Federal Judge Rules Performance Royalties Don’t Apply To Downloads

Apr 27th, 2007 | By | Category: Audio Podcasting, Digital Music, Podcasting Law

A federal court ruled yesterday that music performance and royalty fees don’t apply to music downloads and movie downloads that feature music.

The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York affirmed a lower court ruling that found that digital music and media downloads aren‚Äôt public performances. Because they aren’t public performances, they shouldn‚Äôt be subject to public performance license and royalty fees.

Performance-rights let music be performed live or broadcast. Music royalty organization ASCAP had argued that song writers and publishers should receive royalties for downloaded music.

“The position of ASCAP was nonsensical,” Entertainment Merchants Association president Bo Andersen said in a statement on the ruling. “Digital downloads are not ‚Äòpublic‚Äô nor are they ‚Äòperformances.‚Äô Had ASCAP prevailed in its attempted end-run around the clear and established definitions of copyright law, additional, non-productive royalty costs would have been added to motion picture and videogame downloads, potentially stymieing this delivery system.”

Unfortunately, the ruling doesn’t really resolve the situation for music podcasters wanting to use mainstream music in their podcasts. While performance royalties may not apply to music downloads, there’s no standard practice for licensing mainstream music for distribution within podcasts.

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