Record Labels, Artists
A Daily Texan article shares some startling numbers about the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) litigation campaign: The RIAA has settled 8,423 suits with an average settlement of $3,000. The Daily Texan works out that this is a total of $25,269,000.00 (twenty five million two hundred and sixty nine thousand dollars) and the newspaper claims that not a penny of which goes to the artists that the RIAA claims to speak for. The United Kingdom’s Times newspaper also ran a front page article (6 March 2005) saying that the British Phonographic Industry had settled a total of 23 civil claims against 23 file downloaders with a total compensation payment of 000.00. Peter Jamieson, chairman of the BPI, commented that unauthorised downloading “effectively steals the livelihood of musicians and record companies. We will not hesitate to protect the rights of our members and the artists they represent”. The BPI has said it will now target file sharers with collections of unauthorized downloaded tracks ranging from a few hundred to “high four figures” although no detail was yet given as to the division of receipts between recording artists and BPI member labels.
See: www.eff.org/cgi/tiny?urlID=402 and www.bpi.co.uk
COMMENT :The Daily Texan article does raise a very interesting point about record company economics and their relationship with artists: As the chairman of the BPI rightly points out, illegal downloading steals from both musicians and record labels (as well as the songwriter it should be added). If millions of dollars of un-attributable income are collected, in effect in lieu of royalty payments, then surely the real losers are the artists and AS WELL AS the record labels. It is also prudent to add that whilst it is the record labels and their trade associations who are taking the moral high ground in the fight against peer-2-peer file swapping and illegal downloading, in the past labels have been regularly accused of “biting of”‘ the hand that feeds them – binding recording artists and musicians to long and complex agreements and then failing to pay them a fair share of profits made from the exploitation of recordings. High profile claimants against record labels for accountings and royalty payments have included the Beatles and more recently Michael Jackson (in a claim against Motown) and the Rolling Stones (in a claim against Decca). Part of George Michael’s ultimately unsuccessful claim against Sony in 1994 was that there was an inequitable division of profits between artist and label from his album sales and that his label used royalty reducing clauses to keep his CD royalty payments lower than they should have been. Music Business Journal have asked the BPI press office for a comment on this in early March but have heard nothing as yet.
For an artist’s view on downloading, recording contracts and relations with the recording industry see the Recording Artists Coalition website at www.recordingartistscoalition.com. There are interesting comments from Eagles drummer and vocalist Don Henley (17th February 2004) on the home page.
The George Michael Case: Panayiotou v Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd (1994) EMLR 229
Law Updates December 2004 Rolling Stones must arbitrate royalty dispute with Decca
Law Updates June 2003 Michael Jackson launches royalty action against Motown