Music copyright and royalty issues continue to percolate in Washington with developments that most broadcasters would no doubt see as a mixed bag. On the positive end is four more members of Congress have added their names to a resolution that advocates against the creation of a performance royalty on AM/FM airplay.
Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) grow the list of House members against a radio royalty to 127—more than half the 218 required to block any legislation. On the Senate side of the Capitol so far 10 lawmakers say they are against a performance royalty. The National Association of Broadcasters has pointed out that the list of opponents has grown more quickly than in previous years. No legislation has been introduced to date although a bill is said to be in the works.
In the meantime, House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) says his committee still plans to tackle music-related issues as they work on copyright reform issues this year. “There are a number of areas that have been brought to our attention where work can be done,” Goodlatte said. “Certainly the area of music licensing is something that has become exceedingly confusing and there are lots of concerns that it is not keeping up with consumers’ new uses of new technologies, new platforms on which to enjoy music. It has also been brought to our attention that there is a disparate reward to people depending upon where their music is played—whether it’s on radio, or whether it’s on the internet, or whether it’s on cable, or satellite, and so on.”
But in a speech to The Federalist Society last week, Goodlatte told the conservative think tank that the Judiciary Committee plans to begin its efforts with reforming the Copyright Office itself rather than delving into specific thornier issues such as music licensing. “I don’t want to say this is going to happen because it really depends on bringing people to the table who are willing to discuss reforms and being able to give a little bit because this is an area that is very hotly contested,” he said.
As that work progresses, the creative community is stepping up its Washington lobbying efforts. The advocacy group Content Creators Coalition (c3) has announced it has hired LMG Public Affairs to raise its profile. The group has also announced that LMG’s chief operating officer, Ted Kalo—who previously oversaw the pro-radio royalty group musicFirst Coalition—will now work to spread c3’s message. “With so much at stake as Congress looks to reform U.S. copyright law, it is critical that artists’ voices are heard,” Kalo says.
The apparent c3 strategy is to lump together broadcast radio and big digital companies such as Google’s YouTube. And while iHeartMedia is among the handful of radio operators that has signed deals to pay a performance royalty for airplay in exchange for lower digital streaming rates, c3 is specifically targeting the industry’s biggest group. “Rather than sitting back and watching as the next generation of artists disappears, as Google and iHeartRadio use outdated laws to shortchange music creators, artists have been banding together to demand action from Congress,” c3 president Melvin Gibbs says. The group says not collecting royalties for broadcast spins was a “disgrace” and now as they receive less than what they believe artists are due for streaming it only “adds insult to injury.”