorry – was thinking about a fraud claim someone else mentioned somewhere. Yes, if everyone’s claims are based on the same basic facts (such as a common contract term), a class action is possible.

          I’d still suggest considering opting out of a class, though, especially if you think you’ve got a particularly good set of facts – you might be able to get better terms individually. In that case, you’d let the class action proceed, then follow with your own lawsuit to piggyback on the outcome and hopefully get a better deal than you would as part of the class.

        • Satan

          wouldn’t it be funny if the labels found a way through creative accounting to get the artists to pay the litigation costs,

          Anyway are there any pending lawsuits where the plaintiff is not a “legacy” or “heritage” artist?

  8. Shlomo

    Dear IMMF

    Your heart is in the right place. However you will never beat the Gay mafia. Stop now before they take away your computers.