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.
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.
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.
FCC Chairman plans to recommend censure against Comcast
Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin plans to recommend that the FCC issue a warning against the ISP for imposing "arbitrarily limits" on its subscribers. The recommendation, now circulating internally, would require various disclosure and procedural shifts without applying penalties. Margaret Kane, News.comread more
There’s been some buzz around FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s public backing of the XM-Sirius satellite radio merger, but we at FMC think that terrestrial radio is still worth making noise about. read more
This post is the first in a series about last October’s full-power, non-commercial licensing window opened by the FCC. Mike Janssen, project manager for FMC’s Full Power Initiative, will provide an up-close look at several applicants, while examining what this process could mean for listeners. read more
They say you better listen to the voice of reason / But they don’t give you any choice ‘cause they think that it’s treason. . .
-Elvis Costello, “Radio, Radio”
In the course of doing some internal research here at Future of Music Coalition, we rediscovered a fantastic article by John Nova Lomax, which ran in Houston Press back in January. The piece is all about how the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 resulted in the appalling homogenization of the commercial airwaves.
In the story, Lomax lays bare the tactics through which the National Association of Broadcasters claims diversity on the dial. FMC Executive Director Jenny Toomey is quoted heavily: read more