Music industry: Pass Performance Rights Act

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property has marked up the bill and Steve Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, said he hopes the Senate will take a look at the legislation soon.

Broadcasters have said imposing a royalty law would put some stations out of business and that terrestrial broadcasters play an important role in promoting new music.

Marks, speaking on a panel at the Future of Music Coalition’s annual policy summit Monday, said “the promotion argument doesn’t work in reality.”

“We’re dealing with a very tough group that has a lot of lobbying power and resources and multiple constituents in every members’ district,” Marks said of the broadcasting industry. “That’s a very difficult road to go down and be successful.”

The National Association of Broadcasters recently announced that Gordon Smith, former Republican congressman from Oregon, as its new president.

“It would be great if broadcasters would sit down and talk to us about this,” Marks said. “We’re hoping the change in leadership there will help in that regard.”

Tanya Sandros, deputy general counsel for the U.S. Copyright Office, said laws that protect the interests of music creators are essential, and that she is confident that Congress “is looking very seriously” at the Performance Rights Act, which she called “a huge step forward.”

“It doesn’t make sense anymore for broadcasters to get a free pass. They have competition now,” Sandros said. “I think there’s much more understanding from Congress. They need to hear who’s affected.”

Peter Jenner, president emeritus of the International Music Managers’ Forum, said he thinks the music industry is heading in the direction of compulsory licensing to deal with the legal issues around file sharing, the largest online music distribution method these days.

In that scenario, music copyright holders could not sue infringers. Instead, the government may get some sort of payment from listeners or place a tax on file-sharing software or Internet access itself.

Marks said internet service providers should partner with firms that have new models for distributing music, such as Rhapsody, to help those new models scale and reach more people. Johanna Shelton, senior policy counsel for Google, said music distributors would be better off negotiating partnerships with applications, not broadband providers.

“Working with the (internet service providers) is backward,” Shelton said. “You want to work in the application layer….That way they can monetize it and share revenue” with the copyright holders.