Three judges decide what Spotify, Apple, and YouTube Music pay songwriters in the US. One of those roles is now up for grabs.

Credit: Sasun Bughdaryan

In US, the mechanical royalty rate that music streaming services including Spotify and Apple Music pay songwriters, is set by the Copyright Royalty Board.

The CRB is currently in the midst of proceedings to determine songwriter streaming royalty rates for the five years between 2023 and 2027.

But did you know, that behind the scenes at the CRB, there are just three individuals – three judges – charged with conducting those proceedings?

One of those roles is currently up for grabs.

According to a new job ad spotted by MBW, the CRB is currently hiring for a Chief Copyright Royalty Judge.

Based in Washington DC, this person will need to be an attorney in good standing with at least seven years’ legal experience and must at least five years in adjudication, arbitration, or court trials.

This person will succeed Chief Judge Jesse Feder who stepped down from the position – which he had held since 2019 – in November last year.

According to the ad, the new judge will serve “as an expert on legal and factual matters on quasi-judicial administrative proceedings in the area of statutory copyright royalties” and inform “senior management staff and officials at multiple levels of the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office on matters related to copyright royalty distributions and rate settings”.

The successful candidate will need to be able to perform in-depth legal research, and analyze and evaluate information in order to prepare written materials on legal or policy issues. They will also need to know how to “produce written legal materials such as: regulations, pleadings, briefs, motions, and reports.

The new, and permanent, successor will have big boots to fill.

Their predecessor,  Feder, is a published author, and has more than 30 years of experience in copyright and intellectual property law, including as director of international trade and intellectual property for the Business Software Alliance, an associate register in the U.S. Copyright Office; and a legal adviser in the Office of the General Counsel for the Library of Congress.

Feder has been a Copyright Royalty Judge since 2013 and Chief Copyright Royalty Judge since 2019.

In November, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden selected Judge Suzanne Barnett as interim Chief Copyright Royalty Judge and head of the Copyright Royalty Board.

Barnett serves on the Copyright Royalty Board alongside Judge David Strickler and Judge Steve Ruwe, the two judges the new Chief Copyright Royalty Judge will also serve with.

Barnett, the interim Chief Copyright Royalty Judge, served as the Chief Copyright Royalty Judge from 2012 until her retirement in 2019.

Before her 2012 appointment as Chief Copyright Royalty Judge, she was a superior court judge of King County in Seattle, Washington.

Prior to taking the bench, Barnett practiced law for 16 years, most recently at a firm that she co-founded, Barnett MacLean.

In October, Music streaming service owners including Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Pandora and Google filed documents with the US Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to tell them what they think they should pay songwriters for the five years between 2023 and 2027.

Before these filings were public, the National Music Publishers’ Association claimed that the music streaming services were trying to cut the amount of money they pay songwriters in the US to the “lowest royalty rates in history”.

The NMPA’s own proposal asking for the current headline rate (i.e. the proportion of a service’s annual revenues paid to songwriters) to be increased to 20%.

That would be a 4.9% raise from the 15.1% rate the NMPA secured in the previous CRB process, which is currently being appealed by the likes of SpotifyAmazon and Google.

You can read our breakdown of exactly what each music streaming company is asking for, through here.Music Business Worldwide

Related Posts