In a big win for major record labels, the Free Artists From Industry Restrictions (FAIR) Act failed to pass out of the California State Senate’s Judiciary committee late on Tuesday night.
According to a report in Billboard, the act, also called AB Bill 983, received four votes, two short of the six needed to reach a majority from the 11-member committee.
The bill was the latest in a long campaign to repeal a 1987 amendment to the state’s “Seven-Year Statute” that allows record labels to sue artists if they leave after seven years after their contract was signed before delivering the full number of albums required under the contract. Labels can also sue artists for damages.
Artists’ rights groups — including the Black Music Action Coalition, Music Artists Coalition and Songwriters of North America — decried the decision but promised to continue the fight. “It is heartbreaking that — for now — the artist community will continue to be denied equal protection. The FAIR Act was an opportunity for the community to come together and the labels refused to join,” they said in a joint statement. “This is a battle, not the war.”
The California Music Coalition, which represents a group of California-based record that had opposed the bill — as did the recorded-music trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America — said in a statement: “We applaud the Committee’s thoughtful decision to reject AB983,” “The Committee recognized that AB 983 would have radically destabilized recording agreements and California’s entire music economy, taking money out of the pockets of working artists to fund even bigger paychecks for wealthy managers and lawyers.”
Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), author of the bill, also vowed to continue the fight. “With resistance from industry and a tight timeline to pass a second committee, AB 983 unfortunately came up short of moving forward today,” he said in a statement. “I remain committed to ending contract terms that are overly restrictive, antiquated, and unnecessarily punitive towards recording artists and thank the sponsors for their support and partnership.”
The Seven-Year Statute, which limits personal services contracts for state residents to seven years, was enacted in 1944 following the judgment in actress Olivia de Havilland’s lawsuit against Warner Bros. Pictures.