ArtsWatch: Artists Turn Up The Volume Against Pandora

Pink Floyd's message: "Money ... share it fairly ... don't take a slice of my pie"
July 01, 2013 -- 4:40 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

Pink Floyd To Pandora: "Hey, Leave Us Kids Alone!"
In November 2012 a group of artists called on Pandora to work with them as partners, and last week several became more vocal with their complaints about a deceptive letter sent to artists by Pandora in mid-May. On June 23 David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd penned an op-ed in USA Today titled "Pandora's Internet Radio Royalty Ripoff." The band describes Pandora's letter as an unscrupulous trick, soliciting signatures to lobby Congress without disclosing the royalty reductions Pandora lobbied for in last year's Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012. Pink Floyd's op-ed referenced an October 2012 story from The Register that claimed, "The Internet Radio Fairness Act ... would cut musicians' pay by 85 percent — reducing Pandora's royalty costs from 50 percent to 10 percent." On June 24 Cracker frontman David Lowery chimed in with a blog post titled "My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times And All I Got Was $16.89." The next day former Motown artist Martha Reeves penned an op-ed on MSNBC's The Grio, writing, "Pandora wants to try again, this time offering performers a larger share of the reduced royalties. But a larger share of leftovers would leave us with crumbs; even the most generous version of Pandora's offer would cut performers' pay by 70 percent." Pandora founder Tim Westergren responded on a blog on June 26 asserting that the 85 percent figure "is a lie manufactured by the RIAA and promoted by their hired guns to mislead and agitate the artist community." Whatever precise mathematical argument Westergren might have in mind, Pandora seems to be leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to reduce royalty payments to artists. Blaming the RIAA is an outdated dodge and Pandora should respect artists' real financial concerns. In May, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow was the first to sound the alarm about Pandora's artist-outreach letter, and The Academy concludes its organizational statement on Fair Pay: "The Recording Academy does not support any legislative effort by Pandora that will be used to reduce compensation to music creators."

Internet Radio Continues To Evolve With Increased Competition
On June 26, following Apple's June 10 preview of iTunes Radio at a developers' conference, Microsoft gave developers a first look at upgrades coming to its Xbox Music service. Set to launch alongside Windows 8.1, Microsoft's new features will add the increasingly common ability for users to spawn radio-like playlists based on the selection of an artist or track, and it will also integrate with the Bing search engine so that these playlists can be created based on track information appearing on a Web page. Meanwhile, Cnet News called attention to an Apple patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on June 27 that would allow users to detail why they choose to skip a playlist selection. For example, users will be allowed to select "wrong genre" or "too slow" in order to improve subsequent track recommendations. With upstarts like these jockeying for position, Pandora is looking more like a legacy incumbent. On June 25 Pandora blogged, "Today we're excited to share that Pandora is now available in more than 100 car models. ... We estimate that one-third of all new cars sold in 2013 in the U.S. will have Pandora installed."

Appeals Court Affirms Constitutionality Of Statutory Damages For Infringement
On June 25 the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against former Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum's latest appeal of copyright infringement damages a jury imposed on him in 2009, calculated at $22,500 per track for 30 tracks for a total of $675,000. The court found that the due process issues cited by the defendant applied to punitive damages, not statutory damages. The $22,500 amount was "15 percent of the maximum award for willful violations and less than the maximum award for non-willful violations," despite the fact that Tenenbaum's "behavior was exactly what Congress was trying to deter when it amended the Copyright Act," according to the court.

A New World Of Knowledge For The Visually Impaired
On June 28 the descriptively named Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities wrapped in Marrakesh, Morocco, with the signing of a new international instrument by delegates from 186 member states. Harmonizing global copyright limitations and exceptions to permit cross-border exchanges of content converted to accessible formats, the "Marrakesh Treaty" is a historic first and the product of five years of negotiations. Participants MPAA and the National Federation for the Blind issued a joint statement, saying, "We congratulate all involved," and Public Knowledge added that this is a "time to savor success."

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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