ArtsWatch: Portnow Calls On Congress To Mend The "Patchwork"

House committee will hear The Recording Academy's call for music omnibus legislation
June 09, 2014 -- 1:10 pm PDT
By Philip Merrill /

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Recording Academy CEO Advocates Fairness For Music Creators Before Congress
On June 10 Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow will participate in the first of two hearings on music licensing before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet as the subcommittee continues its ongoing review of the Copyright Act. In his prepared remarks released today Portnow said, "Over the next two hearings, I urge you to keep music creators foremost in your mind. They are the authors our Founders expressly protected." He also addresses the loophole that allows radio stations to not pay performance royalties, below-market royalty rates for streaming and the need for consistent treatment for recording producers and engineers. As The Academy noted in its May 23 submission to the Copyright Office for its music licensing study, "The Academy is the only organization advocating for all individual music creators: performers, songwriters and studio professionals." Concluding by endorsing music omnibus legislation to resolve the "patchwork" of laws that fail to address the digital marketplace, Portnow said, "A legal framework that includes compulsory licenses, government rate courts and consent decrees already diminishes the Framers' vision of exclusive rights. If music makers must be subject to these restrictions, let's at least assure them that the result will represent what a free market would have provided. We are not asking for special treatment. We are simply asking for what is fair. Fair market pay, for all music creators, across all platforms." Portnow's appearance will mark the second time Academy leadership has presented this unique perspective to lawmakers this year; on March 13 GRAMMY-winning artist and New York Chapter Board member Maria Schneider testified about her antipiracy efforts before the subcommittee. Other organizations expected to provide testimony on June 10 include BMI, Digital Media Association, Nashville Songwriters Association International, National Music Publishers' Association, OneHouse LLC, and the Television Music License Committee. The hearing will be webcast live at 10:00 a.m. ET.

House Hearing In New York On First Sale
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) presided over a New York field hearing on June 2 of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet on the first sale doctrine (which essentially allows for resale of copyrighted material), as part of the subcommittee's ongoing review of the Copyright Act. Witnesses represented a wide variety of stakeholders, who clarified the challenges and dangers of applying resale rights to licensing in the digital space. Summing up the problem in his introductory remarks, Goodlatte said, "Although some legal doctrines may be invisible to Americans, the first sale doctrine is not one of them. First sale has been such an integral part of our economy that entire businesses have been built upon it, such as Blockbuster video stores and Netflix by mail. Consumer expectations have also been built upon this doctrine." Although the distinction between digital licenses and resale of physical goods has remained clear, these popular expectations create a potential for a digital resale right. New approaches to licensing could accommodate resale rights to digital licensing under some circumstances, but witnesses representing Owner's Rights Initiative and ReDigi represented the consumer-friendly side that is not willing to wait.

DOJ To Review Performance Rights Organizations' Antitrust Treatment
On June 4 the Department of Justice initiated a review of the antitrust consent decrees regulating performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI, requesting electronically submitted comments by Aug. 6. Encouraging input from "songwriters and composers, publishers, licensees, and service providers," the review listed seven major issues for feedback. Several of these were addressed by The Recording Academy's May 23 filing in response to a call for comments by the Copyright Office. This DOJ process is distinct and could complement reconsideration of the Copyright Act's statutory language. The department's antitrust role touches on business details that are important to healthy economic competition. The consent decrees were due for a fresh look, and this is a chance for the music community to give regulators a clear picture of how to help creative works thrive in a fair marketplace.

Another Pirate Apprehended But The Pirate Bay Sails On
Convicted copyright infringer Peter Sunde was apprehended in Sweden by police on May 31 and will begin serving the eight-month sentence pending against him since 2012 for his role in operating the Pirate Bay, one of the world's most notorious Internet destinations linking to torrents of infringing content. Two of his three fellow co-defendants have completed their prison terms, while the third remains in hiding. The Pirate Bay remains in operation online despite global authorities' efforts to shut it down.

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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