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Rep. Darrell Issa's Retirement Brings New Urgency To CLASSICS Act
"Retiring Congressman Issa is spot-on when it comes to legacy artists. It 'makes little sense' that pre-1972 sound recordings aren't protected under federal copyright protections, and it's about time Congress acts to fix this nonsensical loophole." — Conversations in Advocacy #5
Music creators and fans alike are continually incredulous to learn that recordings created prior to 1972 are not given the same copyright protection as modern recordings due to inconsistent and unworkable state laws. Last year, the CLASSICS Act was introduced, representing a bill that would fix the problem and close this decades-old loophole.
Now, as one of Congress' leading advocates for artists' rights, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has announced his retirement, the music community is reminded of the critical need to pass the CLASSICS Act and level the playing field for copyright holders.
Issa championed the cause of bringing pre-1972 copyrights out of the dark ages, an effort he articulated in an op-ed for Variety last summer. Issa has also been a proponent of granting artists and producers a terrestrial radio performance right, earning him a well-deserved honor at the 2010 GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards.
Rep. Darrell Issa and Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow
Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage.com
"Rep. Issa has been a great champion of fair compensation for artists," said Daryl Freidman, Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer for the Recording Academy. "We will miss his friendship, leadership and humor. But before he retires, we look forward to finishing together the work we started to support music and to ensure that the current and next generation of creators are respected and compensated fairly for their work."
In July 2017, Issa introduced the CLASSICS Act — which stands for Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service and Important Contributions to Society — to Congress on a bipartisan basis to empower artists to collect royalties for the past three years directly through SoundExchange and finally treat their pre-1972 recordings like their newer peers. He has also been a consistent cosponsor of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act that will grant a radio performance right for artists and producers.
Adding additional context to the severity of the issue, Four Tops founding member Duke Fakir derided the copyright loophole with a real-world take on the dire necessity of the CLASSICS Act.
"This digital rip-off has been a disaster for many older artists, diverting the fruits of their labors — funds that should be their lifeline — to the balance sheets of some of the wealthiest companies in the world," said Fakir, who with the Four Tops earned a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. "Digital radio earns millions every year from the exploitation of pre-'72 music, from big band to Motown to the British Invasion. Yet artists who recorded those classics — many of whom are no longer able to tour — struggle for basic food, shelter and medical care.
"It's ridiculous, it's unfair, and it's about time we make it illegal."
Fakir's plea, and the action proposed with the CLASSICS Act, is that digital radio treat all music the same, regardless of when it was recorded, ensuring that the same royalties are paid for vintage songs as for new material.
Issa's retirement announcement reminds us how meaningful and impactful his work has been on behalf of the music community and how crucial it is to see his efforts through by supporting the CLASSICS Act.
"Conversations in Advocacy" is your weekend digital tip sheet on music advocacy and the policies that affect music makers and their craft. New installments post every Friday.