Lawmakers Propose Overhaul of Music Payments to Artists and Labels

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A group of congressional lawmakers introduced legislation on Monday to overhaul the way that licensing payment rates are set for digital streaming and satellite play, as well as to pay performers when their songs are broadcast over the airwaves.

The Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), would revive long-desired efforts to establish the right for performers and labels to collect royalty payments when their songs are played on broadcast radio stations. Artists have sought such payments via legislation for almost four decades, yet have been met with stiff resistance from broadcasters, who have again been lining up opponents on Capitol Hill in recent months.

The legislation also would require radio platforms to start compensating artists when they play recordings made before 1972. Copyright protection wasn’t extended to sound recordings until that year.

The bill also would revise how the Copyright Royalty Board calculates rates for satellite radio, and sets guidelines for setting standards for payments to artists and labels across different platforms. This has been a big source of conflict between artists and services like Pandora.

Ted Kalo, executive director of the MusicFirst Coalition, which has been pushing for the legislation, said that the problem now is that music licensing “makes no sense,” with different rates for Internet radio, satellite, and, in the case of terrestrial radio, “no rate at all.”

“The solution: All radio services should pay under the same ‘fair market value’ royalty standard for all of the music they play,” he said in a statement. “Like everyone else who works, creates or innovates, music creators deserve fair pay for their work.”