RIAA seeks lower royalties for music publishers and songwriters

 The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has put itself on the war path with a huge part of the music industry by seeking that a panel of copyright judges lower the rate its members pay music publishers and songwriters in royalties.

The trade group that has filed thousands of lawsuits against file sharers in the United States portrays itself as a protector of artists' livelihood.

The RIAA claims the the current rate is "out of touch with reality" and believes it is time for the government to step in. The rate hasn't been adjusted by government since 1981, leaving the music publishers, songwriters and the labels to strike their own deals. As part of reasoning behind the action, the trade group claims that the music industry has undergone fundamental changes.

"While record companies and music publishers were able to agree on royalty rates during that 25-year period, the assumptions on which those decisions were based have changed beyond recognition," the RIAA said. The group said that during the period of time when piracy was "devastating" the record industry, revenue for music publishers rose with the emergence and success of innovative services such as mobile phone ringtone services.

"Mechanical royalties currently are out of whack with historical and international rates," RIAA executive VP and general counsel Steven Marks said. "We hope the judges will restore the proper balance by reducing the rate and moving to a more flexible percentage rate structure so that record companies can continue to create the sound recordings that drive revenues for music publishers."

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