Songwriters Call On the CRB to ‘Accelerate Finalization’ of Phonorecords III Determination — And Free Up $800 Million in Owed Mechanical Royalties

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Photo Credit: Spotify

Last July, the Copyright Royalty Board issued a determination for the Phonorecords III (covering 2018-2022) proceeding, increasing by 43.8% on-demand streaming’s mechanical royalty rate for songwriters and publishers in the U.S. Now, multiple organizations are urging the CRB to “accelerate finalization” of the decision – and, in the process, free up $700 million to $800 million in owed royalties.

Songwriters of North America (SONA), as well as the Black Music Action Coalition and the Music Artists Coalition, just recently called on the three-judge Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to make official the Phonorecords III ruling, which arrived after years of opposition from Spotify, Amazon, and others.

Apple didn’t push back against the Phonorecords III rate hike, it’s worth noting, and notwithstanding criticism over an alleged lack of transparency, a Phonorecords IV (2023-2027) settlement was hammered out last year and approved by the CRB in December.

Despite the latter agreement, however, songwriters and publishers have yet to receive the better part of a billion dollars in owed compensation under Phonorecords III, according to a letter that the above-mentioned organizations sent to the Copyright Royalty Board. (SONA initially believed that songwriters were entitled to roughly $373 million more from Phonorecords III, per an update published two days ago, but subsequently learned that the number is “much higher” than that.)

“We write to you collectively, and with the support of our creative community, to implore you to accelerate finalization of the Copyright Royalty Board (‘CRB’) Phonorecords III preliminary decision upholding an increased mechanical rate for all songs streamed between 2018 and 2022,” the entities penned in an almost 600-word-long message to the CRB.

“Confirmation of this rate is necessary to release hundreds of millions in royalties to its rightful owners, income that is currently being held by the Mechanical Licensing Collective,” SONA and the other organizations explained. “It would also allow the process of adjusting and truing up past royalty payments made by digital music providers to begin, enabling songwriters and publishers to finally receive the proper royalty amounts owed for the Phono III rate period.”

SONA likewise went ahead and rolled out a petition through which individuals can add their signatures to the CRB letter (“your signature on represents a signature on the letter below”); 780 individuals had signed said petition at the time of this writing.

On top of the $700 million to $800 million in as-yet-unpaid royalties attributed to Phonorecords III and CRB procedures, reports have indicated that the Mechanical Licensing Collective’s “black box” unmatched accounts could contain a staggering $1 billion or so at present.