Copyright Office keeps performance royalty battle alive


Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante posted a report called Priorities and Special Projects of the US Copyright Office, covering October 2011 through October 2013, and displayed among a total of 17 priorities is establishment of a performance royalty for traditional broadcast.

Pallante notes that legislation was introduced in the 110th and 111th Congresses but ran headlong into “strenuous objections” from the broadcast industry.

She stated that the current system places digital platforms providing recorded music at a competitive disadvantage, and says here office will continue to support establishment of a broadcast performance royalty.
Here are Pallante’s full remarks on the topic.

“For decades, the Copyright Office has supported the extension of the public performance right in sound recordings, the absence of which is unique to the United States vis-à-vis other nations with established copyright laws. Legislation was introduced in both the 110th and 111th Congresses, but there were strenuous objections from traditional broadcasters. When sound recordings first became the subject matter of federal copyright law effective February 15, 1972, copyright owners of sound recordings were granted the exclusive rights of distribution and reproduction, but not public performance. In 1995, a limited right to perform a sound recording publicly by means of a digital audio transmission was added, but traditional broadcasters remain free to transmit public performances of sound recordings over the air without the permission of the copyright owners and without making any royalty payments. In addition to the obvious disparity for the performers and producers of these sound recordings, there is an economic disadvantage between the businesses that offer sound recordings over the Internet as compared to those that offer them over the air (the former are required to pay performance royalties while the latter are not). Finding a way to reconcile these differences has been a long-standing goal of Congress and the Copyright Office, and the Office will continue to provide analysis and support on this important issue.”

The entire report is available here.

RBR-TVBR observation: At no point does Pallante note that there may be a financial benefit to performers who are fortunate enough to have their music played over the air. Pallante needs to look at both sides of the equation if she has any hope of finding the balance built in to the radio/record label relationship.