Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, has long been a supporter of a performance royalty on AM and FM radio, and in a statement during a copyright hearing, he stated his intention to kick off a bill to create one before Congress heads off on its summer break. The NAB quickly expressed opposition.
“One area where copyright law has strayed from both our constitutional foundations and international norms concerns the recognition of a performance right in sound recordings,” stated Watt. “I, and other members of this panel have long advocated and have the scars to show for it, for a correction of this historical anomaly. That is why today I am announcing my intention to circulate to my colleagues and them to join me as original cosponsors of a bill that simply recognizes a performance right in sound recordings before the August recess. I believe that doing so will highlight how the law can take the wrong turn if policymakers fail to embrace the principles embodied in the constitutional protection of intellectual property.
Watt continued, “The story of performance rights, although related to the field of music, is instructive in other areas of copyright as well. As we continue our comprehensive review of copyright, I think that story is a compelling one – one that reflects a departure from centering policy development on the intellectual labors of the artists and responding instead to market forces that, while relevant, should not be in a position to completely extinguish rights recognized and honored internationally.”
One panel member, Tor Hansen ofYepRoc Records/Redeye Distribution, also made the case for a performance royalty, even while acknowledging the value of airplay. He said, “The missing element in this discussion of internet streaming royalties is over-the-air radio performance royalties. For the over-the-air traditional AM/FM dial Independents have made inroads in airplay, and we thank terrestrial radio for the increased access and airplay. But we still don’t have a performance right that would ensure music creators get paid when their sound recordings are broadcast on over-the-air radio, the only major country in the world without this right. That needs to change- AM/FM makes billions selling ads to folks who tune in for our music – while sound recording creators get nothing.”
The hearing did not include any witnesses to defend or make the case for radio’s side of the issue.
NAB’s Dennis Wharton responded, “”NAB strongly opposes a new performance tax that would kill jobs at America’s hometown radio stations while diverting millions of dollars to offshore record labels. We continue to support private, company-by-company negotiations that are driven by the free market, as is reflected by recent deals between broadcast radio stations and independent music labels. We appreciate the support of 154 members of Congress who know that local radio remains the premiere platform for exposing new music and generating sales for record labels.”