U.S. Copyright Office Proposes Changes to Digital Royalty Payments for Songwriters

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The U.S. Copyright Office on Feb. 5 released a massive report that called for multiple changes to existing copyright legislation. Organizations representing songwriters and publishers see the proposal as a step in the right direction for copyright regulation.

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Among other points, the Copyright Office recommended:

The creation of a performance royalty that would pay artists and record labels when their songs are played on traditional radio.

The elimination of the copyright loophole that cuts artists and labels out of digital royalty payments for songs recorded before 1972.

•Putting the copyright attached to a song’s composition — the one owned by a publisher and songwriter — on equal footing with the copyright attached to the sound recording — the one owned by a record label and artist.

The last point stated is the primary concern of stakeholders, as current legislation dictates the royalties paid for compositions, while sound recording royalties are not regulated by government oversight.

Cary Sherman, chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America, applauded the proposal, calling the report an “important contribution to the ongoing conversation about modernizing the copyright laws.”

“Reform is necessary to develop new revenue streams for all creators and innovative consumer product offerings for music fans,” Sherman said. “The office also recognized that it is time to fix the system to ensure that all creators are paid fair market value for their work, regardless of the platform on which their work is used. For example, a performance right for FM and AM radio is long overdue.”

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would review the federal consent decrees that govern how performance rights organizations like BMI and ASCAP operate. Under current regulation, publishers and songwriters are required to have all rights monitored under the PROs. BMI and ASCAP are seeking changes that would allow publishers to withdraw their digital rights to negotiate better rates with internet radio services such as Pandora.

Check out the full report here.


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