Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Does Downloading MP3s Trigger Public Performance Payment?

Dear Rich: In your Getting Permission book, when you discuss digital download permissions for MP3s, you write that "Music publishers currently seek to get paid in two ways (referred to as “double-dipping”), once for the reproduction of the MP3 file and again for the transmission of the file over the Internet." I thought that they could only get paid for the downloads. You're right. The statement in the book is outdated. In a 2007 decision, a federal court held:
"Although we acknowledge that the term “perform” should be broadly construed [cite omitted] we can conceive of no construction that extends it to the copying of a digital file from one computer to another in the absence of any perceptible rendition. Rather, the downloading of a music file is more accurately characterized as a method of reproducing that file."
It's true that music publishers are still seeking to get paid both ways and that they petitioned Congress to revise the copyright law accordingly. But their desires have not yet been transformed into law and we'll report if and when things change.