By Keith Calder
The American music industry has defined American culture for generations. Elvis Presley, The Jersey Boys, Johnny Cash, the legends of Motown, Blue Grass, and Rock N’ Roll—all have inspired generations of artist throughout the decades. Every American, old and young, values the music industry and what it has accomplished. Music is just much American as apple pie.
Representative George Holding (R-N.C.) understands the value of the music industry and he has introduced legislation to make sure that radio services that profit from music do as well.
Rep. Holding’s RESPECT Act (a nod to Otis Redding’s 1965 gem and its iconic 1967 Aretha Franklin cover) is a first step that addresses a major loophole in copyright laws in which songs recorded before February 15, 1972 are protected by state, but not federal law. Consequently some digital radio companies have decided not to pay for the use of recordings made before 1972, exploiting weaknesses in some of the relevant state regimes. The RESPECT Act would simply any digital radio service that benefits from a current federal statutory license to make royalty payments for songs recorded before 1972, just like music recorded after 1972.
This act clearly addresses an intellectual property issue legitimately within federal jurisdiction. Anyone who made or owned rights to a sound recording made before February 15, 1972 are essentially being robbed of royalties. Copyright owners have broad exclusive rights to license and sell their recordings made before February 15, 1972 through state law. A quick flip through Sirius XM radio and you’ll find entire stations dedicated to the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Streaming services like Pandora and Spotify supply their customers with a treasure trove of old classics, yet no matter how many times these older classics are played, royalties are being withheld.
Not only does the RESPECT act address intellectual property issues, it addresses an economic issue as well. Up to 15% of what digital radio services play is music before 1972. Last year alone, artists and records label lost up to $60 million of royalties. There have also been a number of lawsuits throughout the country regarding state rights in pre-1972 recordings. Court battles are always a costly endeavor for all parties involved.
Rep. Holding’s RESPECT Act is a modest step to ensure artists and owners of legacy recordings are properly compensated; provides that digital radio companies pay for pre 1972 sound recordings in the same way they do for other sounds recordings; and establishes that no federal or state action can be brought against a service for infringement if the service properly pays for pre-1972 sound recordings.
Rep. Holding is not only helping the American music industry, but protecting the intellectual and copyright property of American citizens, past and present.
By Keith Calder