DOJ to review music licensing laws

The guy who copyrighted "Happy Birthday to You" materializes to collect his royalties.

The guy who copyrighted “Happy Birthday to You” materializes to collect royalties.

The Department of Justice has announced plans to review the rules that govern music licensing companies Ascap and BMI, which remain unchanged since the antitrust investigation that spawned them in 1941. That was six years after some jerks copyrighted “Happy Birthday to You,” now the property of Warner/Chappell Music. If you’ve publicly performed that song since World War II, you owe Warner royalties. If you streamed it on Pandora, though—presumably as part of your Postpone Violent Rampage station—the publisher already got its share, pegged at 1.85% of total Pandora revenues. Ascap and BMI argue that rate is unfairly low, as are the the rules that prevent them from leveraging their power to raise it.

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DOJ files antitrust suit over e-book prices

Like many nerds, I am particularly fond of the physical object of the book. They smell like everyone is about to leave me alone for a while. Last year, my dear mother gave me a Kindle as a gift, and I was suspicious of it for maybe 20 minutes. Then I acknowledged that an e-book is superior to a p-book in so many regards as to render its few inferiorities petty. On the minus side, you can’t flip through it—this turns out to be a deal-breaker for textbooks and reference materials—and you can’t loan it to people. Amazon’s lending policy is bullshit, but it is compensated for by their not-obliterating-thousands-of-trees policy, their books-weigh-nothing policy, their instant delivery and the fact that most new titles cost $9.99. I was using the past tense of “cost,” there. E-books used to mostly cost $9.99; then they suddenly cost $12.99 and $14.99. Then the Department of Justice filed an anti-trust complaint against Apple and five major publishers. That brings us to where we are now.

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