New bloc to fight for airplay pay

80-plus artists join RIAA, other trade groups in lobby

WASHINGTON -- Some of the music industry's most recognizable names are signing up for what likely will be a bruising legislative battle as they attempt to win a change in the law that would force broadcasters to pay them for airplay.

More than 80 artist ranging from Christina Aguilera to Mary Wilson and 11 industry organizations including the RIAA have scheduled an announcement for today of a new coalition that will fight for the change.

Terrestrial broadcasters traditionally have paid songwriter royalties to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC but have been exempt from performance royalties similar to those levied on digital broadcasts in recent years.

Most people in the music industry think that allowing broadcasters to escape paying a performance royalty is unfair. Broadcasters have long argued that the promotional value gained by playing music on the radio more than offsets any royalty that performers and record companies would receive.

The recorded sound industry has attempted to chip away at the law. In 1995, Congress approved the Digital Rights in Sound Performances Act, which established a performance royalty for Internet broadcasts. That rate has been controversial since it was established, and the controversy increased this year when a panel of copyright judges substantially increased the royalty.

Opening up a new policy battle with broadcasters puts pressure on the recorded sound and broadcast industry, which are embroiled in several controversial policy debates. It also puts pressure on policymakers who could be forced to choose between two powerful, high-profile industries.