‘CLASSICS Act’ Gets Companion Bill In Senate

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The “CLASSICS Act” appears to be gaining some steam on Capitol Hill. With 25 co-sponsors of legislation introduced in July 2017 by retiring Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) — including 10 bipartisan House members signing on since Feb. 2 — there is now companion legislation in the upper body of Congress.


What is officially called the “Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act” is now up for consideration in the U.S. Senate, and it was introduced by a bipartisan group of five Senators.

Bringing the “CLASSICS Act” to the Senate are John Kennedy (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

In their collective view, the bill brings the recording industry one step closer to closing “a flawed loophole that leaves some of our most cherished artists out of the federal copyright system.”

Currently only sound recordings made after 1972 receive payments from digital radio services under federal law.

Congress is now responding—although a majority of House members have signed a resolution to not co-sponsor or support any legislation that would add additional royalty payments to the radio industry.

The CLASSICS Act, however, seems to be a prime concern for SiriusXM rather than broadcasters. As the Senators note, their legislation is designed to erase the “patchwork” of state laws that have been used to cover “pre-1972” recordings and the inability of recording artists to collect royalty payments for their spins on digital and internet radio streams.

“The CLASSICS Act fixes this loophole by creating a new federal intellectual property regime to cover these ‘pre-1972’ recordings,” the legislators note. “SoundExchange would distribute royalties for pre-’72 recordings played by Internet, cable and satellite radio services just as it does for post-’72 recordings.”

A host of recording artists chimed in with their thanks for the Senate bill, including New Orleans’ Trombone Shorty and Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

She said, “As an artist who recorded music before and after 1972, I’m deeply grateful to the Senate sponsors for this important bill that will finally allow artists like me to get paid by digital radio services for our pre-’72 recordings. It’s unacceptable that songs by my group The Supremes like ‘Stop! In the Name Of Love’ or ‘Baby Love’ – both staples of SiriusXM’s ‘‘60s on 6’ station – are treated with less value than our 1976 hit ‘I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking’ and so many others recorded after 1972. With this bill, we are finally giving legacy artists the respect they deserve.”

Pandora CEO Roger Lynch is in support of the bills on Capitol Hill.

“The artists that gave the world Motown, Jazz, and Rock n’ Roll have been hampered by antiquated and arbitrary laws – until now,” Lynch said. “While many heritage artists are compensated through direct licensing deals, including by Pandora, it’s the independent musicians that this bill rightly protects. We commend Senators Kennedy, Coons, Tillis, Corker, and Booker for bringing pre-1972 recordings into the modern era, and ensuring that our most cherished artists are fairly paid for their record streams and finally on equal footing with their modern peers.”


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Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) on Thursday (12/21) introduced H.R. 4706, the Music Modernization Act, in an act he believes will bring “music licensing its first meaningful update in almost 20 years.” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is the bill’s lead co-sponsor, reflecting bipartisan support for the legislation. What does this mean for radio stations across the U.S., and what does the NAB think of it?