Music industry and NAB gear up – again – for war over performance rights.
Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the debate about “performance rights” has again returned to Washington – this time signaled by the introduction of H.R. 1733, the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act” (FPFPA). While this year’s version of the perennial effort to impose additional copyright obligations on broadcasters features some new twists, its passage is far from guaranteed, although no one should be surprised if it advances at least part way through the legislative process.
“Performance rights”, of course, is the short-hand expression for a particular type of copyright interest, one held by recording artists. The right covers the artist’s particular recorded performance. (For more detail, check out my 2009 blog about an earlier performance rights effort.) While the “performance right” has been around since the 1990s, broadcasters have not been subject to it. That’s because Congress acknowledged that recording artists and radio broadcasters enjoy a unique relationship through which each side benefits from the other: radio stations get program content from recording artists who in turn get free promotion from airplay. The classic win-win situation. Rather than disrupt that, Congress chose instead simply not to impose any performance rights obligations on broadcasters for over-the-air play. (Note: Webcasting is another story: broadcasters are liable for performance rights royalties for material that they webcast, even if that material is identical to the broadcaster's over-the-air programming.)
But for years the recording industry has been pressing Congress to eliminate that exemption. The FPFPA – which is sponsored by a bipartisan group of folks including Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) – is this year’s try. It would amend the Copyright Act in several ways. You can read the entire 26 page bill if you want, but for a very good summary of all provisions, I suggest you check out this post from the Future of Music Coalition.
How would this bill affect broadcasters?Continue Reading...