Justice prevails! Well kinda…
You see, over the years record labels have made a habit of using artists’ songs without securing the appropriate rights. The idea was that because Major Labels are such large companies with lots of cash, they would of course someday secure the rights to the songs, just not now, they’re too busy suing single mothers. Therefore what the labels would do is put the song on a “pending list”.
This pending list practice has gone on since the 1980s. As the years have gone by that list of unpaid pending rights holders, artists typically, has gotten larger and larger (300,000 unpaid tracks in Canada alone). So in 2008 a group of Canadian artists got together to stop this blatant copyright infringement.
They sued Warner Music, Sony BMG Music, EMI Music and Universal Music for the illegal use of thousands of tracks (up to $6 billion in damages). Today a settlement was announced:
The four major record labels that comprise the Canadian Recording Industry Association – EMI Music Canada Inc., Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc., Universal Music Canada Inc. and Warner Music Canada Co. – have agreed to pay $45 million to settle one of the largest copyright class action lawsuits in Canadian history.
As part of the settlement, the labels will pay approximately $45 million to settle the copyright infringement claims. It also establishes a new mechanism to help ensure that artists are paid more promptly.
The press release indicates that everyone is pleased with the settlement, though it is striking that it took a class action settlement to get the record labels to address their own ongoing copyright infringing practices in paying artists for the use of their works. (via Michael Geist)
While this settlement isn’t a home run, it’s still a huge victory for artists. In my eyes this is an admission of guilt, and another reason why Major Labels are outdated in what they do and how they do it.