In addition to the victory of the Save Our Stages Act being included in the $900 billion COVID relief stimulus package that Congress reached an agreement on Monday (Dec. 22), the bill also included good news on other music-industry related legislation.
The Save Our Stages Act will provide $15 billion in aid to qualified live venues, independent movie theaters, talent representatives, and cultural institutions who have faced unmeasurable challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Also included in the omnibus budget appropriation passed late Monday night was The CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act). The CASE Act allows songwriters and publishers to press copyright infringement claims without going through a lawsuit, by creating a three-judge panel Copyright Claims Board at the Copyright Office that would hear and rule on claims where damages would be capped at $15,000 per claim and $30,000 in total.
Congress also made streaming of copyrighted work, without the proper licensing, a felony, with the Protect Lawful Streaming Act. This allows the Department of Justice to file charges against digital services that provide such material for financial gain. It excludes individual users from being prosecuted under the law.
Among the six Republican senators who voted against the bill was Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, along with, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rick Scott of Florida, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas.
President Donald Trump’s signature is required for the above legislation to become law.
The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Artist Rights Alliance (ARA), Music Artists Coalition (MAC), Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA, and Songwriters of North America (SONA) issued the following statement on the passage of the omnibus bill:
“This legislation is a much-needed lifeline for so many in the music industry who have faced loss and uncertainty for far too long through no fault of their own. We are very grateful for the extension of vital CARES Act benefits including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the inclusion of the Save Our Stages Act, which will make billions of dollars in grants available to venues and live entertainment workers who have been unable to do their jobs for months. We are also thrilled by the inclusion of a dedicated $100 weekly benefit for mixed earners. Simply put, these relief provisions will save lives and livelihoods, and they are a substantial step on the road to recovery.
We also welcome the inclusion of consensus-driven intellectual property reforms in the omnibus bill. The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act and Protect Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) will strengthen creators’ ability to protect their works against infringement online, and promote a safer, fairer digital environment, which are particularly needed as the arts struggle to survive the pandemic. We look forward to continuing our work to provide greater relief for the American creative community.”
The National Independent Talent Organization (NITO), the non-profit organization comprised of over 100 independent booking agencies and 140 independent management firms, were also included in the legislation.
NITO President / High Road Touring exec, Frank Riley, offered the following statement:
“NITO, the National Independent Talent Organization, is proud to be part of a coalition of independent venues, agencies and managers whose unrelenting and courageous efforts have resulted in a bill that will provide a life line through these terrible times, to the resumption of music and cultural activities so essential to the well being and vibrancy of local communities.
We are especially grateful to all of those at NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association, for their efforts on behalf of the independent music community. Without this diligent work, without the efforts of all of our supporters, this legislation might not have come to pass.
To those in Congress who heard our voices and responded with their support, especially Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their collective staff, we are grateful for your understanding and perseverance.
With the distribution of the vaccines, and some reassurance of the safety of social gatherings, all of us at NITO look forward to the return of our successful businesses that have been shuttered these past 9 months.
There is much more work to be done. Anything and everything that will help the artists, and all of those who work in the production of live music events.”
Further, 22 music community organizations released the following statement on Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property Chairman Thom Tillis’ proposal to restore balance to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), so that it can best achieve its objective to address online infringement while continuing to foster the growth of internet-based services:
“Through a thoughtful, deliberative process, Senator Tillis has developed an important proposal. By digging deep into the substance, engaging a broad universe of stakeholders and experts, and confronting the issues, Senator Tillis and his team have started an important discussion about how best to provide incentives for success.
It is long past time to restore the balance that was originally intended by Congress in which rightsholders and Internet platforms work together to promote fairness and efficiency in the digital distribution of copyrighted works.
As the U.S. Copyright Office concluded in its report on the safe harbor provisions contained in the DMCA (including the inefficacy of the notice-and-takedown system), ‘Congress’ original intended balance has been tilted askew.’
We look forward to working with Chairman Tillis and his colleagues from both parties across both houses of Congress, and our partners across the creative ecosystem, to find workable, effective solutions to the serious and ongoing problem of online infringement.”
The full list of organizations on the joint statement are as follows:
American Association of Independent Music (A2IM)
American Federation of Musicians (AFM)
Americana Music Association (AMA)
American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP)
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
Christian Music Trade Association (CMTA)
Church Music Publishers Association (CMPA)
Gospel Music Association (GMA)
International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA)
Living Legends Foundation, Inc.
Music Artists Coalition (MAC)
Music Managers Forum – US (MMF-US)
National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)
National Songwriters Association International (NSAI)
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Inc.
Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC)
Songwriters of North America (SONA)
NMPA President & CEO, David Israelite, also offered the following statement: “We commend Congress for passing key legislation within today’s Omnibus bill that will help creators. The CASE Act provides a reasonable and needed pathway to justice for everyone from songwriters to photographers whose work is being used unlawfully. Additionally, the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act is crucial to enforcing copyrights by fixing the streaming ‘loophole,’ which has allowed rogue enterprises to run rampant and profit without the necessary law enforcement tools to prosecute them. Now, criminal penalties for illegal streaming will be aligned with illegal downloading and distribution. Both of these bills are important steps forward for the music industry and larger creative community and will allow songwriters to better enforce their rights. We sincerely appreciate Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Senator Thom Tillis’ (R-NC) leadership on these issues.”
BMI’s President & CEO, Mike O’Neill, offered: “We’re grateful that Congress has come together and passed this much needed relief package which will help many who have been impacted by this pandemic, including the songwriters and composers who have been hit particularly hard. This bill provides important relief for the self-employed, helps creators protect and enforce their rights, and importantly, provides funding for the live music venues which are so important to our songwriters’ livelihoods. We know there are still difficult months ahead, and BMI will continue working on behalf of our community, including advocating for any additional assistance needed to recover from the devastation caused by this pandemic.”
The Recording Academy’s Chair & Interim President/CEO, Harvey Mason jr., said: “The Recording Academy® is pleased that Congress heard the call of thousands of music creators and included protections for the music community in the omnibus bill. In addition to extended and improved unemployment benefits and small business loans for freelance creators, the package includes several bills which the Recording Academy, its members, and the larger music community advocated for. From the Save Our Stages Act, which provides a lifeline to performance venues and promoters, to the CASE Act, which creates an avenue for smaller creators to defend their copyrighted works, Congress has ensured that both music creators and those who act behind the scenes to bring music to life are given the support they need during this difficult time.”
The Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) commented: “As an organization by and for working artists and songwriters, we applaud Congress for making a down payment on the critical needs of a music community devastated by the pandemic. We are pleased the combined COVID relief bill and omnibus appropriations act includes economic assistance for venues and unemployment programs that determine benefit amounts by taking into account the multiple sources of income many songwriters and artists rely upon to earn a living wage.
We are also pleased that the bill includes measures to create a better music economy for the long term, including a small claims court for independent creators to use to ensure they are paid for the use of their work (the CASE Act) and a bill modernizing laws used to fight industrial scale piracy for the streaming age.”