Caucus sings online theft blues

WASHINGTON — Dozens of songwriters from across the country swarmed Capitol Hill on Tuesday to press their antipiracy case and celebrate the creation of the Congressional Songwriters’ Caucus.

The songwriters visited some 50 lawmakers on the House and Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees, panels that have been busy in the last few weeks hearing the pros and cons of the recording industry’s hard-nosed subpoena strategy aimed at curbing online music theft.

The songwriters ended the day by treating lawmakers to a good, old-fashioned guitar pull on the House side of the Capitol.

Bart Herbison, executive director of Nashville Songwriters Assn. Intl., helped organize the lobbying blitz. Halfway through the day he said that he was gratified by lawmakers’ response to the plight of songwriters. In Nashville alone, half of the businesses on Music Row are up for sale, a point Herbison drove home through photos of the for-sale signs he showed members of Congress.

“There’s not a lot of sympathy for the artists themselves because they are so wealthy,” he said. “But most songwriters make 2¢ on every CD sold. I don’t want to embarrass anybody, but one songwriter with a number of big country hits is now working at the makeup counter at Dillards.”

Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) founded the caucus, already more than 20 members strong, to educate members and staff on issues such as online piracy prevention, intellectual property protection and the impact of the tax code on the creative community.

“We have worked with songwriters on many issues and know that without someone who understands their unique perspectives, these lyricists might not have their concerns appropriately addressed,” Blackburn wrote in a letter to colleagues asking them to join the group.

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