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Pre-1972 songs target of new federal digital royalty push

 - TAB secured protection for broadcasters in 2013

A bipartisan pair of Congressmen last week introduced legislation that for the first time would extend federal copyright protections to songs recorded before 1972. If successful, the measure would drastically increase streaming costs for all music platforms that perform such recordings.

Reps. George Holding, R-NC, and John Conyers, D-MI, are advancing the effort with the strong endorsement of SoundExchange which collects and distributes royalties for online music performance.

Holding was quoted in Inside Radio as saying the legislation “isn’t meant to disrespect digital music services – it’s meant to respect the accomplishments and efforts of legacy artists.”

The measure is part of the “Project 72” campaign being conducted by SoundExchange which asserts that such recordings would have generated $60 million in additional digital streaming royalties last year alone if they were covered by federal copyright law.

The NAB has announced its opposition to any attempt to expand royalty rights to pre-1972 recordings, telling the Copyright Office in part that the rights over such recordings were settled long ago and that Congressional action would be premature as several court cases are pending.

In 2013, TAB passed state legislation clarifying that broadcasters’ airing of pre-1972 sound recordings does not violate state copyright protections.  The measure was needed after TAB defeated a 2011 bill advanced by the RIAA that was touted as a measure to penalize music piracy.  The 2011 bill could have allowed record labels to exploit a vagueness in state law regarding public performance of songs recorded prior to 1972 and pursue legal action to seize stations’ equipment and revenues tied to the broadcast of legacy music.

At least one online music industry observer has characterized the effort as hypocritical in light of the poor treatment that many legacy artists suffered at the hands of their labels.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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