Music Streamers—Minus Apple—Appeal Ruling to Increase Songwriter Royalties

Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon are appealing a ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board that increased the money songwriters receive from streaming-music royalties by 44%, Variety said. Apple alone is sitting out the appeal.

In January 2018, the board ruled to increase songwriter rates during the next five years, while modifying the terms by which songwriters receive royalties in an effort to simplify the process.

A joint statement released Thursday by Spotify, Google and Pandora said, “The Copyright Royalty Board, in a split decision, recently issued the U.S. mechanical statutory rates in a manner that raises serious procedural and substantive concerns. If left to stand, the CRB’s decision harms both music licensees and copyright owners. Accordingly, we are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the decision.”

The National Music Publishers’ Association, meanwhile, criticized the move to appeal the ruling. “When the Music Modernization Act became law, there was hope it signaled a new day of improved relations between digital music services and songwriters,” said David Israelite, CEO of the NMPA. “That hope was snuffed out today when Spotify and Amazon decided to sue songwriters in a shameful attempt to cut their payments by nearly one-third.”

Although the board’s ruling came more than a year ago, the 30-day window during which an appeal to the ruling could be filed began only last month, Variety said.

Israelite singled out Apple for praise, while maintaining he’s willing to take on the other four streaming services. “We thank Apple Music for accepting the CRB decision and continuing to be a friend to songwriters. While Spotify and Amazon surely hope this will play out in a quiet appellate courtroom, every songwriter and every fan of music should stand up and take notice.”

Apple’s stock fell 1.2% Thursday to $172.50 a share. Google declined 1.2% to $1,150.85 a share. Amazon was down 2.6% at $1,625.95 a share, while Spotify fell 3.4% to $140.18 a share and Pandora closed down 4.3% at $12.32 a share.

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