Music Reports streaming publishing mechanical license music

This new service could stop music makers from getting screwed by streaming

An online claiming system aims to untangle the messy world of music publishing.

- Mar 23, 2016

As Big Streaming gains greater traction in the way music gets distributed, we're hearing more and more stories about bands suing on-demand music services for unpaid royalties and copyright infringement.

Camper Van Beethhoven frontman David Lowery filed a $150-million class action lawsuit against Spotify. The American Dollar's John Emanuele has sought legal action against TIDAL, Google, Microsoft, and the now defunct Grooveshark. To feed their furnaces and gain some edge in the arms race, the streamers need to offer more and more content, sometimes running roughshod over creator's rights. And the littlest guys are the least likely to lawyer up.

The big issue here is licensing. The streaming services are required to obtain the proper licenses to offer any given song in their catalogue for replay. The tricky bit is that a single piece of music is subject to two distinct copyrights: the mechanical license, which refers to the underlying music, the composition, as well as the sound recording or "phonorecord" as it's (still hilariously) known which comprises a whole other license. These are rarely controlled by the same parties.

For the first time it gives the little publishers an even playing field.

Music Reports VP Bill Colitre
In the U.S., most mechanical licenses are obtained through the Harry Fox Agency, which Spotify uses. But recently, a lawyer representing songwriter and publisher Melissa Ferrick said the Harry Fox Agency was "was ill-equipped to obtain licenses for all of the songs embodied in the phonorecords distributed by Spotify." The administration system which manages publishing claims is outdated, unkept, and it's struggling to keep up. Services are supposed to send a Note Of Intent to the publisher (or the Library of Congress if that information is unknown), but, oftentimes, that step is neglected altogether.

Here's where HFA competitor Music Reports comes in. Unveiled at SXSW and launching today, Music Reports has created an online claiming system, available to everyone, where publishers can maintain their publishing data, register new works, and make claims on recordings which use their work. Every claim will be investigated by the company's research team.

It turns the tangled business of mechanical licensing into a centralized online database, where publishers have been given the tools to tend their own shops.

"For the first time it gives the little publishers an even playing field." says Music Reports VP Bill Colitre. "No one is charging them any money, there's no obligations, but if they want to they can go and make their publishing claims known. For the big guys, this gives them a way to relieve their anxiety."

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