Fighting for the Songwriters: Setting the Record Straight

By Gerard Fox Law Legal Perspectives February 15, 2017

One of the challenges in every lawsuit is ensuring that your client's truth is told without being spun beyond recognition by the opposition or critics.  When your opposition is the Department of Justice (DOJ), that task is no small one.  As it stands currently, Gerard Fox Law has been zealously representing the Songwriters of North America (SONA) in the fight against the DOJ in District Court in Washington, D.C.  Last week, one of those so-called critics weighed in and was ultimately taken to task by entertainment lawyer and friend of the firm, Dina LaPolt.

Andrew Langer, in his op-ed for The Hill last week, skewed the complaints of SONA and framed the lawsuit as one that, if successful, would result in "higher prices and limited access for music consumers everywhere." Langer claimed that the current scheme "has worked rather well for all parties involved." Clearly Langer has not been paying attention to the the pleas of the individual songwriters who scrape by on meager royalties for even hugely-popular hit songs they've written.

Fortunately Ms. LaPolt responded with fervor and skill on behalf of the songwriters, asserting that Langer's analysis could not be further from the truth. She explained:

SONA’s lawsuit aims to do nothing more than allow the music industry to function exactly as it has been for nearly a century. It in no way has the aim, nor the power, to repeal to the consent decrees outright.

In fact, if the 100 percent licensing mandate is allowed to stand, access to music will likely decrease in the future as songwriters will be incentivized to only write with fellow PRO members. They will gradually be paid less and less as competition for pricing degrades the already meager royalties they receive, leading to the creation of fewer songs as these writers are forced to seek other ways to make a living.

Take for example Avicii’s hit song “Wake Me Up,” written by Tim Bergling, Aloe Blacc‎, and Mike Einziger. This song earned fewer than $12,400 in royalties for being streamed more than 168 million times on Pandora, a service that only has to pay out performance royalties.  

Two of the song’s co-writers belong to ASCAP, while the third belongs to BMI. Under 100 percent licensing, not only may this song have never been written, but businesses would be able to shop the PROs for the lowest rate, further reducing the royalties that must be split between the writers. Then, the chosen PRO would have to account to a writer for which it has no information or connection.

Gerard Fox Law is proud to stand with Ms. LaPolt and with SONA to advocate on behalf of the songwriters. We will continue to set the record straight as the battle against the DOJ continues.

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