Performance Royalty Bill Passes House Committee
May 13, 2009 at 12:09 PM (PT)
The Performance Rights Act, H.R. 848, was passed out of The House Judiciary Committee earlier this MORNING in a 21-9 vote. The bill, which essentially ends radio's royalty exemption, has been amended to spare low-revenue stations from being unduly impacted, and contains a one-year moriatorium.
THE DETROIT NEWS reports that Judiciary Chairman JOHN CONYERS tried to address critics' complaints that such a royalty would cripple many radio stations by tacking on the following amendments:
* Stations with annual gross revenues of less than $100,000 would pay $500, rather than the $5,000 for small stations in the original bill. The change would cover 90% of all minority-owned stations, and 77% of all radio stations.
* The enactment would be delayed for three years if a station's revenues are less than $5 million annually, and for one year for others.
CONYERS also requested that the Government Accountability Office study the bill's potential impact on radio broadcasters as well as performing artists and copyright holders. "This does not mean that we do not have enough information to move this bill forward at this time," he said, "but that as we move forward, we can and should supplement the information available to the rate-making authority."
The ranking Republican on the committee, LAMAR SMITH, opposed the bill, noting that it would be premature to pass it without the GAO study, which would provide "credible and objective economic information" on the bill's potential impact.
NAB Not Suprised By Vote
Quickly responding to the vote was NAB EVP DENNIS WHARTON, who stated:
We were pleasantly surprised by the considerable bipartisan opposition to a performance tax, even in a committee where support for the record labels is strongest. NAB applauds these nine members for standing with AMERICA's hometown radio stations, their 235 million weekly listeners, and the yet-to-break artists who will lose their number one promotional platform if this bill is enacted.
Nearly half the House of Representatives already opposes RIAA efforts to feather the nest of foreign record labels. Record label abuse of artists from COUNT BASIE to PRINCE is well-documented, as evidenced by scores of lawsuits filed by musicians cheated out of royalties. Moving forward, the fundamental question is this: If the debate is about "fairness to artists," why should the record labels get one penny from a performance tax on radio stations?
musicFIRST Is Happy
THE MUSICFIRST COALITION also quickly chimed in, saying, "We applaud Chairman CONYERS and Committee members for their work on the Performance Rights Act and for supporting artists, musicians and rights holders in their fight for fair compensation when their music is used by AM and FM radio stations.”
“Our continued momentum in Congress is proof that it’s well past time to recognize the importance of fairly compensating the artists and musicians whose talent and hard work allows radio to generate billions of dollars in ad revenue each year.”
“Corporate radio’s days of hiding behind a loophole in the copyright law are over. For over 80 years, Big Radio has had a free pass to play music. All other music platforms --satellite, cable and Internet radio stations – pay artists, musicians and rights holders for the use of their music. It’s only fair that AM and FM radio be held to the same standards.”
“The Performance Rights Act will bring fairness to artists, musicians and rights holders and one that’s fair to radio and its counterparts. It also includes accommodations for small and minority-owned broadcasters. MUSICFIRST looks forward to the next chapter and to Congress to ensure that U.S. artists and musicians receive the performance right they deserve.”
AFM Also Approves
In its own statement, "The AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MUSICIANS of the U.S. and CANADA applauds Chairman CONYERS and Committee members for approving the Performance Rights Act and for recognizing how important it is to ensure that performers are paid for their hard work.
"Most performers are not rich, but hardworking men and women trying to make a living. A source of income is being denied to these men and women by over-the-air AM/FM radio, which gets its advertising revenue and listeners from the popularity of their recordings. The Performance Rights Act would give performers a fair recognition of the value their recordings bring to radio. A royalty payment of just a fraction of a cent per song would have a big impact on working musicians.
"This legislation will close the loophole in the copyright law and end the free pass that terrestrial radio has enjoyed to play music without paying the royalties that all other music platforms -- including satellite, cable and Internet radio stations -- pay artists, musicians and rights holders for the use of their recordings.
"The AFM now urges Congress to continue the momentum and ensure that U.S. artists and musicians receive the performance right they deserve."