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Radio royalty proposals reintroduced in US Congress

By | Published on Friday 3 February 2023

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The US record industry has welcomed the reintroduction of the American Music Fairness Act in Congress, it being the legislation that would introduce a radio royalty for sound recordings for the first time in the country.

Artist and labels have been campaigning for decades to get US law amended to end a quirk of the American copyright system that says AM/FM radio stations only have to secure licences covering song rights, not recording rights. As a result American radio stations can play music without getting a licence from or paying any royalties to artists and labels.

Most recently that campaigning has been based around the American Music Fairness Act which, the music community argues, provides “a balanced solution that would require large broadcast corporations to finally pay performance royalties to artists and music creators for AM/FM radio airplay, while also protecting small radio stations by allowing them to play all the music they need to thrive for an affordable, predictable cost of less than $2 per day”.

The radio industry – and especially the big broadcasters – continue to lobby against any new royalty obligations. They have been very successful in those efforts in the past, although the American Music Fairness Act has been gaining some momentum in the last year or so.

As a result, last year it was passed by the House Judiciary Committee. With a new session of Congress convening itself last month, the proposals needed reintroducing. Which is what happened yesterday, in both the House Of Representatives and the Senate.

Welcoming that move, the Chair of campaign group musicFIRST, Joe Crowley, said: “It’s clear that the movement for music fairness continues to gain momentum, bringing us closer than ever before to ending big radio’s ability to deny artists the fair pay they deserve. This week’s House and Senate introductions of the American Music Fairness Act is evidence of that”.

The proposals continue to enjoy cross-party support. The AMFA was reintroduced in the House by Republican Darrell Issa and Democrat Jerry Nadler, and in the Senate by Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Alex Padilla.

In his statement, Crowley thanked all four of them “for their leadership in the effort to secure economic justice for our nation’s music artists and creators, and [we] look forward to working together to drive continued progress in the coming months”.

Also welcoming the reintroducion of the proposals, Michael Huppe, CEO of US collecting society SoundExchange, added: “Music creators have been forced to give away their work for far too long. It is time for Congress to demonstrate that they stand behind the hard-working Americans that provide the music we all love by finally passing the AMFA”.

“This bill has the broad support of artists, labels, small broadcasters, unions, and others because it strikes a fair balance by respecting creators for their work and protecting truly local broadcasters”, he went on. “No more excuses, no more waiting in line for their turn. Music creators demand the economic justice AMFA provides”.