Nadler drafting music copyright overhaul bill

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) is working on a bill that would overhaul the music licensing system.

During a Tuesday hearing on music licensing held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Nadler said he is working on a bipartisan and comprehensive bill to address inequalities in current copyright law.

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Nadler said he is drafting “one unified bill, bringing fairness and efficiency to our music licensing system and ensuring that no particular business enjoys a special advantage against new and innovative technologies.”

He criticized the patchwork legal system that Congress created to determine compensation for music works.

He pointed to discrepancies in how the system treats Internet radio services, cable and satellite radio companies, traditional AM/FM radio stations and songs that were recorded before 1972. 

He also cited consent decrees from the Department of Justice that keep music licensing organizations from making the case for higher royalty rates for songwriters and music publishers to rate-setting regulators.

“The current system is marred by inconsistent rules that place new technologies at a disadvantage against their competitors, and inequities that deny fair compensation to music creators,” Nadler said.

The forthcoming bill from Nadler — who is the ranking member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property — will be the third bill aimed at changing the current system for music licensing.

Earlier this year, Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced the Songwriter Equity Act, which would allow music licensing organizations to seek higher royalties for songwriters and music publishers.

More recently, Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) and House Judiciary ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced a bill that would require digital, cable and satellite radio stations to pay musicians to play songs that were recorded before 1972, which are currently played without compensating the artists.

Nadler said he supports both of these measures but wants comprehensive reform.

“There have been several proposals to address individual inequities in the music landscape, some of which … I support,” he said.

“But if we are to rationalize the law and level the playing field, we must take a comprehensive approach.”

Nadler said he is “lining up cosponsors right now” and hopes to introduce the bill “sometime in the next few weeks.”

As for whether he’s talked with committee and subcommittee leadership about bringing the bill up for consideration once it’s introduced, he said, “We’re having conversations.”

According to a House Judiciary aide, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will make not any decisions about considering specific legislation until his sweeping review of current copyright law is complete.

That review first kicked off last year and will continue with a second hearing on music licensing on June 25.

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