The Supreme Court left in place a ruling by a New York federal appeals court, which determined that song downloads are not "public performances" under copyright law. The ruling represents a victory for Yahoo! and RealNetworks, which have been locked in litigation with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for several years over royalty payments. And it has potentially far-reaching implications for the digital music industry.
Musical works are subject to two distinct forms of copyright protection: a recording copyright and a songwriter's copyright. ASCAP is a association of songwriters that collects royalties when their members' songs are performed in public. The ASCAP royalty rates for terrestrial broadcasting and live performances are well established, but the rates due to songwriters for online music is still under dispute.
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