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Supreme Court legalizes downloading music

Published time: October 03, 2011 15:42
Edited time: March 07, 2012 08:53
James Hetfield, the singer and guitarist for heavy rock band Metallica (AFP Photo / Andre Durao)

James Hetfield, the singer and guitarist for heavy rock band Metallica (AFP Photo / Andre Durao)

The United States Supreme Court has refused an appeal that would have made downloading music an infringement of federal copyright law. Take that, Metallica!

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP, had been attempting to appeal to the Supreme Court an early ruling by an appeals court in New York that said that a downloaded song constituted a public performance of the song under federal copyright law. Attorneys for ASCAP were fighting to reverse that decision in hopes that they’d be able to collect additional royalties off of songs downloaded from the Web.

ASCAP had insisted that digital downloads were on par with public performances, which would thus allow copyright owners to receive compensation for each download. A federal judge and an appeals court had rejected that argument, however, and now the Supreme Court is also refusing to hear it.

According to the appeals court, “Music is neither recited, rendered, nor played when a recording (electronic or otherwise) is simply delivered to a potential listener.” US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli agreed with the appeals ruling and that just because a song was transferred over the Internet did not mean that it was being performed, reports Reuters.

Theodore Olson, a Bush administration-appointed solicitor general representing ASCAP in the matter believes otherwise. He argues that the earlier ruling placed the United States in violation of intellectual property treaties and other international agreements, says Reuters, but the Supreme Court said they wouldn’t bother to go over the appeal and issued no comment.

ASCAP, who has nearly 300,000 members, first lost the case back in September of 2010. In the last year, however, they have taken several routes in hopes of getting additional revenues for their clients that they say lose profits through digital downloads.

In the meantime, ASCAP members do indeed still receive revenue from downloads, just not the additional compensation that the group was hoping to get them. A mechanical royalty is offered to copyright owners through a separate body than that that handles performance royalties, which ASCAP was hoping to have applied to digital downloads.

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