Neil Portnow testifies at Rayburn House Office Building on June 10 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage.com
2018 GRAMMY Week: House Judiciary Committee Hearing To Spotlight Music Law
With the return of Music's Biggest Night to New York, music's top recording artists and emerging talent will converge on the Big Apple. Meanwhile, an important House Judiciary Committee hearing has been scheduled against the backdrop of GRAMMY Week, putting the future livelihood of music creators center stage.
Addressing these topics and more will be a panel comprising of Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow alongside music creators representing all facets of the music industry, including GRAMMY-winning performer Booker T. Jones, GRAMMY-nominated artist Aloe Blacc, GRAMMY-nominated songwriter Tom Douglas, and platinum-selling producer/engineer Mike Clink.
Pushing the momentum forward following last week's announcement of the music industry uniting to support key copyright legislation, a full House Judiciary Committee field hearing will take place during the congressional recess week in New York City on Friday, Jan. 26, two days prior to the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
Marking the continuation of a pledge by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to address copyright law during his tenure, the hearing will center on music reform, including topics such as the pitfalls with regard to the current copyright system and recommendations on how Congress should modernize outdated copyright laws.
The Fair Play Fair Pay Act is a comprehensive bill that addresses several key issues for music creators, including the establishment of a performance right at terrestrial radio. The Music Modernization Act aims to create a single licensing body to administer the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions.
The CLASSICS Act would establish royalty payments for pre-1972 sound recordings. And the AMP Act will codify into law the practice of paying royalties to studio professionals such as producers and engineers.
The GRAMMY Week hearing marks the latest in a series of positive developments for music reform in 2018, including last week’s statement from over 20 music organizations in support of a broad slate of music legislation as well as the recent elevation of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Subject to the same rules and procedures as if it took place on Capitol Hill, a field hearing is held outside Washington, D.C., in a locale more relevant to the hearing's subject matter. With all eyes and ears on music during GRAMMY Week, New York couldn't be a more appropriate home for this particular hearing.
Photo: iStock/Getty Images
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 the policies that affect music makers and their craft. New installments post every Friday.
Music Industry Comes Together On Pending Copyright Legislation
These organizations include the Academy and a formidable list of major music industry organizations, including American Association of Independent Music, the American Federation of Musicians, PROs ASCAP and BMI, the National Music Publishers' Association RIAA, SoundExchange, and more than a dozen others.
For the first time, the entire industry stated its support for the performance right for sound recordings. In addition, four legislative principles agreed to are crucial: the Music Modernization Act of 2017, the CLASSICS Act and the Allocation for Music Producers Act, and establishing a market-based rate standard for satellite radio.
The Music Modernization Act aims to create a single licensing body to administer the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions, while the CLASSICS Act would establish royalty payments for pre-1972 sound recordings. The AMP Act will codify into law the practice of paying studio professionals such as producers and engineers their fair royalties.
Hopes this moment would arise in 2018 have been realized and the coming months will be a truly important time for active advocacy by the music community and patrons who support fair pay in the arts.
A field hearing in New York by the House Judiciary Committee to address these key legislative issues is anticipated on Jan. 26 — just two days before the 60th GRAMMY Awards. Music creators will look to make most of this chance to speak directly with lawmakers and set the stage for Congressional copyright reform in 2018.
"For years, our creator membership has sought a holistic approach to update music licensing," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. "Artists, songwriters, producers, and engineers have each advocated for their fellow creators because we're all in this together. Today, our industry unites in the same manner to support a comprehensive slate of legislative issues that will improve the environment for music makers, music services, and music fans. As we prepare to celebrate music at the GRAMMYs, we can celebrate this important milestone as well."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow at the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards in Washington DC in April, 2010. Credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage.com
Recording Academy Statement Re: Congressman Darrell Issa
"Rep. Issa has been a great champion of fair compensation for artists. 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.”
Daryl P. Friedman
Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer