U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Webcaster Royalty Rates for 2016-2020

U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Webcaster Royalty Rates for 2016-2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. has just issued its determinations for webcaster royalty rates for 2016-2020.

Yes, there’s something else going on in Washington this week.

Today (September 18th), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its opinion on the Copyright Royalty Board’s ‘Web IV’ music streaming rates for the period of 2016-2020

Those statutory rates are paid by non-interactive streaming radio providers, including Pandora, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and online radio stations, among others.

(And yes, it’s 2018.  But that’s bureaucracy for you.)

 A ‘non-interactive’ stream refers to any song that a listener cannot actively choose, effectively the opposite of ‘on-demand’ streaming.

So, if a song is played in a Pandora station without the user picking it, that song qualifies as a ‘non-interactive’ stream under current U.S. Copyright Law.  By contrast, a song specifically chosen and played on a platform like Spotify does not fall within this category (and is subject to an entirely different set of legalities).

Accordingly, a tribunal known as the ‘Copyright Royalty Board’ sets the statutory rates for non-interactive streams, which are typically funneled through SoundExchange.  That process is repeated every five years, and decisions can be appealed.

The CRB is appointed by the Librarian of Congress, and its determinations are sent to the Register of Copyrights for legal review.  Once approved, they are published by the Librarian of Congress in the Federal Register, and subject to review by the U.S. Court of Appeals (which brings us to this point).

For that reason, SoundExchange was an appellate in this case, arguing for higher rates.