Resolution Opposes Introduction of Performance Right in U.S.

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The United States has long had a gaping hole in their copyright regime in the area of neighbouring rights paid to musicians and makers of sound recordings for broadcast on terrestrial radio.

American broadcasters pay songwriters and publishers a performance royalty (administered through ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, the equivalents of SOCAN and SODRAC in Canada), and satellite and internet radio services pay a neighbouring right royalty (through SoundExchange), but ever since the creation of the performing right for musicians and makers, terrestrial radio has been exempt.

The Performance Rights Act introduced into the US House and Senate late last year was designed to correct this. But, recently several Senators have rallies behind radio and got behind a joint resolution introduced last week opposing the performance royalty. Already, The National Association of Broadcasters says the House version has more than 200 supporters.

The NAB argues that the promotional value of free radio airplay should preclude them from paying for the rights to broadcast recorded music. The resolution wording reveals a distinct misunderstanding of the issue, as the royalty is not new, radio has simply been exempt, and the proposed levy is not a tax, it is money that is owed under copyright law for the licensing of copyrighted material.

“Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over the air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings,” reads the measure.

The MusicFirst Coalition, which represents record labels and their artists, supports the Performance Rights Act, which it says would close a “corporate radio loophole” in the copyright law that exempts terrestrial radio from a performance fee.

Canada, like most of the rest of the copyright-developed world, does have a performing right for musicians and makers. In Canada it is referred to as neighbouring rights and is administered by the NRCC.

More info on the proposed performance royalty in the US and its opposition.
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