OVERNIGHT TECH: Lawmakers to unveil bill for pre-1972 recordings

THE LEDE: Reps. George Holding (R-N.C.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) are set to introduce a bill Thursday that would require Internet radio services like Pandora and Sirius XM to pay to play songs that were recorded before 1972.

Currently, Internet radio services pay performance royalty fees — set by the Copyright Royalty Board — to play songs except for those recorded before 1972, when federal law changed to provide copyright protections for song recordings. Songs recorded before 1972 are subject to a patchwork of state copyright protections. The bill from Holding and Conyers — the Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures, or RESPECT, Act — would require Internet radio services to pay federal performance royalty fees for the older recordings.

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The call for performance royalty fees for pre-1972 recordings is supported by industry groups and musicians, some of whom — including Martha Reeves, Dickey Betts and Al Jardine — are set to appear at the bill’s unveiling Thursday.

According to one copyright lobbyist, the bill has the chance to do well in Congress, especially as the House Judiciary Committee — of which Conyers is the ranking member — is in the middle of its months-long review of copyright law. “This issue certainly constitutes some of the ‘low-hanging fruit’ that Congress will address when it turns its attention from conducting copyright review hearings to actually legislating,” the lobbyist said.

But the bill also has early critics: The Digital Media Association — which includes Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and YouTube — has come out against the bill, calling it “is a one-sided attempt to establish select protections that only help certain parties — most of all, big record companies.”

In a statement, the group’s General Counsel, Gregory Barnes, said that the music industry should be fighting for full federalization of pre-1972 works, rather than individual rights. The RESPECT Act “is a direct reflection of everything that’s wrong with existing copyright law,” Barnes said. “Namely that it is often developed in ‘piece meal’ fashion that caters to a unique set of special interests while not representing the needs of the larger community — in this case libraries, archives, museums, music service providers and consumers — as a whole.”

Supporters of the RESPECT Act say federalizing works recorded before 1972 is a long-term and complex project, while lawmakers can act in the near-term to ensure that artists get paid for their older works.

SoftBank CEO continues campaign to buy T-Mobile: SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son spoke at the Re/code conference Wednesday, continuing to make the case for why SoftBank’s Sprint should be allowed to buy T-Mobile. In the past, Son has said that he wants to buy another wireless company to take on industry giants AT&T and Verizon. Those companies have too much power, resulting in less innovation in the market for Internet access, he has said.

On Wednesday, Son compared U.S. Internet access with air quality in China. “People in Bejing don’t notice” how poor the quality of air is, he said. “Every morning, it’s the same air.” Outsiders, including Son, notice the different quality of Internet access as compared to their home countries, he continued. “Oh my god, how can Americans live like this,” he asked.

Pritzker names new FirstNet head: Sue Swenson will take over as head of the board overseeing the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced on Wednesday. She will take over from Sam Ginn, who has led the board since its beginning. Swenson has been a member of the board since August, 2012, and was named vice chairwoman last December. In a statement, Pritzker said that she “ brings to this start up effort seasoned management experience in the telecommunications field to carry out this important mission.”

Thune, FCC to take Main Street stroll: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and the two Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission are planning to take a walk through downtown Sioux Falls, S.D., on Thursday to talk about the benefits of the Internet. The crawl is being organized by the Internet Association and should also feature representatives from AOL and Facebook, two of the trade group’s member companies.

A spokesperson with the Web trade group said that the event will highlight the ways that the Internet can create jobs and lead to innovation across the country, even small businesses in South Dakota.  

TechAmerica to honor McCaul: The TechAmerica Foundation will crown House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) with its legislator of the year award next month. McCaul founded the Hi-Tech Caucus shortly after he was elected to Congress nearly a decade ago, and TechAmerica noted his support for both research and development tax credits as well as science and technology education. The awards dinner will be held in the Ronald Reagan Building on June 12. 

School Wi-Fi could cost $800 million per year: President Obama’s plans to connect 99 percent of all American students to the Internet by 2018 could cost $800 million a year, according to a new survey from two education organizations. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and EducationSuperHighway found that the cost to connect each classroom to the Web through Wi-Fi and LAN systems – and not just the schools as a whole – would rapidly exceed current planning.

“Our survey revealed an unfortunate, but very real picture,” CoSN chief executive Keith Krueger said in a statement. He added that the data would be integral to understanding what would be needed to truly connect the nation’s schools to the Internet. The analysis was handed over to the FCC on Wednesday to support the commission’s ongoing plans to update its school broadband initiative, known as E-rate.

 

ON TAP:

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will appear before the House Judiciary Committee at 10:30.

At noon, Reps. Conyers and Holding are formally introducing their bill on music copyrights. They will be joined by a slew of musicians such as Martha Reeves, from Martha and the Vandellas, the Beach Boys’ Al Jardine, Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave and the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn.

At 3 p.m., TechAmerica is releasing a report on how government agencies can transfer to cloud-based technologies on Capitol Hill. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The Senate needs to pass a major cybersecurity bill by August, or else the effort could be lost for the year, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) warned on Wednesday.

The Chamber of Commerce is encouraging lawmakers to let the Commerce Department go forward with its controversial plans to relinquish its oversight role of technical Internet functions.

A bipartisan duo of House lawmakers has questions for eBay about its recent data breach.

Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist wants House lawmakers to permanently ban any tax on companies providing Internet service.

 

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