Radio broadcasters could be coughing up some big dough for performers and artists if legislation re-introduced in the House and Senate Wednesday (Feb. 4) becomes law. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) offered The Performance Rights Act, a bipartisan effort that would give the Library of Congress' Copyright Office authority to set a fee schedule for broadcasters to pay performers for broadcasting their recorded works over terrestrial radio.
Conyers' committee said that the legislation would "amend an inequity in America's copyright law that exempts over-the-air broadcasters from paying those who perform the music that we listen to on AM and FM radio. Webcasters, satellite radio providers and cable companies are presently required to pay for music they broadcast."
Both congressmen have been very vocal in their support for the measure which made notable headway during the last session of Congress, but was sidelined by the fall political campaigns and the national economic free-fall after a flurry of congressional activity last spring and summer.
"All those in the creative chain of musical production -- the artists, musicians and others who enrich us culturally -- deserve to be justly compensated for their work," said Conyers. "We have introduced the Performance Rights Act to ensure fairness so that any service that plays music pays those who create and own the recordings -- just as satellite, cable and Internet radio stations currently do. Working with the Senate, I hope that Congress may act quickly to pass this important legislation to level the playing field between different technologies and ensure rightful compensation to performers."
"Beyond the fairness that this bill provides for performers, we have an opportunity to show the rest of the world that the United States practices what it preaches in protecting intellectual property," Issa added in a prepared statement. "For the past 70 years Congress has ignored the constitutional mandate that we protect copyrights by completely exempting broadcasters from paying performers, while the vast majority of countries have no such exemption. Our ignorance of intellectual property rights on this issue is a worldwide embarrassment and it must end now."
The bill, which provides fee discounts and exemptions for small radio operators and non-profit and religious programmers, is also sponsored by Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Anthony Weiner, (D-N.Y.), Stephen Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), and Jane Harman (D-Calif.).
Companion legislation was introduced Wednesday in the Senate by Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and former chairman senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Also signing on were Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
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