Technology

Payday for musicians, writers on tap?

The nation’s copyright record-keepers want to shake up the way that musicians get paid for their songs.

In a 240-page report on Thursday, the U.S. Copyright Office said that current law is stuck in the 20th century and issued a series of prescriptions to radically overhaul the way songwriters and musicians license their works.

{mosads}“From a copyright perspective, we are trying to deliver bits and bytes through a Victrola,” said the office, which is an arm of the Library of Commerce. 

Among a series of changes called for in its report, the Copyright Office suggested that performers of songs get paid when their tunes are played on broadcast radio, that federal law be extended to cover sound recordings prior to 1972 and that rate standards be equalized for all satellite radio and subscriptions services. All those moves would be a break from current law.

While the report in and of itself will have no effect on current law, it will guide legislators in the House who have embarked on an ambitious review of U.S. copyright law.

It’s also likely to inspire a flurry of lobbying from well-heeled corners of K Street such as the National Association of Broadcasters, which has long resisted calls to expand copyright licensing schemes for music.

In a statement, the trade group said the recommendations looked “only through the lens of copyright owners,” and maintained that free radio spins are valuable promotions for musicians.

Musicians’ groups were more supportive.

The head of the Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammy Awards, said that it was “appropriate” that the report came out just days before the annual awards ceremony on Sunday.

“Changes to our laws are needed to ensure that future music creators will be able to reach new heights in musical excellence,” CEO Neil Portnow said in a statement.  

Tags Copyright Intellectual property law National Association of Broadcasters United States Copyright Office
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