There will be a hearing on the Performance Rights Act, but will it be fair?  This week’s schedule for the House Judiciary Committee shows that the Committee will hold a hearing on H.R. 848 Wednesday, March 4, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, As we have previously discussed, H.R. 848 would require payment of copyright royalties by broadcast radio stations for performance of sound recordings.

We’re not trying to cast aspersions on the fairness of the legislative process.  We don’t know anything else about the hearing.  As you can see for yourselves, there isn’t even a witness list posted yet.  But our guess is that there will be more witnesses testifying in favor of H.R. 848 than against it.  That’s only natural when the Committee Chairman, John Conyers (D-MI), is the bill’s sponsor.   This is the first House hearing for the Performance Rights Act in the 111th Congress. The bill is gaining some momentum, with 22 House Members now signed on as co-sponsors. The Senate companion measure, S. 379, introduced by the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (Patrick Leah (D-VT)), has five co-sponsors.

Those interested in the issue should also be keeping tabs on the Local Radio Freedom Act, (H. Con. Res 49), a resolution sponsored by Rep. Gene Green (R-TX). Green’s resolution is, in effect, the Anti-Performance Rights alternative, opposing imposition of a performance royalty.  It has the support of 125 House Members. The magic number is 218 – that’s the number of House votes necessary for either side to claim victory).