Focusing on Music Copyright for World IP Day | Citizens Against Government Waste

Focusing on Music Copyright for World IP Day

The WasteWatcher

On April 26, 2015, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) marked World Intellectual Property Day.  The theme was “Get Up, Stand Up.  For Music,” which was intended to highlight the contributions of musical artists around the world and encourage the protection of their intellectual property (IP).  Artists and musicians combat piracy and copyright infringement on a daily basis, while they also struggle to be adequately compensated for their work. 

Pirating of music and movies is theft; but some justify these actions by claiming that the impact is minimal to the bottom line of big movie companies or record labels.  However, every time a song or movie is stolen, it has adverse consequences for every individual that has an integral role in these industries; from set carpenters, seamstresses and extras for movies, to recording engineers, talent scouts, struggling young musicians and song writers. 

As noted in Citizens Against Government Waste’s 2014 book, Intellectual Property: Making It Personal, the recording and movie industries are tackling piracy head on with websites directing consumers to safe places on the Internet to download their music and videos. lists more than 100 legal online distribution outlets for movies and television shows, and details more than 70 authentic sources of online music

Protecting music and video IP goes beyond combatting piracy.  It also entails providing copyright enforcement and just compensation to artists and performers.  There is an ongoing disparity in how music creators are compensated under currently law when their work is played over the airwaves.  Consumers today have more choices than ever in how, where and when they listen to music services, and the wide-spread growing use of new innovative Internet services has provided for the expansion of digital radio services through satellite, cable and mobile applications. 

Despite technological advances that have changed the way consumers listen to music services, digital radio services continue to be regulated under a compulsory licensing system was established in the 1970s, with rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB).  Due to complaints about the pricing determined by the CRB, the copyright law was updated in 2008 to permit parties to set industry-wide rates as an alternative to those issued by the CRB.  This law permitted the free market to provide the pricing for copyright material.  However, satellite radio services were “grandfathered” to function under the then-existing below-market fixed price agreements, and still are subject to compulsory licensing agreements with rates set by the CRB.  Internet radio companies are required to at least pay a government rate based on the rate paid by their competitors in the marketplace.  In addition, AM/FM radio stations do not pay any compensation for music and other performances aired on their stations.

In April 2015, legislation was introduced seeking to level the playing field for performances that are played over the radio, regardless of the medium over which it is played.  H.R. 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015 was introduced by Representatives Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on April 13, 2015.  This legislation provides equal compensation for music creators and artists, by ending the special grandfathered, below market rate paid by satellite radio providers and creating a mechanism for AM/FM radio stations to pay for programming content.  The bill also provides royalty payments for master recordings created prior to 1972, and does away with any grandfathering under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and ends the government’s practice of picking winners and losers by propping up services.    

On April 23, 2015, Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 1999, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act.  This legislation requires radio broadcasters to pay musicians, performers, vocalists, and copyright owners for the use of their creative property, and prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from mandating Smartphone manufacturers include and activate an FM radio chip in devices, leaving it to the marketplace to determine whether such inclusion is necessary.    

These legislative efforts provide a basis for an open discussion of broadcast rights and responsibilities towards the creative community.  For far too long, the music industry has been subjected to an enormous disparity in compensation to those who create and produce the music enjoyed by millions.  It is time for these deficiencies to be addressed by providing a market based compensation structure that is equally applied irrespective of the medium through which the performance is delivered.

Sign Up For Email Updates

Optional Member Code