* Tens of millions of dollars in royalties at stake
* US government urged judges to dismiss appeal
* The group said the digital downloads are a public performance
Oct. 3 (Reuters) – The United States Supreme Court on Monday overturned a ruling that a traditional downloading of sound recordings from the Internet does not constitute a public performance of the recorded musical work under federal law author.
The judges declined to review a decision by a US appeals court in New York that the downloading of a musical work itself does not fall within the legal definition of a public performance of that work.
The nonprofit American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) appealed to the Supreme Court. He said the move had profound implications for the country’s music industry, costing its members tens of millions of dollars in potential royalties each year.
ASCAP claims that more than 390,000 composers, songwriters, lyricists and music publishers in the United States exclusively license their music through the organization. It allows nearly half of all musical works played online, according to the court record in the case.
The federal government opposed the appeal. United States Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said the appeals court’s ruling was correct and consistent with a common understanding and sound copyright policy.
ASCAP argued that digital downloads were also public performances for which copyright holders should be compensated. But a federal judge and the appeals court rejected this argument.
It was a section of the Copyright Act that states that performing a work means reciting, returning, playing, dancing or performing it either directly or by any device or process.
“Music is not recited, returned, or played when a recording (electronic or otherwise) is simply delivered to a potential listener,” the appeals court said.
Verrilli agreed. He stated that the download itself was not a performance of the work and that the musical work was not played during the transfer.
Washington attorney Theodore Olson, a solicitor general in the Bush administration, represented ASCAP in the appeal.
He said the appeals court ruling unduly restricted the right to publicly perform copyrighted musical works and placed the United States in violation of intellectual property treaties and other international agreements. .
The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without comment.
The appeals court also ruled that the fees paid by Yahoo Inc YHOO.O and RealNetworks Inc RNWK.O for Internet music streaming licenses must be recalculated. This part of the decision was not challenged in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court case is ASCAP v. United States, No. 10-1337. (Report by James Vicini, edited by Maureen Bavdek)