In a Music Reports letter dated February 29th, 2016, I, as the publisher of my music, received a Notice of Intention to Obtain a Compulsory License (otherwise known as an NOI) letter.
The name of the licensee is Apple / iTunes.
The name and title of the person responsible for the management of the Licensee is listed as Eddy Cue, Vice President of Internet Services. And it lists the “Phonorecord configuration” as “Digital Phonorecord Deliveries, as set forth in 17, U.S.C, § 115 including, but not limited to, interactive streams and limited downloads.”
Also in this NOI is the “Expected date of initial distribution” as March 10th, 2016. There’s just one catch, all of my music has been on Apple Music since its initial launch last June. And like I noted in the Spotify lawsuit explanation, the law requires streaming companies to obtain a mechanical license at least 30 days prior to inclusion on the service.
Apple Music initially contracted HFA to handle these mechanical licenses and NOIs. We’ve seen this from lawsuits against Spotify (and rumored Tidal, Microsoft, Rhapsody, Google Play and Slacker). But HFA has done an extremely poor job of securing the proper licenses.
Personally, I have never received an NOI from HFA.
Because I own the publishing to my songs, like David Lowery (who brought the initial lawsuit against Spotify), I should be receiving NOIs from HFA on behalf of their clients. Those clients include Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and the rest. Music Reports, HFA’s competitor, handles the licensing administrative services for Amazon and Pandora, among others. I receive NOIs from Music Reports on a regular basis.
But now, it seems with all of the lawsuits being brought against HFA clients for failing to obtain the proper licenses and pay the proper royalties, Apple is taking extra precautions.
They have now enlisted Music Reports IN ADDITION to HFA.
On the bottom of this Music Reports NOI sent on behalf of Apple Music, it states:
Apple / iTunes has entered into a license agreement with the Harry Fox Agency. If you are an HFA affiliated publisher, please excuse this NOI, which has been sent to you purely out of an abundance of caution. Your arrangement with Apple / iTunes through HFA will continue to govern. If you have already informed us that you are an HFA affiliate, you do not need to do so again or notify or send anything to HFA.
This is the first NOI I’ve received on behalf of Apple. And they only listed 3 of my 50+ songs I have on Apple Music / iTunes.
Personally, I don’t care as much that Apple (and EVERYONE else) has legally infringed upon my copyrights. They didn’t do it maliciously. Would I like to get paid my mechanical royalties? You bet! But am I going to sue over it. Naw. They contracted HFA to handle this and clearly HFA does not have the resources, knowhow or ability to carry out their duties. Those vilifying Spotify, Tidal, et al are just plain ignorant to the circumstances.
Unfortunately these laws are extremely antiquated and the copyright system is frankly broken.
There is no master database where all of the information exists. So it is nearly impossible for these services to know who every single publisher is of every single song in their database (Apple Music and Spotify each have about 30 million songs on their service).
There is now more music than ever being distributed to a myriad of services by self-released artists who own their publishing (like David Lowery, Yesh Music, myself and literally thousands more). Lowery and Yesh Music sued. I won’t. Yes, the law is on their side. But it’s a dick move.
Dear Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Rhapsody and EVERYONE ELSE, want to know how to stop these lawsuits?
Require your distributors to submit publishing information to you alongside the masters. This would solve all of your issues. Give distributors 3 months to provide this information for their existing catalog. And anyone who doesn’t, rip their music down from your service.
This would force the indie distribution companies like CD Baby, DistroKid, Symphonic, Tunecore, along with all distributors including The Orchard, Believe, InGrooves Fontana, Caroline, Red and the rest to make their artists/labels simply tell them if they own their publishing or not. And if they don’t, who does? Simple enough. I’ve distributed my music with CD Baby, DistroKid, Tunecore and Loudr and it’s not a tough ask. The new contracts the streaming services strike up with distribution companies can have hold harmless clauses included, relieving all responsibility on the part of the streaming service.
CD Baby and Tunecore have been attempting to solve part of this issue with their own publishing services for their artists who also write their own songs. CD Baby Pro and Tunecore Publishing will collect publishing royalties worldwide and negotiate mechanical licenses on behalf of their artists/songwriters if the artist chooses to opt in for this service.
But, as of now, no streaming service requires this information from distributors and no distributor is offering it.
It really isn’t tough to solve this issue. It just takes a bit of cooperation.