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Congress Introduces AM-FM Act to Revise Copyright Law for Terrestrial Radio

US Capitol
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Senator Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Jerrold Nadler today introduced the Ask Musicians for Music Act (AM-FM), which aims to revise existing copyright law for radio stations and musicians.

Under the current copyright system, radio stations can use sound recordings over their airwaves without paying royalties to creators who own a stake in the sound recordings. The AM-FM Act would require all radio services to pay fair-market value for the music they use.

Many industry organizations have long lobbied for changes in the law, which has been even more strenuously opposed by the National Assocation of Broadcasters and radio lobbying groups.

“When music creators share their wonderful gift with the world, we hear songs that inspire and unite us. We should encourage such thriving talent and ensure the music community is properly compensated for their work,” said Senator Blackburn, who introduced the bill in the Senate. “The AM-FM Act will reward singers, songwriters and musicians for their hard work when their music is played on the radio.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. “The United States is an outlier in the world for not requiring broadcast radio to pay artists when playing their music, while requiring satellite and internet radio to pay,” he said. “This is unfair to both artists and music providers. I’m proud to sponsor the Ask Musician for Music Act of 2019 which would give artists and copyright owners the right to make a choice to allow AM/FM radio to use their work for free or to seek compensation for their work. The bill would also allow them to negotiate rates with broadcasters in exchange for permission for it to be aired.”

National Association of Broadcasters President/CEO Gordon Smith said in response, “NAB opposes the AM-FM Act, which could decimate the economics of America’s hometown radio stations that have launched the careers of countless musicians and exposed legacy artists to a new generation of listeners. We’re pleased that a bipartisan group of 201 House members and 25 U.S. Senators recognize this potential harm and have cosponsored the Local Radio Freedom Act, a resolution opposing any new performance fee on local radio. NAB’s door remains open to work with the record labels to find a holistic solution to this issue that reflects the enduring value to artists and labels of local radio to our hundreds of millions of terrestrial and digital listeners. Unfortunately, the record labels have shown little interest in having those discussions.”

Other industry organizations were quick to speak in support of the bill.

“The AM-FM Act will give artists control over what is rightfully theirs, their music,” said Daryl P. Friedman, Chief Industry, Government, & Member Relations Officer at the Recording Academy. “The legislation is about consent for use of content, a basic concept that the National Association of Broadcasters is seeking for its own television members.”

“Music is essential to the radio business, but for far too long, AM/FM radio broadcasters have profited by using sound recordings without paying anything to their creators,” said Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America. “This bill puts the power of free markets to work to reverse that. Requiring terrestrial radio broadcasters to obtain permission to use music would allow creators to seek compensation for their work and remedy a longstanding inequity in copyright law.”

“The AM-FM Act ensures that the people who make the music have a protected property right in their own work by requiring broadcasters to get permission before they transmit recordings over the air,” said SoundExchange CEO Michael J. Huppe. “It sets the table for meaningful marketplace negotiations and ends the current market distortion in our laws that forces artists to subsidize the multi-billion-dollar FM radio broadcast industry.”

“Songwriters and music publishers support the AM-FM Act because music has value, and creators should be able to decide what is best with their intellectual property,” said National Music Publishers Association President & CEO David Israelite. “For too long broadcasters have benefitted from the lack of a sound recording performance right, as well as antiquated consent decrees that allow them to pay songwriters less than fair market value.”