The D.C. Court of Appeals, where the showdown begins over mechanical royalty rate increases (photo: AgnosticPreachersKid CC 3.0).

The D.C. Court of Appeals, where the showdown begins over mechanical royalty rate increases (photo: AgnosticPreachersKid CC 3.0).

Last month, National Music Publishers’ Association president David Israelite stated that any challenge to the CRB’s proposed mechanical royalty increases would be ‘declaring war on songwriters‘.

Well, if that’s the case, the enemy assault is coming from Spotify, Amazon, Google, and Pandora — i.e., the largest streaming music players in the world.

“The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), in a split decision, recently issued the U.S. mechanical statutory rates in a manner that raises serious procedural and substantive concerns,” Spotify, Pandora, and Google emailed Digital Music News in a joint statement.

“If left to stand, the CRB’s decision harms both music licensees and copyright owners. Accordingly, we are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the decision.”

The only big name missing here is Apple Music.  At present, sources have indicated to DMN that a challenge will not be forthcoming from Apple.  In general, Apple has been more supportive of royalty increases and fairer compensation for creators — and its per-play royalties are solidly boosted by Apple Music’s pay-only audience.

Last year, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), which determines statutory royalty rates in the United States, called for a mechanical royalty increase of 44% over a four-year term for songwriters and publishers.

The increase was approved by a 2-1 vote (i.e., the ‘split decision’ referred to above).  The CRB’s vote was subsequently approved by the Register of Copyrights in February, opening a one-month window for challenges.

“The Copyright Royalty Board published today the Final Rates and terms for songwriters for mechanical royalties,” a tough-talking Israelite declared roughly one month ago.

“NMPA and NSAI [Nashville Songwriters Association International] fought hard to increase songwriter royalties by 44%+.  The digital music companies now have 30 days to appeal that ruling, and in effect declare war on songwriters.”

The flurry of appeals arrived right on cue — and are hardly unexpected.

All four services separately filed a notice to appeal with the U.S. District Court of Appeals, a precursor to a more detailed appeal.  Though the challenges are directed towards the CRB’s decision, Israelite has accused the streaming giants of ‘suing songwriters’.

“The CRB’s final determination gave songwriters only their second meaningful rate increase in 110 years,” Israelite stated. “Instead of accepting the CRB’s decision which still values songs less than their fair market value, Spotify and Amazon have declared war on the songwriting community by appealing that decision.”

Israelite further noted that the recent victory in passing the Music Modernization Act (MMA) offered hope of  “a new day of improved relations between digital music services and songwriters.”  That has now given way to ‘war,’ with Israelite obviously furious over the challenges.

“No amount of insincere and hollow public relations gestures such as throwing parties or buying billboards of congratulations or naming songwriters ‘geniuses’ can hide the fact that these big tech bullies do not respect or value the songwriters who make their businesses possible,” Israelite fumed.

More as this develops.