To promote equity between the online and broadcast radio industries and the fair compensation of performing artists, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced legislation on Monday that would require AM and FM radio licensees to pay royalties to performers whose music is played on their stations.
Known as the Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1733), the bill would amend federal copyright law to create a “terrestrial performance right for sound recordings.” While the current system requires operators of satellite, online and terrestrial radio stations to pay copyright fees to songwriters, AM and FM radio stations are exempt from rules that require satellite and Internet radio providers to pay performance royalties to musical artists and record labels. In addition to extending royalty obligations to AM and FM broadcasters, the measure would amend copyright law by requiring royalty payments on recordings produced before 1972. The bill would also direct copyright judges to establish standard royalty rates “that most clearly represent the rates and terms that would have been negotiated in the marketplace between a willing buyer and a willing seller.” Radio stations with annual revenues of less than $1 million would be subject to a flat royalty payment of $500 per year, and operators of college radio stations would be required to submit a single, yearly payment of $100.
Applauding the bill as one that “brings music licensing for sound recordings into the 21st century,” Ken Howard, the president of the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, declared it “time that we properly pay the artists who put so much hard work into creating the music at the core of these services.” However, radio broadcasters, who have cited the promotional value of free airplay to performing artists, are voicing strong objections to the bill. Advocating resolutions signed recently by 147 congressmen and 11 senators recommending against the imposition of new performance fees and royalties on local radio broadcasters, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters affirmed that his organization “stands ready to work with Congress on a balanced music licensing proposal that . . . recognizes the benefit of our free, locally-focused platform to the benefit of artists and listeners.”