Nadler, Blackburn Introduce Fair Play, Fair Pay Act

legal imageCongressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, and Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Vice Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, have introduced bipartisan legislation, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015.

The act aims to harmonize and modernize the outdated rules that currently govern music licensing for digital and terrestrial radio broadcasts. The act proposes to:

• Create a terrestrial performance right so that AM/FM radio competes on equal footing with its Internet and satellite competitors who already pay performance royalties.

• Bring true platform parity to radio – so that all forms of radio, regardless of the technology they use – pay fair market value for music performances.

• Ensure terrestrial royalties are affordable capping royalties for stations with less than $1 million in annual revenue at $500 per year (and at $100 a year for non-commercial stations), while protecting religious and incidental uses of music from having to pay any royalties at all.

• Make a clear statement that pre-1972 recordings have value and those who are profiting from them must pay appropriate royalties for their use, while we closely monitor the litigation developments on this issue.

• Protect songwriters and publishers by clearly stating that nothing in this bill can be used to lower songwriting royalties.

• Codify industry practices streamlining the allocation of royalty payments to music producers.

• Ensure that artists receive their fair share from direct licensing of all performances eligible for the statutory license.

The bill is cosponsored by Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), a senior Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Gloria Gaynor, Cyndi Lauper, and Abdul “Duke” Fakir, the last surviving member of the Four Tops, and numerous other artists joined the Members of Congress in announcing the new legislation.

“The current system is antiquated and broken. It pits technologies against each other, and allows certain services to get away with paying little or nothing to artists. For decades, AM/FM radio has used whatever music it wants without paying a cent to the musicians, vocalists, and labels that created it. Satellite radio has paid below market royalties for the music it uses, growing into a multibillion dollar business on the back of an illogical ‘grandfathered’ royalty standard that is now almost two decades old,” said Congressman Nadler.

“Artists, musicians, producers and radio services alike deserve better. The Fair Play Fair Pay Act fixes this broken and unjust system by making sure all radio services play by the same rules, and all artists are fairly compensated,” Congressman Nadler continued.

“I’m honored to be working with Congressman Nadler on this important bill. Many music creators struggle to make ends meet even when they write a hit song because of a quirk in the copyright law,” said Congressman Blackburn. “The Fair Play Fair Pay Act will ensure that the intellectual property of artists can no longer be exploited by Big Radio without compensation. All radio platforms should be treated the same when they use music to draw in listeners and earn billions in revenue. The playing field needs to be leveled and this is long overdue.”

“Profiting from someone else’s labor and not paying is simply unfair. The failure to adequately pay artists and musicians is particularly harmful to communities like Detroit, which has so many legacy artists who should be compensated fairly for their groundbreaking contributions to the industry. I am happy to support this bill because it provides long overdue fairness for artists regardless of when their music is recorded or where its played,” said Congressman Conyers, Jr.

“Fair market value for music will encourage creativity by music creators,” said Ted Kalo, Executive Director of the musicFIRST coalition. “It will promote innovation among music services. And – most importantly – it will give fans the best music they have ever heard – delivered in the most exciting ways they could ever imagine.”

SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard praised the bill, saying, “This bill brings music licensing for sound recordings into the 21st century. AM/FM stations will finally pay royalties on the sound recordings they broadcast. Right now, performers receive nothing – no royalties at all – for use of their recordings on AM/FM radio. This is something our members, including the late and great ‘Chairman of the Board’ Frank Sinatra have fought for decades to establish. This bill establishes a uniform fair market value royalty standard for all services and ensures that creators of sound recordings made prior to 1972, some of our most beloved and valued music, are fairly compensated when their music is played. SAG-AFTRA is proud to stand with its partners in the musicFIRST Coalition and urge our lawmakers to finally pass this bi-partisan bill.”

Not all reactions to the bill have been positive. National Association of Broadcasters Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton issued the following statement: “It is disappointing that this bill retreads years-old policy positions rather than advancing the copyright dialogue through policies that help grow the entire music ecosystem. NAB stands ready to work with Congress on a balanced music licensing proposal that promotes innovation and recognizes the benefit of our free locally-focused platform to the benefit of artists and listeners.”

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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