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Artists urge Congress to back legislation fixing the 1972 quirk

By | Published on Wednesday 20 December 2017


A group of 41 artists has urged US Congress to finally sort out the bloody 1972 quirk in American copyright law by backing the somewhat clumsily named Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service & Important Contributions to Society Act. That translates to the CLASSICS Act see. And this is all about classic rock and pop music. Ha ha!

As previously reported, earlier this year Republican Darrell Issa and Democrat Jerrold Nadler proposed a new law that would confirm that online and satellite radio services in America need to pay royalties to artists and labels when they play tracks released before 1972.

US-wide federal copyright law says such royalties must be paid, but – for reasons of history – federal copyright law only applies to recordings released since 1972. Earlier recordings are protected by state level copyright law, and working out what those old laws say about online and satellite radio has proven to be fucking tedious.

The CLASSICS Act would overcome the ambiguities of state level copyright rules – and the possible unsatisfactory conclusion that the royalty obligations of national radio services might differ from state to state – by confirming once and for all that when an online or satellite radio station plays a golden oldie, both artist and label should get a royalty.

With those proposals now on the table, a consortium of artists organised by the Content Creators Coalition – and including T Bone Burnett, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt and Henry Rollins – has suggested that 2018 might be a good year to finally sort out a copyright anomaly created all the way back in 1972.

They stated yesterday: “Digital radio makes billions of dollars a year from airplay of music made before 1972. Yet, because of an ambiguity in state and federal copyright laws, artists and copyright owners who created that music receive nothing for the use of their work. The ‘CLASSICS Act’ would correct this inequity and finally ensure that musicians and vocalists who made those timeless songs finally get their due. We urge Congress to pass the CLASSICS Act and other pro-artist reforms quickly”.