Introducing, The American Society for Collective Rights Licensing (ASCRL) — The Organization That Wants To Help Visual Artists Collect Their Unclaimed ‘Black Box” Royalties
As many of you know, I’ve researched and have written extensively about unclaimed music royalties held in escrow or so-called “black boxes,” which are monies owed to music creators and rights-holders (and founded RoyaltyClaim to address this issue). Today, I want to draw your attention to a similar matter in the world of visual art (e.g. photography, illustration, stills, text design).
This morning I had the pleasure of speaking with Eugene Mopsik, the CEO of the American Society of Collective Rights Licensing (ASCRL). A successful corporate /industrial photographer with over 32 years of experience, Eugene was previously the Executive Director of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).
Eugene and I talked about issues related to the representation and rights of visual artists and the monetization of their works outside of the United States. He and his co-founders of ASCRL are working to help visual artists claim their fair share of royalties that have long gone to the publishers of visual works.
Similar to musical works (aka compositions or songs) that earn mechanical royalties when the work is reproduced, visual works, in many cases, earn reprographic royalties. Whereas mechanical royalties outside of the U.S. are collected by mechanical rights organizations (MROs) in territories under the MRO’s jurisdiction, reprographic royalties are collected by reprographic rights organizations (RROs) in territories under the RRO’s jurisdication. And, much like the complex web of legal and regulatory issues that makes it challenging for songwriters to collect their ex-U.S. mechanical royalties, similar limitations make it challenging for visual artists to collect their ex-U.S. reprographic royalties.
Antitrust laws has made it difficult to form a collective licensing body. Consequently, the U.S. does not have a local RRO to enter into reciprocal agreements with foreign RROs for the purpose of passing through ex-U.S. reprographic royalties to be paid to U.S. visual artists. Once again, this is similar to the absence of a U.S. MRO for songwriters. Notably, however, the U.S. has made an exception for the collective licensing of performance rights in musical works.
Since 1914, songwriters and composers have been able to join a performance rights organization (PRO) for the collective licensing of performance rights and payment of performance royalties. In the United States, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), SESAC, and Global Music Rights (GMR) are PROs that represent the performance rights of songwriters and publishers.
Currently, when reprographic royalties are earned outside of the United States, they are collected by RROs. RROs then distributes royalties to the publishers of visual works and authors of visual works (visual artists) who’ve joined the RRO. The RRO passes reprographic royalties for works due to members of foreign RROs to the RRO in the respective territory. In cases where the publishers or authors of works are unknown or if the author is an unrepresented U.S. visual artist, royalties are held in escrow and eventually distributed by market share to publishers. In the latter, royalties that are fairly owed to U.S. visual artists are being distributed to publishers. This is what the American Society of Collective Rights Licensing aims to address.
Joining ASCRL is free. Members can submit their works and use the ASCRL claiming portal to claim their entitlements and unlock unclaimed royalties. To learn more about ASCRL or to begin the process of joining, visit http://www.ascrl.org.
This post was originally written for and published on Tradiio’s blog.
Did you know that music creators in the United States earn fewer royalty streams than their international counterparts?
In the United States, there is no national performance right in sound recordings. The US Copyright Act sets out several rights for compositions (songs), such as the right to reproduce and distribute compositions in phonorecords, but thanks to a combination of outdated rules and tough opposition from lobbying organizations that represent broadcasters, the law does not include a performance right for sound recordings.
This means that whenever a recording is performed on AM/FM radio in the US, broadcasters are not required to pay artists or record companies any royalties from the advertisements revenue that they earn on the back of those performances. Considering that there are over 15,000 radio stations across the US performing hundreds of thousands of plays of music each week, US music creators and labels are potentially missing out on millions of dollars in royalties.
Virtually all other developed nations outside of the US have a performance right in sound recordings, which is known as neighbouring rights. When a US artist’s recording is performed on BBC in the UK, it earns neighbouring rights royalties for the US artist.
The fact that recordings earn royalties outside of the US is good news, right? Not so much.
Because the US does not have a national performance right in sound recordings (no neighbouring right), no recording earns these royalties. This includes recordings by artists from countries that do recognize neighbouring rights. So yeah, insert your favorite European band who gets high rotation on US radio.
As a result, the countries who do recognize neighbouring rights do not send the neighbouring rights royalties generated from the performance of recordings by US artists in their territory back to any of the US music rights organizations. They keep it or distribute it to the artists and labels in their territory.
Generally speaking, most indie artists who earn neighbouring rights royalties outside of the US will never see this royalty stream unless the US government makes a change to copyright law. Although there are some small companies who try to capture neighbouring rights royalties on behalf of US music creators, they tend to focus on a select roster of more established artists, leaving up-and-coming indie artists with no support.
So what now?
Well, now that you know US artists earn less royalty streams from their music than their international counterparts, it is really important to maximize the royalty streams that they do earn.
Many independent artists miss out on royalties that their music does earn because they do not properly register their songs, recordings, and releases with the various music rights organizations and licensing agencies who collect and distribute royalties. This is understandable, as it can be a pain to keep up with the many different registration processes across a number of organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, Music Reports, Harry Fox Agency, SoundExchange, the Alliance for Artists and Record Companies, and more). It can be burdensome, time consuming, and often confusing to properly register a complete album. However, missing just one registration or filing registrations late can result in lost royalties, or even disputes over ownership.
This is where TuneRegistry steps in to help.
TuneRegistry is an all-in-one music rights and metadata management platform for the independent music community. Easily organize and store your song details, recording metadata, credits and ownership splits, and release information in your TuneRegistry account. It’s your robust music catalog manager that’s accessible online, so you don’t have to worry about tracking down emails, storing through documents in various desktop and cloud folders, losing collaborator contact information, or any of the other messy issues that most indie artists face.
TuneRegistry is your one-stop source for keeping your music catalog in check.
The advantage of TuneRegistry over other catalog management systems is that we’ve integrated the registrations process directly to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, Music Reports, SoundExchange, and many more. Save time, reduce errors, and unlock royalties with our integrated registrations module. We make it super easy to get your music registrations to the organizations and data services who need it.