Here Comes The Performance Fee Fight Again
January 23, 2009 at 6:01 AM (PT)
The ongoing radio performance royalty is back in the news, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman JOHN CONYERS has announced plans to bring the issue up for review. In a letter to colleagues, CONYERS joined Rep. HOWARD BERMAN (D-CA), Rep. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN) and Rep. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), all advocates of a royalty, in asking members to hold off signing a resolution opposing a royalty.
The letter was obtained by ALL ACCESS [the text of which can be viewed in it's entirety here], and in it the sponsors wrote:
It is implausible to suggest that a government-imposed bailout of foreign record labels estimated to cost up to $7 billion would not cause serious economic harm to U.S. radio stations.
In the coming days, you will likely be presented with a resolution supported by radio broadcasters, which advocates protections for the radio industry but in effect denies performers payment for their work. While the resolution will be framed in terms of preventing a "tax," "fee," or "burden" on local radio stations, in reality, the only payment broadcasters would be required to make would be for the use of someone else's property. This resolution is extremely detrimental to thousands of people and businesses, to the protection of American intellectual property abroad, to the economy and the balance of trade. We urgently ask that you not sign on to this resolution and welcome your participation in the full discussion on this issue that will be before the Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.
We urge you to refrain from cosponsoring the resolution and ask that you encourage the parties to work together toward an acceptable solution. There is a reasonable balance to be found. We also hope you will consider joining us in supporting the Performance Rights Act. We look forward to working with you on this issue in this Congress.
Responding to the letter, NAB EVP DENNIS WHARTON said:
"It is implausible to suggest that a government-imposed bailout of foreign record labels estimated to cost up to $7 billion would not cause serious economic harm to U.S. radio stations. The media business faces the worst advertising economy in decades, and thousands of loyal, hard-working people have lost their job in radio the last few months. If Congress wants to ensure more job losses and put at risk the countless charitable and public service efforts of local radio stations, passing the performance tax would be the best recipe."
On MONDAY, ALL ACCESS reported that supporting a performance royalty for terrestrial radio had restarted their lobbying efforts to get something passed (NET NEWS 1/19). The NATIONAL JOURNAL CONGRESS DAILY reported that a coalition of groups led by MUSICFIRST briefed a House staff for reps who supported the royalty bill proposed by TEXAS reps GENE GREEN (D) and MIKE CONAWAY (R).
Similar bills sponsored by Rep. JOHN CONYERS in the House never made it to the floor last year, and a similar Senate bill sponsored by PATRICK LEAHY didn't move out of the upper chamber, either. Nevertheless, GREEN and CONAWAY plan on reintroducing their bills as soon as this week, as the RIAA feels it has new momentum
Currently, radio broadcasters in the UNITED STATES are only required to pay royalties to publishers, and not labels or master owners. That has been a sticking point for decades, though broadcasters argue that the promotional value of their platform offers enough benefit to labels. Broadcasters also argue that a royalty on recordings would create an unfair burden, especially for smaller stations.