Performance Right Act returns to Congress

Bill gives royalties to musicians for radio play

NEW YORK -- The Performance Right Act was reintroduced jointly to Congress Wednesday with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) submitting it in the Senate. It was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jane Harman (D-CA), John Shadegg (R-AZ), and Paul Hodes (D-NH).

While radio already pays songwriters for songs they broadcast over the air, the bill would require royalties to also be paid the artists and musicians performing the songs and master recordings copyright owners, as well.

The latter payment is common in other countries and has already been enacted in the U.S. for Webcasters, satellite radio, cable radio services and all other non-terrestrial broadcasters.

Upon introduction of the Performance Rights Act in the Senate and House of Representatives, music FIRST executive director Jennifer Bendall, said, "Today marks the beginning of the end for corporate radio's loophole."

"It's unfair, unjustified and un-American that artists and musicians are paid absolutely nothing when their recordings are played on AM and FM radio," she said.

Grammy winner Sam Moore said, "American broadcasters literally earn billions by playing our records. All we ask is to receive what artists in every other civilized country around the world receive when their recordings are broadcast -- fair compensation for the performance of our work."

Besides the U.S., only a few countries do not provide a fair performance right on radio, including Iran, North Korea and China. Since the U.S. doesn't have a performance right, foreign stations do not have to pay American artists when their music is played on stations around the globe.

The proposed legislation provides for the rate to be negotiated between impacted parties, or set by the Copyright Royalty Board, and paid to SoundExchange. It also accommodates small broadcasters, public and religious radio stations, according to musicFirst. For example, small commercial stations would pay only $5,000 per year; while noncommercial stations such as NPR and college radio stations would pay only $1,000 per year; stations that make only incidental uses of music, such as "talk radio stations, would not pay for that music; and religious services that are broadcast on radio would be completely exempt."

The legislation also is written to ensure that a new royalty wouldn't impact songwriters and other copyright owners.
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