ASCAP – Congress Hears ASCAP Loud and Clear at IRFA Hearing

by: Etan Rosenbloom

The U.S. Congress recently began hearings about music licensing reform. ASCAP believes that current performance royalty rates for Internet streaming undervalue songwriters, composers and publishers, and that any serious Capitoldiscussion of music licensing needs to address that.

We recently brought our message to Capitol Hill. We’re encouraged to find that our allies in Congress are listening.

On November 28th, the House Intellectual Property Subcommittee held a hearing on H.R. 6480, the “Internet Radio Fairness Act.” Major tech companies support the bill because it would lower their royalty rates; many recording artists oppose it, since it would mean a big reduction in an important source of income.

Before the hearing, ASCAP sent a letter co-signed by the other PROs and the NSAI to Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Melvin Watt, the Committee’s Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively. Our letter urged the Subcommittee to examine the entire music license landscape in any discussion about licensing reform, and specifically to address the inequities in how songwriters, composers and publishers are paid by Internet streaming services in comparison to record labels and recording artists.

The Subcommittee heard us loud and clear. Here are two excerpts from Congressmen Goodlatte and Watt’s opening statements:

Chairman Bob Goodlatte

“Performing rights organizations that represent songwriters and publishers, such as ASCAP, have asked the Committee to examine broadly issues of music licensing…All of these issues need to be carefully examined as they all affect both the incentive to create new works for consumers to enjoy and innovation in the music and Internet industries. I am also concerned about ensuring that those who create and perform music are fairly compensated for their creative works.”

Ranking Member Melvin Watt

“Internet radio has expanded choices for consumers and provided alternative means for independent artists to showcase their talents. But I believe that a fair licensing regime must first and foremost adequately compensate the artists who create and perform the musical content upon which all delivery platforms are based.”

Overall, this was an instructive hearing about the direction of music licensing reform in the next Congress. Most importantly, the Judiciary Committee members seemed energized about addressing creators’ rights and music licensing reform during the next session of Congress.

We’ll keep you updated as this legislation develops.

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