Mel Watt To Introduce Performance Right Bill

Legislation would aim to entice broadcasters to work out a radio performance royalty for musicians
July 25, 2013 -- 3:21 pm PDT

Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) announced plans to introduce a bill before the August recess that would establish that musicians have public performance rights to their work. 

Watt made the announcement at a July 25 House Judiciary Committee intellectual property subpanel hearing that examined copyright law. 

Currently, songwriters are compensated for terrestrial radio play, but musicians, producers and featured performers are not. Watt's bill would not mandate a royalty but would recognize that performers have a right to their work.

"Once the performance right is recognized for musicians, the radio station will be incentivized to avoid legal action … by entering into an agreement," Watt told The Hill. "We think this brings the parties to the negotiating table in a way that has not happened before."

The Recording Academy has been pursuing a performance right for musicians for several years, a campaign that has helped lead to several first-ever deals between labels and radio companies guaranteeing royalty payments to those labels' artists. The Academy has continued to pursue a larger legislative solution.

"The Recording Academy commends Rep. Watt for announcing today his intention to introduce new legislation to recognize a performance right in sound recordings," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "Congressman Watt's announcement is an important step forward in ending this inequity and I am hopeful that the House Judiciary Committee will give his proposal full consideration."

National Association of Broadcasters spokesperson Dennis Wharton quickly came out against the legislation, noting that the NAB supports "company-by-company negotiations."

An aide to Watt said the bill could be introduced as early as next week.

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