Smokey Robinson says the latest push in Congress for copyright law reform isn’t just about music, “it’s about lives.”
“My message is simple,” the 78-year-old music legend told lawmakers at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, “Musicians who recorded before Feb. 15, 1972, deserve to be compensated the same way as those who recorded after that date.”
Robinson was one of several witnesses testifying before senators in support of the Music Modernization Act. The bipartisan legislation, which passed last month in the House, would update music licensing and copyright law and reform the way royalties are collected.
“I know a lot of musicians and producers and writers who have fallen on hard times and who could really use that money,” the “Second That Emotion” and “My Girl” singer said. “It’s a livelihood thing.”
A “loophole,” Robinson said, denies music copyright holders of recordings made before 1972 the same federal protections as those afforded to copyright holders of songs released after.
“It would be like if you went to the grocery store or the supermarket and the owner was in there and you said, ‘OK, I’m going to get groceries from you for the next 10 years, but I’m not going to pay you,’” Robinson said. “It’s the same thing.”
The legislation, Robinson said, is “designed to fix the quirk in the law that created this loophole.”
“The records of the '50s and '60s aren’t called classics because of their age, they’re called classics because of their greatness,” Robinson said. “They still resonate today. They define the American sound.”
Robinson wasn’t the only famous face at Tuesday’s hearing. Mary Wilson, one of the founding members of The Supremes, waved and even did a classic “Stop! In the Name of Love” hand motion as Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California MORE (D-Calif.) mentioned she was in the audience, along with singers Darlene Love and Dionne Warwick.
Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisKamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech Biden's safe-space CNN town hall attracts small audience, as poll numbers plummet I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 MORE (D-Calif.) couldn’t resist some Robinson-related word play as she introduced the Grammy winner, who she called her “friend,” at the hearing.
“I will ask that our colleagues vote in favor of this bill and bring music creation into the 21st century,” Harris said.
She quickly added with a laugh, “If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to ask our colleagues second that emotion.”