Supreme Court denies ASCAP claim downloads are performances

Supreme court rejects ASCAP attempt at double-dip

The US Supreme Court late Monday rejected ASCAP's attempt to claim that song downloads are public performances. Its verdict upheld an earlier appeal ruling without added comment. The earlier, federal-level judge pointed to basic logic for support, contending that a digital recording isn't necessarily being played live to a wide audience just because it had been transferred over the Internet.

The new decision also enforces the previous appeals court's view that RealNetworks (having split off its Rhapsody music service) and Yahoo can ask for lower royalty rates. It may also affect an earlier demand that charged Verizon $5 million simply for offering ringtones.

ASCAP has tried to argue that it's losing millions of dollars in royalties if denied the rates. Music stores and critics alike have responded by accusing the performance society of trying to double-dip for its artists, letting them charge once for the music itself and again for the choice of format even though it's no different in practice than buying a CD.

The Supreme Court verdict could have a significant benefit for iTunes, Amazon MP3, and other stores or streaming music services. Along with keeping prices down on tracks, it should end disputes over whether 90-second song samples constitute performances.

  1. PJL500 10/04, 09:36am

    into the internet age.

    They think that thousands of middlemen should continue become millionaires on the backs of artists. They have managed to put fear into "established" artists, who were lucky enough work in an age when it was *very* lucrative to sell CDs in shops. Guess what? Successful artists are going to make a very comfortable living now - but the Bentleys and multiple mansions will no longer be automatic.

  1. kerryb 10/04, 09:43am

    under this logic, when I buy a music CD leave a shop and walk home I should pay for the public performance of that CD. Maybe they could get royalties from blank CD's as well as in France.

  1. jeb20 10/04, 09:53am

    Going after iTunes is a waste. They should be going after hulu crackle etc. Those places have legitimate performances as they show commercials. It's a no brainer. The fact that they went after iTunes really shows just how clueless the leadership at ascap is. Forget all that getting rich bullish*t. A stream with commercials is a performance, a download is not... period.

  1. BigMac2 10/04, 10:28am

    ASCAP made more money on 99cents per song than selling physical CDs. Apple should open up to indie artiste and have a program like their developer program who just need to subscribe to the 99$ annual fee for being able to sale stuff thru the AppStore. Music artiste should be able to bypass ASCAP and sold their creation directly to customer without any intermediate.

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