Don’t let laws stand in way of fair pay for songwriters

Recently, The Hill ran a piece by David Israelite, the head of the National Music Publishers Association, where he outlined the problems that songwriters face because — even though artists and their fans live in a digital world — their work product is regulated by consent decrees written more than 70 years ago (“Stop shortchanging songwriters,” March 25). He points out that rules written for 45s and AM radio make it impossible for songwriters to earn a fair market wage from the music services of the online and mobile marketplace. Those same views have been expressed by icons from Burt Bacharach to Steven Tyler to Dr. Dre — artists who have “made it” but who appreciate how the outdated decrees hobble the next generation of artists.

A few days later, the paper gave Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America equal time (“Let the music play,” March 31). His analysis highlights the limits of working from a think tank in Washington, moving from issue to issue to issue rather than living every day immersed in a particular field. Mr. Cooper’s view from 16th and I Street doesn’t square with what I hear from Georgia’s nearly 50,000 songwriters, musicians, artists and producers and others in the music community. The realty of the music marketplace is that the consent decrees worked when consumers were buying physical albums and CDs, but the antiquated rules aren’t nimble enough to accommodate music that is streamed from the cloud to anyone with a laptop or mobile device.

The licensing of music is a very complicated subject with a great many stakeholders. The bottom line for me is that businesses that use music should pay a fair market rate to the artists and innovators who create the songs that entertain their customers. Today, those rates are set by courts and statutes often disassociated from a song’s real value. Last month I introduced H.R. 4079, the Songwriter Equity Act, to level the playing field and allow songwriters to receive fair and just compensation when businesses use their music.

Laws and regulations should never stand in the way of an innovator getting honest pay for honest work. There are systems in place that enable venues from churches and stadiums to radio stations and restaurants to pay license fees that then get distributed to songwriters. Those systems are overseen by performing rights organizations hamstrung by the longest existing consent decrees to which the Justice Department is a party. It is high time for DOJ to thoroughly review those 70-year-old rules. The songwriters and rights owners that depend on royalties to support their families deserve no less. 

Gainesville, Ga.

Review eligibility for drug discount program

From Stephanie Silverman, Alliance for Integrity and Reform of 340B:

In trying to refute compelling data in AIR340B’s recent study that shows disappointingly low charity care levels in most 340B hospitals, Ted Slafsky of the Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access has tried to change the topic (“More of the same from Big Pharma,” April 1). He says their hospitals provide lots of “uncompensated care,” but, to be clear, our study was about charity care — taking care of indigent and uninsured patients — and that’s not what “uncompensated care” is.

Hospitals report their charity care numbers to Medicare, which is why the study used it to demonstrate that fully a quarter of 340B hospitals provide charity care equaling 1 percent or less of their patient costs. The findings can’t help but prompt questions as to whether these hospitals are true safety nets. 

Contrary to Mr. Slafsky’s accusation that our effort to reform and strengthen 340B is “big pharma’s latest attack,” AIR340B, which includes concerned patient advocacy groups, clinical care providers and biopharmaceutical innovators, wants the program to remain sustainable. Critical to sustainability, however, is ensuring that the 340B program truly benefits uninsured, vulnerable patients. 

Some 340B hospitals are meeting this need, but it’s also clear that many 340B hospitals currently qualify for the program even though they do not serve significant numbers of vulnerable and uninsured patients. As such, it’s time for Congress to revisit the program’s disproportionate share hospitals eligibility criteria because we can all agree that 340B needs to remain viable for vulnerable patients who need it most. Mudslinging doesn’t change the facts or bring us closer to a solution that benefits the patients 340B was meant to help. 

Washington, D.C.

President Limbaugh?

From Mark R. Heaton: 

If you view President Obama’s expanding powers as simply a necessary evil, then think about what could happen after the 2016 elections. Imagine, for example, all of Obama’s new powers and privileges being passed along to ... President Rush Limbaugh.

Imagine a President Limbaugh sending in government agents to monitor the people who write the news you read and listen to every day (just like Obama’s FCC).

Imagine a President Limbaugh looking through your emails, texts, and cellphone records to determine whether you and your friends seem suspicious (just like Obama’s NSA).

Imagine a President Limbaugh sending IRS agents to your door to intimidate and prevent you (and your “suspicious” friends) from speaking out or campaigning against him (just like Obama’s IRS).

Imagine a President Limbaugh telling you what he will allow your doctors to treat (or not treat) for you and your family’s healthcare (just like ObamaCare).

Imagine a President Limbaugh. Then remember that the Constitution does not exist to protect you from people who agree with you. It exists to protect you from people who don’t. 

Broken Arrow, Okla.