Righting c’rights

House boards bandwagon; Clinton OK next

WASHINGTON — Following the Senate’s lead, the House voted Tuesday to approve a small change in copyright law, which ensures that owners of musical works will not lose billions of dollars worth of royalties for records published before 1978.

Now on its way to the White House, it is expected to shortly receive final approval from President Clinton.

The legislation effectively renders moot a 1995 case known as La Cienega Music vs. ZZ Topp, in which a federal court ruled that recordings without proper copyright notice immediately were thrown into the public domain. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the La Cienega case, forcing music publishers and songwriters to turn to Congress for relief.

“Virtually every single musical work released on record prior to 1978 would have been lost had this decision been allowed to stand,” National Music Publisher’s Assn. president and CEO Edward Murphy said. The small change to the copyright bill could be worth as much as $1 billion in annual revenues to copyright owners, according to Murphy.

Divine intervention

Congressional action had been held up by the Religious Broadcasters Assn., which opposed the legislation. But in a deal worked out last week, religious broadcasters dropped their opposition after winning concessions from the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers concerning royalty fees for radio stations that play a limited amount of musical material.

Also part of the deal with ASCAP, the religious broadcasters agreed to drop their opposition to proposals to extend the music licensing and copyright term by 20 years. However, the copyright term extension was not included in the legislation approved this week by Congress and will likely be taken up separately next year.

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