Sony/ATV dams up streaming

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Sony/ATV Music Publishing on Tuesday instructed the Harry Fox Agency to stop all future licensing of any of the publisher's repertoire for streaming or limited downloads.

The order is expected to impact such services as RealNetworks' Rhapsody, Napster and MediaNet (previously known as MusicNet). It also raises the question of whether a service that offers a stream or a limited download of any of the publisher's songs released on records after Tuesday would be intentionally infringing the publisher's copyrights.

The move is in response to the Digital Media Assn.'s motion filed Monday with the Copyright Royalty Board. In the motion, DiMA argues that an interactive stream is not a digital phonorecord delivery, or DPD, and therefore should not have to be licensed for reproduction. Instead, an interactive stream should only trigger a performance license from ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.

The trade group asked the CRB to request the Copyright Office to issue a decision on whether an interactive stream is a DPD. If a stream is not a DPD, then digital services would not be required to obtain a Section 115 reproduction license (i.e., a DPD license) under copyright law.

A source said Sony/ATV sees DiMA's move as "underhanded." As previously reported, many digital services have entered agreements with HFA since 2001 promising to pay for the right to reproduce compositions transmitted via interactive streams and limited downloads (offered by subscription services) when rates were set — and to pay them retroactively.

Other major publishers also are expected to stop future licensing of the services.

Susan Butler is a senior correspondent for Billboard.
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