Music and artists keep hold of an unquestionable value in so many manners that encounters us in various diversified content. The contributions endowed to the individuals by this very form of art, appear as values of the social and economic life. However, the vast majority who the music addresses is not adequately conscious and informed about how music and the artists are protected. In this manner, copyrights, and related legislation are actually notions that we encounter with on a daily basis due to their dispersed involvement. Therefore, awareness should be raised on such issue. Technology and it benefits are the main source to rely on when considering rapid progress regarding any branch and area. Especially music industry’s involvement with technological developments pave the way for this industry to consistently innovate which results in the need to implement and execute compatible regulations.

Law is a branch that follows the surrounding developments to adopt itself accordingly. This fact also applies to the music industry as well. Along with the observed rapid progress in technology applied to the art and to the tools which scatter this art form, the conventional understanding of intellectual property law, more particularly copyright law, started to be abandoned. Hence, they evolve and adopt to the new structure. The music culture of 21st century has shifted to a digital comprehension. Although physical sale of media has a revenue valued $1.5 billion for the year 2017, (which surpasses digital download revenue by a $200 million margin for the United States of America) streaming over digital music platforms such as Spotify and Tidal are still high in demand. According to the Shipment & Revenue Statistics Report of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)[1], 65% of the industry revenue is covered by digital music platforms with value at $5.7 billion which must be strongly interpreted as a heavy dominance in the market by surpassing a %50 threshold. Therefore, both methods of music distribution, physical and digital, cause different legal consequences to arise.

As a matter of fact, the utilization of digital instruments in such manner were imagined previously in the year 1996 among with the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) by virtue of the making available right’s recognition. This particular right enabled the right holders to protect their rights in the digital mediums as it is. The making available right is expressed in WCT, Article 8 as “authors of literary and artistic works shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorizing any communication to the public of their works, by wire or wireless means, including the making available to the public of their works in such a way that members of the public may access these works from a place and at a time individually chosen by them.”[2] Along with this definition, the copyright holders are protected from the possible arguments of people who upload content online. Against an accusation of breach, the people in question may assert that they were solely making the content available by uploading, rather than infringing any rights. By courtesy of the making available right, the artist, the right holder monopolizes the sole discretion regarding making their content available or not.

WCT provide an environment in which the distribution of music in digital mediums and the protection of the right holder can co-exist. In this manner, music industry became a ground where physical and digital sales compete head to head. Now the access to digital music platforms is highly easy and moreover practical.  Following the making available right, the complex licensing procedure takes place for these digital music platforms to act within the boundaries of legal frame. When Spotify is in question, the said company obtains licenses as; recording licenses and composition licenses. Recording licenses are obtained “for the rights to the actual recordings”.[3] Under the composition licenses Spotify has to secure two royalties; performance right royalties and mechanical royalties. Mechanical royalties are generated per every single stream of the recorded music while performance royalties are gathered by certain organizations in case the content is performed publically and/or streamed.

It is obvious that new habits in music industry brought new solutions and regulations alongside. WCT’s provision regarding the making available right was the milestone of the digital era for the art of music. Together with the technological and legal developments, digital music platforms attained a major place in the music market reaching a level nearly even to physical copies have. Consequently, subscribers are benefitting from these platforms while the platforms provide a service without detriment to the rights protecting the artist as the right holder regarding to the music subject to the copyright.

[1] https://www.riaa.com/reports/2017-riaa-shipment-revenue-statistics-riaa/
http://www.riaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/RIAA-Year-End-2017-News-and-Notes.pdf
[2] WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), article 8
[3] Spotify IPO Filing Reveals How Insanely Complicated It Is to License Music Rights

Author: Aybike Hotomaroğlu

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