Harvey Mason jr.
Recording Academy's Harvey Mason jr. Testifies On AM-FM Act & Stimulus
With so many people and professions affected by the coronavirus crisis, now is the time for music industry leaders to speak up and advocate for their community. With this in mind, Recording Academy Chair & Interim CEO Harvey Mason jr. testified today in front of the Senate Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee on the scope of music rights in sound recordings, the dire need for the United States to catch up with other free countries by passing the Ask Musicians for Music (AM-FM) Act, and the importance of supporting music creators in the next phase of COVID-19 relief stimulus.
"Any future relief package should get people back to work, not give industries unfair advantages," said Mason jr. "Unfortunately, musicians will not be able to get back to live performances soon, so the next stimulus should ensure they get paid fairly for their music that has been a lifeline for our fellow citizens. As the Section 512 study showed last week, there are many ways Congress can do more to help the music community, such as including the AM-FM Act in the next COVID-19 bill."
The AM-FM Act, a bipartisan and bicameral bill introduced by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), would establish a performance right for sound recordings broadcast by terrestrial radio, ending a decades-long loophole that has enabled AM/FM radio broadcasters to use the music of hard-working performers and producers without obtaining any form of permission or paying any compensation. Under the AM-FM Act, artists, producers, and copyright owners would be able to negotiate fair market rates with broadcasters in exchange for permission for it to be aired.
“Radio is the only business in America that can use someone else’s intellectual property without permission or compensation. Fixing this copyright anomaly should be a priority of the Senate Judiciary Committee," Mason jr. said.
This blind spot in American policy also underscores the glaring discrepancy between the U.S. and other countries around the world, including the U.K. and Canada, who pay performance rights royalties to the musicians and artists' whose music is played on terrestrial radio.
"The United States of America: the one country in the world that should be a leader in free market transactions, a leader in protecting intellectual property, and a leader in assuring fair pay for one’s work. Yet sadly, we are the one country that does not recognize a performance right for sound recordings," said Mason jr.
With millions of music makers living in uncertainty, Congress holds a valuable opportunity in its hands to ensure they receive fair support alongside other small business and finally institute the long-overdue performance rights for sound recordings that would pay creators what they deserve for their work.
Ironically, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has continued to fight against the AM-FM Act and performance rights for sound recordings even though the broadcasters themselves enjoy the very same rights to permission and compensation they are denying creators. Mason jr. explained:
"Just two weeks ago the NAB CEO, Gordon Smith, told his members: 'We don’t know how long this pandemic will last, or what the lasting effects of it might be on our economy. But there is one thing I do know… broadcasters endure.' I wish I could tell our members the same thing. In this crisis, many workers are sadly not getting paid because their work is not needed at this time. But on radio, musicians are not getting paid while their work is needed more than ever. The current crisis has shone a bright spotlight on this injustice. And the time to fix it is now."
During the hearing, Mason jr. discussed how local radio provides entertainment for the general public, which is primarily due to the efforts of music creators. For non-music content serving as “entertainment” on terrestrial radio, Mason jr. reminded the panel that stations pay those entities a fee to broadcast that content on their airwaves, specifically sporting events. Mason jr. stated that he is open to having future discussions with the NAB about these issues and requested Congressional involvement in those negotiations.
The AM-FM Act is finally getting its due consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee and would be a critical victory for artists’ rights. You can help to advance the bill by contacting your lawmakers and ask for their support.