Return Of The Royalty Wars: Enter 'The Songwriter Equity Act'
February 25, 2014 at 5:35 PM (PT)
The royalty rate war re-erupted in Congress again with Rep. DOUG COLLINS' (R-GA) introduction of The Songwriter Equity Act. While not directly increasing rates, a press release from Collins and his co-sponsors explains that the bill could set the stage for potential future increases by:
(1) Removing the current prohibition against considering royalty rates paid in other areas such as film and television when determining the rate for the performance royalties paid by broadcasters.
(2) Striking down a provision of the Copyright Act of 1909 that set the bar for the current 9.1 cents per song statutory broadcast rate (it was originally set to 2 cents per song when the legislation first passed), which the songwriting community believes to be well below market value.
To achieve these goals, the specific language of the bill includes the following:
“The Copyright Royalty Judges shall establish rates and terms that most clearly represent the rates and terms that would have been negotiated in the marketplace between a willing buyer and a willing seller. In determining such rates and terms, the Copyright Royalty Judges shall base their decision on marketplace, economic, and use information presented by the participants. In establishing such rates and terms, the Copyright Royalty Judges may consider the rates and terms for comparable uses and comparable circumstances under voluntary license agreements.”
Naturally, artists and content providers praised the legislation. The DAILY CALLER quoted ASCAP head PAUL WILLIAMS offering the artist perspective: “It’s out of balance and unfair ... The most successful songwriters are all of a sudden finding that their world is down by about 40% ... It’s one thing if you’re at the top of your game and you’ve had great success, but if you’re starting out, if you’re a beginning songwriter, it is a problem ... Songwriting as a means of making a living is going to disappear unless we can adjust,"
Just as predictably, radio groups such as the NAB are already opposing the bill. "NAB respectfully opposes this legislation, which could impose new costs on broadcasters that jeopardize the future of our free locally-focused service," NAB EVP/Communications DENNIS WHARTON said. "While this legislation raises important issues about the changes confronting the songwriter community, NAB objects to changes in law that would deal with the financial imbalance between songwriters and artists by subjecting free broadcast radio stations to new fees."