Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: House panel reexamines music industry

THE LEDE: House Judiciary Committee members will continue their conversation about music licensing with a Wednesday hearing, including testimony from Pandora, SiriusXM, radio broadcasters and singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash.

The hearing — held by the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property — comes as House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) looks to review the entire copyright system, while some subcommittee members work on bills aimed at the music licensing system specifically.

{mosads}Subcommittee ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced at the first music licensing hearing earlier this month that he is working on a comprehensive overhaul bill. At Wednesday’s hearing, Nadler will criticize the music licensing system for being “rife with inconsistent rules and inequities that make no rational sense.”

“Congress should get out of the business of dictating winners and losers, and once and for all, create a level playing field,” Nadler is set to say in his opening statement. “The law should be platform neutral, and all music creators should receive fair market based compensation for their work.”

Many of Wednesday’s witnesses back Nadler’s call for comprehensive reform for the music licensing system. “Copyright law should not discriminate among different types of creative workers in affording them basic rights to compensation for their work,” Cash said in her written testimony.

Cash — along with Recording Industry Association of America CEO Cary Sherman, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers President Paul Williams and others — will call on Congress to require AM/FM radio stations to pay musicians for the songs they play. Under current copyright law, radio stations do not pay musicians to play their songs. Cash and others will also call on Congress to require that cable, satellite and Internet radio services begin paying musicians to play songs that were recorded before 1972 and to change the way that the Copyright Royalty Board determine the rates those services must pay to play music.

Charles Warfield — testifying on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters — will defend AM/FM radio stations, touting their ability to promote music and disseminate public safety information. Warfield will also criticize the rates that Internet radio services — which radio stations are increasingly getting involved with — have to pay to play songs. While “the digital space offers an opportunity to expand the footprint of the public benefits” of radio stations, the current fees that radio stations would have to pay to create Internet radio services “make webcasting cost prohibitive,” he wrote in his testimony, asking that Congress change the law so that Internet radio services pay the same rates to play music as cable and satellite radio services.


Thune and Pai push back on calls for reclassification: Speaking at a Free State Foundation event Wednesday, Senate Commerce ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ajit Pai, one of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) two Republicans, will push back on calls for the FCC to reclassify Internet providers to treat them like the more heavily-regulated phone companies. The calls to reclassify come as the FCC looks to rewrite its net neutrality rules, which kept Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet access before they were struck down by a federal court earlier this year.

Thune will argue that reclassification would make Internet providers more, not less, like a monopoly, according to his prepared remarks. “Since the broadband market is demonstrably not a monopoly, regulating it as a public utility would only make the industry less competitive and less innovative,” he will say. “Or, in other words, make it more like a monopoly.”

Pai will compare reclassification to European net neutrality rules. “Rather than taking a light regulatory touch approach to broadband regulation, the European model treats broadband as a public utility [and] imposes telephone-style regulation,” he will say, according to his prepared remarks, which note that Americans — both generally and in rural areas — have better access to broadband Internet than Europeans. “Small wonder, then, that the European Commission itself has said that ‘Europe is losing the global race to build fast fixed broadband connections,’” he will say.


Privacy groups go to Holder over facial images: More than 30 privacy advocates wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday asking for a thorough audit of the FBI’s facial recognition database. It has been six years since the last assessment, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse wrote, and the FBI’s system has changed in that time.

“The capacity of the FBI to collect and retain information, even on innocent Americans, has grown exponentially,” the groups wrote. “It is essential for the American public to have a complete picture of all the programs and authorities the FBI uses to track our daily lives, and an understanding of how those programs affect our civil rights and civil liberties.” 

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system includes facial recognition tools as well as other techniques to track people. FBI Director James Comey said this month that the agency only collects images of criminals in custody, but the liberties advocates warned it could easily allow for invasions of privacy. “Given the serious and wide ranging scope of NGI we urge the Department to review the goals of the program and ensure that information collection is solely of individuals who are part of the criminal justice system and does not become a tool for surveillance of innocent Americans,” they wrote.


Leahy and Cornyn introduce FOIA update: Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, introduced an update to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Tuesday. The new bill requires agencies adopt a “presumption of openness” when responding to requests under the law and empowers a federal information office to help mediate disputes.

In a statement, Cornyn said that the bill would strengthen the transparency law and “promote greater transparency across the board.” The two senators have previously worked together on three other bills to strengthen FOIA.


Senate panel approves FCC, FTC funding bill: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government approved a funding bill Tuesday that would meet the administration’s requested $375 million for the FCC. “Promoting and maintaining a robust yet adaptable communications network is critical to our daily lives — from communicating during emergencies, to promoting economic growth, to fostering political debate and individual expression,” the subcommittee said of the FCC funding allocation.

As for the Federal Trade Commission, the subcommittee bill would grant the agency $293 million “to detect and eliminate illegal collusion, prevent anticompetitive mergers, combat consumer fraud, fight identity theft and promote consumer privacy.”



The Free State Foundation event with Thune and Pai gets started at 9 a.m.

The House Appropriations Committee will consider a bill Wednesday that cuts funding for the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC starting at 10 a.m.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee marks up two cybersecurity bills at 10 a.m.

At the same time, the House Judiciary Committee is holding its second hearing on music licensing.  

House Energy and Workforce and Homeland Security subcommittees will hold a joint session on students’ data at 11 a.m.

In the evening the Intelligent Transportation Society of America hosts a technology showcase on Capitol Hill.



Members of Congress on Tuesday gave a warm reception to AT&T’s $49 billion proposal to buy DirecTV and suggested regulators should let the deal proceed.  

Lawmakers on Tuesday singled out foreign governments that they said are allowing rampant digital piracy. 

A bipartisan group of 18 House lawmakers began taking rides around Washington in a driverless car on Tuesday to test out the emerging technology. 

Microsoft’s top lawyer is warning that U.S. government surveillance could open the door for other countries to try to spy on data stored by tech companies in the U.S.  

AT&T’s plan to buy DirecTV could strengthen the company’s union, a move that is getting Democratic nods of approval on Capitol Hill.


Please send tips and comments to Kate Tummarello, katet@thehill.com, and Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley@ktummarello@jmhattem

Tags Bob Goodlatte Bob Goodlatte Eric Holder Federal Communications Commission Internet access John Cornyn John Cornyn John Thune Network neutrality Patrick Leahy Patrick Leahy
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