Over the objections of broadcasters, members of the House Judiciary Committee voted 21-9 to adopt an amended version of a bill that would require radio station licensees to pay royalties to artists and copyright owners in exchange for airing their songs. According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman and bill sponsor John Conyers (DMI), the Performance Rights Act is intended “to establish some form of equity for recording artists” who, until now, have received no compensation for the performance of their songs on radio. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) stands opposed to such legislation, which broadcasters warn will result in higher costs that could jeopardize small stations and may also prevent new artists from establishing a listening audience. To reach “a middle ground” among competing stakeholders, the committee unanimously approved an amendment that would cap annual royalties at $500 for small stations that gross less than $100,000 per year. Stations with annual gross revenues of between $100,000 and $200,000 would pay no more than $2,500 in yearly royalties, whereas larger stations with annual gross revenues between $500,000 and $1.25 million would have to pay a maximum of $5,000. Royalties paid under the Act would be collected by SoundExchange, which would distribute the proceeds to artists and copyright owners. Although Conyers and other committee leaders called on the GAO to perform an expedited study of the bill’s impact on the broadcast industry, Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Charles Gonzales (D-TX) joined forces with Representative Daniel Lungren (R-CA) and other committee Republicans in urging a postponement of legislative efforts until the GAO study is complete. The full House is now expected to take up the measure which, if passed, would be reconciled with similar pending legislation that is making its way through the Senate.
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