Yahoo, AOL, RealNetworks Must Pay Music Royalties

    May 1, 2008

The last thing either Yahoo or AOL wants to do right now is give away money; the companies are having enough trouble without handouts.  Yet a federal court has ruled that Yahoo and AOL (along with RealNetworks) must pay millions in licensing fees to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

The court established that all three businesses must share about 2.5 percent of the revenue they’ve received from streaming music.  All in all, licensing fees for the period between mid-2002 and the end of 2009 may total as much as $100 million.

 Marilyn Bergman

It’s hard to feel too sorry for the companies, though; instead of being a greedy record company, ASCAP is a non-profit organization with over 320,000 "songwriter, composer and music publisher members."  Lots of little guys are involved, while names like Elvis Costello, Avril Lavigne, and Coldplay lend it some power.

ASCAP president and chairman Marilyn Bergman stated, "It is critical that these organizations share a reasonable portion of their sizable revenues with those of us whose content attracts audiences and, ultimately, helps to make their businesses viable.  This decision will go a long way toward protecting the ability of songwriters and composers to be compensated fairly as the use of musical works online continues to grow."

More specific figures, in addition to objections from Yahoo, AOL, and RealNetworks, should become available within the next few weeks.