Royalty rate ruling strikes a rare harmony

After a complex legal decision gets issued, if none of the affected parties can be seen, jubilant and dancing in the court aisles, maybe the judges got it just right? That seems to be the online consensus reaction to a recent decision by three federal judges, who in an arcane bit of copyright law that also affects the Librarian of Congress, set the royalty rates that artists get paid for outlets that play their music. The judges, acting as the Copyright Royalty Board, recently issued new rates for streaming services, which took effect Jan. 1 and will hold sway until 2020. The rates require online radio and streaming companies to pay 17 cents per 100 plays of songs and 22 cents per 100 listens by paying subscribers to any ad-free radio offering. Under the ruling, the musicians, who had been screaming about getting ripped off, will get a little more money; over the air, broadcast radio outlets will pay a little less. And streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify, will fork over more. How does this absence of acrimonious reaction and rare harmony about the rates’ decision affect the music industry and its supposed dash away from old-fashioned technologies like on-air radio stations and toward Internet-based service providers, such as online radio and streaming services? The sky hasn’t fallen since the new royalty rates were issued in December. Based on...

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