Boston colleges lead effort on music royalties

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Two Boston colleges are leading the way in protecting the rights of music creators, performers and rights holders around the world.

Berklee College of Music and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are collaborating on the Open Music Initiative to improve how singers, songwriters and performers get paid in the internet era, according to reports in the Boston Herald and Rolling Stone magazine.

The issue of licensing and royalties has become complicated in a world where proprietary music is not only purchased from the music industry, but also downloaded, streamed, sampled, and used in personal videos, mash-ups and the like.

Currently, each type of music platform has a different formula for paying royalties. Because of the differences, royalties sometimes slip through the cracks and go unpaid.

The new initiative, which has garnered support from more than 50 founding associates, including three major record labels and several major streaming services, aims to create a consistent, open-source database that will link artists, rights holders, music labels and distributors to come up with a standard method of calculating and tracking parties to be paid.

“There is no uniform protocol that the industry uses to identify ownership of a song,” Panos Panay, managing director of the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, told the Herald.

“The objective for us is to create an open source framework for music rights and make it really, really simple for the industry to have a uniform way to identify who owns and who is owed what.”

Panay said the confusion means as much as $1 billion each year ­ doesn’t go to the artists and creators that are contractually obligated to get it.

OMI will work to develop new technology and tools to standardize these calculations but will not affect how much money artists get from streaming services.

OMI plans to host an inaugural gathering for representatives from the music industry in New York City on June 22.