Musicians and artists are finding the economy tougher than ever on the music business. The legislature has six issues on the agenda.
Excerpts from Billboard
By Glenn Peoples
From performance royalties to deciding how musicians travel with their instruments on airplanes, numerous issues central to the music industry are alive Washington D.C. The highest profile topic is webcasting royalties, a holdover from the Internet Radio Fairness Act introduced last year that sparked a strong public relations fight between its supporters, including Pandora and Clear Channel, and its opponents, mainly record labels and artists.
The music industry will have a receptive House during this 113th Congress. Although the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet lost Howard Berman, a longtime supporter of music industry issues it is now chaired by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), who sources say has a reputation for being friendly to content owners’ interests. In fact, RIAA senior vice president Mitch Glazier was Coble’s chief of staff. Mel Watt (D-NC), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, is also said to be a supporter of music industry causes.
1. Radio and Internet Royalties. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has indicated he wants to continue the discussion on music licensing issues that began with the November hearing on webcasting royalties. Many insiders expect 2013 will see a follow-up to the Internet Radio Freedom Act, the webcasting-focused bill introduced last year and expired at the end of the last Congress, and a counter bill that would seek to address broadcast radio’s lack of performance royalties for sound recordings. Performance royalty legislation won’t be a top priority, however. The House Judiciary is likely to deal with legislation on gun control and immigration early in the year.
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2. Section 115 Reform. Related to the performance royalties for sound recordings will be a move to address change to Section 115, the part of copyright law that grants a compulsory license to make and distribute phonorecords. David Israelite, president of the National Association of Music Publishers, says music publishers and digital media companies have “largely agreed on the framework for a solution.” A higher rate standard in Section 115 would be consistent with Section 114 and would lead to “higher rates for songwriters, especially in the area of digital downloads.” As will be the case with performance royalties, a busy Judiciary Committee will handle Section 115 reform.
3. Intellectual property enforcement. There are rumors that Victoria Espinel, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the White House, will not stay a second term, according to sources (a request for a comment from her office was not received). Espinel has been well received in the music industry for her work encouraging intermediaries to voluntarily address piracy. For example, her office was instrumental in the statement of best practices released in May by the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies that outlined a commitment not to support web sites that facilitate copyright infringement. “I think the office will try to be helpful in advancing those agreements and having a role,” says one executive, “[but] nobody has an expectation there will be more than that.”
4. PRO IP Act Reform. Rep. Zoe Lofgren is considering introducing a bill that will reform how the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice seizes and blocks domain names from sites found to infringe on copyrights. The PRO IP Act, passed in 2008, allows law enforcement to seize property used to commit copyright infringement. Along with law enforcement agencies in other countries, ICE has seized hundreds of domains for websites that illegally sold counterfeit merchandise or hosted illegal downloads or streams. Lofgren explained that her proposal would focus on seizures “based on accusations that a website facilitates copyright infringement and not, for example, accusations of obscenity or libel.”
5. Copy Culture Legislation. Expect some sort of legislation will be introduced that tries to advance the type of concepts — reducing the term of copyright, limiting statutory damages — held by opponents to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). These concepts appeared in a policy brief by the Republican Study Committee in November that claimed copyright law “destroys entire markets” rather than serve the original intent of the Constitution and suggested sharply reduced copyright terms (the report was quickly retracted and the staffer was fired). The bills may not go anywhere but will publicize the concepts, says one source.
6. Traveling With Instruments. Last year Congress passed legislation that reauthorized the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for another four years. Part of that bill was a provision to create a national policy for carrying musical instruments on airplanes. This year the FAA will draft rules from that legislation. The bill set standard weights and size requirements for checked instrument and allows musicians to purchase a seat for large instruments that are too fragile to be checked as baggage. This may sound wonky, but it will directly affect a lot of people.