Merlin Questions Last.fm Royalty Program

Indie global rights body Merlin has issued a bulletin to it’s 12K members regarding Last.fm’s new Artist Royalty Program. The organization is also considering legal action. Highlights of the bulletin:Merlin_logo_m_2

  • "The Program…does not appear to offer any compensation for any past illegal use of repertoire.  It is unclear to us whether or not the terms and conditions of the Program are intended to prevent master owners pursuing such compensation."
  • "…we have for the last few months been negotiating with Last.fm regarding a non exclusive blanket license and a settlement agreement on behalf of Merlin members. Unfortunately, these negotiations have stalled –  in particular due to Last.fm’s unwillingness to properly address its illegal infringing activity."

  • Several provisions of the licence terms and conditions of the Program
    appear ambiguous and open to legal interpretation. We note that this
    would tend to lead to uncertainty as to the “true” meaning of the
    licence. The licence points out that if you are unsure about any of it “YOU ARE ADVISED TO OBTAIN INDEPENDENT LEGAL ADVICE” – we would endorse that view.”

Merlin membership numbers over 12,000 labels representing the largest significant bundle of music rights outside the majors. It was created to serve as a much needed central indie music contact for digital, new media and web 2.0 rights. The Last.fm deal is exactly what Merlin was formed to handle and the outcome could shape opinions of its effectiveness. Formed more than a year ago and formally staffed near the start of the yes, Merlin has yet to complete any significant rights negotiations.

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1 Comment

  1. When I first heard about Merlin, I was thrilled. Finally, an organization that is going to aggregate the indies so they can rival the majors in strength. Clearly, the epitomy of the long tail of music.
    But, as an attorney, the statements made by Merlin are ridic. As far as compensating for past use, while that would be amazing (i am a DIY musician who has not made $1 from my music), there’s no way that would ever fly. It’s not like last.fm was infringing the copyrights of the artists who uploaded the content royalty-free. The artists knew there would be no royalties and they used the site to promote music. Maybe they should have been paid, but legally, last.fm has absolutely no obligation to pay for this. And if Merlin thinks they could somehow get paid for it, they’re very ambitious. Instead of squabbling over this issue, they should have tried to get the tiny royalty rate offered by last.fm raised!

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