The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held its second hearing on music licensing on June 25, welcoming input from a variety of interest groups and organizations as a continuation of the ongoing reexamination of our country’s copyright system. You can find our coverage of the prior hearing here.
Nine witnesses testified before the committee, offering opinions that varied in focus but all highlighted major areas of potential reform. Witnesses for this hearing included singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash representing the Americana Music Association, Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA), Charles Warfield on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Darius Van Arman on behalf of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Ed Christian of the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), Paul Williams as President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Chris Harrison of Pandora, President of SoundExchangeMichael Huppe, and David Frear, CFO of Sirius XM.
This week marked a frustrating setback for lovers of college radio, as a deal went into effect that splits the broadcast schedule of Georgia State University’s radio station, WRAS, handing over control to Georgia Public Broadcasting. Under the terms of the deal, GPB will control the 100,000 watt broadcast from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends, leaving GSU students with the remaining hours each day and 24 hour control of the station’s webcast. Additionally, GPB will be proving an undisclosed number of internships to GSU students, but this was little consolation for the loss of the precious terrestrial airtime.
In yesterday’s congressional hearing on music licensing, Chris Harrison, VP of Business Affairs at Pandora, expressed concern for the viability of internet radio, making reference to popular internet broadcaster East Village Radio having shut down its operations last month, “because they couldn’t afford the [royalty] rates.” As fans of EVR’s wildly eclectic programming, we were saddened to hear that the station was closing down. But Harrison’s account of the reasons behind the closure isn’t the full picture.
On May 7, 2014, Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4588, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act [PDF], which aims to get performers and labels paid when their music is played on AM/FM radio.
This proposed legislation is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it demonstrates the growing bipartisan consensus that performing artists deserve compensation when their music is used in over-the-air broadcasts. Second, it shows how members of Congress who have disagreed on many issues—including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—can come together to do the right thing by creators.
As nearly two hundred artists, producers, engineers, and music professionals traveled to Washington DC for “GRAMMYs On The Hill” last week, now is a great time to review the status of an important and recurring issue facing recording artists. Artists and record labels, large and small, do not get compensated for the use of their recordings on AM/FM (“terrestrial”) radio. The recording industry would like to see a change in this area, so that working musicians (not just the superstars) can make a fair living making recordings that we as fans want to hear on our local radio stations. It costs money, time, as well as talent, to create great records.
Interim Executive Director Casey Rae Speaks to MN Musicians and Composers
Monday, March 10, 2014
Good morning. Thank you for all for being here, and thank you for having me at the Minnesota Music Summit. It’s truly an honor to be joining you at this amazing event. Today, I want to explore the future of music, which is still being written, and which you all can play a part in writing. Some of the issues I’ll be bringing up will no doubt be familiar to you. Others may not be as familiar. But it’s not just about me giving some prepared remarks, it’s about dialog. It’s about the very real connections between people who are passionate about music, who create it and nurture it. And those are the connections that I love to make. In 2014, there’s no single approach to being a musician or composer, so it’s become critical that we listen and learn from one another.
When I talk to friends about my work with FMC, they’re eager to hear about the behind-the-scenes excitement that fuels policy change. Perhaps they’re hoping for House of Cards-style political intrigue set amidst DC’s marble halls.
To be honest though, the most exciting part of my job happens in more humble settings—like a couple Tuesdays ago in NYC, when I got to see Tift Merritt and Marilyn Carino huddle in a corner of a backstage green room to practice harmonies, singing along with a phone’s tinny speaker: “You! You got what I neeeeed!” as David Byrne paced around staring at a lyric sheet, doing his best to memorize as much he could before taking the stage at Le Poisson Rouge.
If you’re a copyright nerd (wait, you’re not?), you may have come across the issue of “pre-’72s.” In a nutshell, recordings made before February 15, 1972 are not protected by federal law, which can complicate how—or whether—royalties are paid for certain uses, like plays on internet or satellite radio.
Many people are unaware that there wasn’t even a copyright for recordings until 1972. Well, that’s not entirely true—some sound recordings made before ’72 are copyrighted at the state level. Still, federal protections are relatively new. At least when compared to compositions, which have been protected since the early 1800s (public performances of musical works came under federal law in 1897).
Debates about pre-’72 recordings might seem arcane, but there are major implications for today’s music ecosystem. First there’s artist compensation. The absence of a performance right for pre-’72s means that there’s no guarantee that recording artists are going to get paid fairly for the use of their work when played on Internet or satellite radio. (AM/FM broadcasters aren’t obligated to pay performers anything, though they do pay songwriters; more info on this crazy loophole here.) The lack of federal recognition also makes it more complicated for services to obtain a license to play music—and where there is no permission, there’s potential liability.
Another year, another white-knuckle thrill ride in the world of music policy. There was so much going on in 2013 that if you blinked, you’d be in danger of being clobbered by the next development. And that’s just on the legislative, executive and federal agency side—we could (and might!) compile a separate list of marketplace and legal developments.
Below is an instant replay of some of 2013’s biggest policy episodes. Order does not connote rank, but feel free to debate it anyway…
Reactions continue to arrive to the introduction of North Carolina Democrat Rep. Mel Watt’s latest bill to require radio to pay a streaming performance royalty for airing copyright covered music. How much attention the measure will get in Congress is unclear, since committees related to communications and broadcasting have postponed their meetings originally slated for this week due to the government shutdown.
NABEVP Communications Dennis Wharton says the trade group “respectfully” opposes the “Free Market Royalty Act,” and appreciates the support of 183 lawmakers who back the “Local Radio Freedom Act,” a nonbinding resolution opposing a new performance royalty for radio. read more