Supporters of the effort to win a performance royalty on radio airplay are applauding several lawmakers who’ve agreed to cosponsor the proposed Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1836) that would create a radio royalty. Those lending their support include Reps. Darren Soto (D-FL), Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Ted Lieu (D-CA) and David Cicilline (R-RI). “The music landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade with the advent of digital platforms and satellite stations, and it’s time for copyright laws to catch up,” musicFirst Coalition executive director Chris Israel said. “Their support of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act shows growing momentum for modernizing the copyright laws so that all music platforms operate under the same set of rules.”
The legislation was introduced in March by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who has lined up a total of 20 cosponsors for his bill. It would not only create a radio royalty but would also require stations to pay royalties on songs recorded before Feb. 15, 1972 when federal copyright protection began. The bill also would take steps to end what supporters say are the below-market royalties paid by SiriusXM Radio.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to see the momentum from Congress,” said Daryl Friedman, chief lobbyist for The Recording Academy. “Through our annual Grammys on the Hill advocacy day and our Grammys in My District initiative we have doubled down on our effort to inform legislators on music licensing reform, and view this progress as an important step toward closing loopholes that result in lost revenue for creators and our nation.”
While support for Nadler’s proposal has grown, so too has opposition to the idea of Congress enacting a law that would abolish AM/FM radio’s decades-old exemption from paying a royalty for over-the-air music use. To date 185 House members and 22 Senators have gone on record opposing a radio royalty. That inches opponents closer to the 218 necessary to effectively block any bill from passing in the House even as the music community has encouraged members of Congress to refrain from signing the resolutions. In the last session of Congress, similar resolutions gathered 234 signatures in the House and 27 in the Senate.
One wild card in the debate remains whether House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) plans to tackle a radio performance right as part of broader copyright reform efforts. Goodlatte (R-VA) declined to say whether a radio royalty would be included in a package of reforms. “We are hard at work addressing the music licensing issue,” he told reporters last month. “So what we are doing now is bringing together various parties to discuss how we can move forward and do some things in the music licensing area that will promote fairness and regulatory friendliness to the music lovers of the world.” Goodlatte said he would have a better idea of the timetable for any such effort after he has a better sense of what bipartisan support exists. “All of those discussions are ongoing at this point,” he said.
One proposal that now seems to have fallen by the wayside is the Performance Royalty Owners of Music Opportunity to Earn Act or “PROMOTE Act” (H.R 1914), which would allow an artist to opt out of having their music played by broadcasters if stations don’t pay a royalty that’s identical to that paid by non-subscription digital streaming services. The bill was introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and was off-tune among some in the music community. They fear such a change would result in less music being played on the radio and therefore lead to smaller ASCAP, BMI and SESAC payouts to songwriters. Tyler Grimm, legislative director to Issa, told the NAB Show in Las Vegas in April that the odds are probably slim for any passage of the PROMOTE Act.