ArtsWatch: Lawmakers Call For Radio Royalty Consistency

Reps. Blackburn and Eshoo introduce new broadcast exception for retransmission
May 12, 2014 -- 6:41 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

New Bill Gives Broadcasters A Taste Of Their Own Medicine
On May 7 Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 4588, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act, returning to a point about basic fairness that the lawmakers made in March. The issue surrounds broadcasters' right to give consent before another station is allowed to retransmit their original broadcast stream. Blackburn and Eshoo contend that many broadcasters also own AM/FM radio stations and unfairly take advantage of the out-of-date exception that denies musicians performance rights, citing promotional value as a benefit. The bill would put the broadcasters who do that in the same position they put musicians by denying them payments and the right to consent. The Recording Academy has been actively lobbying for the legislation, pointing to the National Association of Broadcasters' double standard in the Aereo case. Radio Ink collected reactions from local broadcast leaders, defending the status quo and questioning why the radio industry should pay royalties to performers when it gives them valuable publicity for free. The bill was referred to the House Commerce Committee, on which both Blackburn and Eshoo serve. Separately, on May 8 the House Commerce Committee passed H.R. 4342, the DOTCOM Act, which would delay the Department of Commerce's plans to privatize the Internet's domain name system.

Radio Stations Seek Exemption From SoundExchange Royalties
VerStandig Broadcasting, a group comprising several Virginia FM radio stations, filed suit April 30 in Harrisonburg's U.S. District Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that they may avoid paying royalties to SoundExchange for local Internet retransmissions of their FM programming. They argue that copyright law contains an exemption for retransmissions within 150 miles of a broadcast tower and that recent Internet technology enables them to restrict their Internet audience to listeners within the local area. Initial correspondence with SoundExchange did not find agreement with this fresh take on the copyright statute's language, so VerStandig went to court. The novelty of this legal argument has attracted comments from attorney David Oxenford and law firms Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth and Wiley Rein. SoundExchange's rejection of VerStandig's interpretation is based on the intent of the statute when it was passed into law, before Internet users' locations could be readily determined. The plaintiffs argue their interpretation is reasonable given the way the statute is phrased.

NMPA, Rap Genius Form Licensing Partnership
On May 6 the National Music Publishers' Association and Rap Genius, a website that compiles song lyric annotations, announced a partnership expected to lead to properly licensing the site's content. Rap Genius was one of 50 lyric sites targeted in the NMPA's antipiracy campaign last November. NMPA President/CEO David Israelite said, "Rap Genius is a unique site that allows music fans to connect with songwriters and the emotions they express through their lyrics. ... As more music fans find lyrics they relate to and are curious about online, it becomes imperative that various industries form collaborative partnerships such as what NMPA and Rap Genius have accomplished today." Rap Genius co-founder Ilan Zechory said, "We couldn't be more excited about this partnership."

Music Licensing Public Roundtables Set For June
The Copyright Office announced that May 20 is the application deadline for people interested in participating in music licensing public roundtables in June. Roundtables have been scheduled for June 4–5 in Nashville, Tenn.; June 16–17 in Los Angeles; and June 23–24 in New York. The roundtables are part of the office's Music Licensing Study, for which the deadline to submit public comments is May 16. Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante met with members of The Recording Academy's Chicago and New York Chapters earlier in the year and will continue to meet with members around the country as part of this process.

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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