A judge ruled yesterday that music download services (iTunes, AOL and the like) don't have to pay a public performance royalty to songwriters for music downloads. ASCAP had brought the action. Here's an interview with a Billboard reporter on the ruling and a deeper analysis at Film Music Magazine. Here's an excerpt from the Film Music piece that explains what it all means:
If not reversed on appeal or otherwise overturned, the decision could mean huge losses for composers who work under work-for-hire agreements on films and television shows as viewers migrate away from watching television "live" in favor of downloading films and TV episodes.
Apple's iTunes online store has already delivered over 18 million copies of films and television episodes via download. Film and television composers historically receive no royalties for DVD or videotape sales or rentals, and often depend on performance royalties from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC generated from public performances of music on television and elsewhere for their livelihoods.