Musicians are one step closer to receiving royalties for songs broadcast on AM/FM radio after the Senate Judiciary Committee today passed the Performance Rights Act.
The bill, which changes copyright law to require broadcasters to pay a performance royalty to musicians, was passed by voice vote. A similar bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 21 to 9 earlier this year.
It’s been a fierce lobbying battle, with the National Association of Broadcasters adamantly opposed to any new royalties, which they say could bankrupt some radio stations. The fight has spilled over to the Federal Communications Commission, as reported here.
Musicians complained to the agency that some radio stations are refusing to play songs by artists that support the legislation and turning down issue ads in support of the law. They want the FCC to open an investigation, and to consider whether broadcasters are failing their duty to serve the public interest. Broadcasters respond they have a First Amendment right to air the songs and ads that they choose. The matter is pending before the FCC.
MusicFirst, the coalition of artists backing the royalty legislation, applauded the Judiciary Committee’s action this morning. “We are making unprecedented progress. Two congressional committees have now approved a bill to create a fair performance right on radio,” said Jennifer Bendall, executive director of the coalition, in a statement. “Today we are one step closer to righting a wrong that has existed since the early days of radio; one step closer to winning the fight for fundamental justice that has been waged by countless artists and musicians over the last 80 years.”
The bill now awaits action on the floors of the House and Senate. The House measure is sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D - Mich) and the Senate measure by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – Vt.)