Professor Irina D. Manta, director of the Hofstra Center for Intellectual Property Law (CIPL), published the op-ed “Music streaming demands new wave of licensing rules” in the April 3, 2015, edition of the Chicago Tribune.
She co-authored the piece with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc (“Wake Me Up”) and Professor David S. Olson of Boston College Law School.
The op-ed argues for the abolition of compulsory licenses for copyrighted music works.
Among the reform proposals suggested are setting compulsory license rates closer to market levels and giving songwriters more control over some streaming of their works. The problem with these proposals, however, is that they keep the government central in setting rates and allocating use. The proposals assume that the transaction costs of licensing music must necessarily be as high today as they were in the days of the telegraph, and that only government rate setting can give us a working music industry.
We reject this notion. If we treat songwriters like other copyright holders and let them negotiate how their work is used, they will collaborate with technologists and entrepreneurs to build a music licensing system for the digital age. Indeed, this is the goal of Tidal, and investors responded quickly: within just days of Jay Z’s acquisition, shares spiked 938 percent. To allow artists to take full advantage of these services, however, Congress must get rid of the compulsory licensing scheme, and the Justice Department must stop exempting blanket licensing regimes from antitrust scrutiny.
Imagine a future with website services that list songs, their available uses and prices, all available to commercial users at a mouse click. Imagine platforms enabling easy online negotiations of licenses. The result will be a more efficient music licensing system, while listeners will have the same ease of streaming and buying music. Imagine the benefit to music lovers when songwriters are finally treated fairly so that the next generation of songwriters does not disappear. It’s easy if you try.