Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New Copyright Proposal Addresses Performance Rights

According to the BNA, Rep. Melvin L. Watt (D-NC) introduced the Free Market Royalty Act (H.R. 3219) on September 30, 2013.  See “Rep. Melvin Watt Introduces Bill to Create Performance Right for Recording Artists,” BNA’s Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal – Daily Update, No. 191 (Oct. 2, 2013).  Rep. Watt stated that this bill provides “a ‘performance right’ that will obligate AM/FM radio stations to compensate performers for the use of their music just as cable, satellite and internet radio are obligated to do.”  Press Release, “Congressman Watt's Statement on the Introduction of H.R. 3219, the Free Market Royalty Act,” October 1, 2013.  (Note that the index of Rep. Watt’s press releases indicates that this was issued on October 1.  The release itself shows no date. indicates it was introduced on September 30, and has already been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.)

Rep. Watt explains that under current law, when an AM or FM station plays a song, the composer and the publisher both receive royalties and the performer does not.  Press Release.  This bill proposes to level that playing field, and put compensation for music broadcasting on par with international counterparts.  Id.

As of this writing, there are no co-sponsors to the bill.  The text of the bill has not been received by the Library of Congress to post on its website, which states instead:

“As of 10/02/2013 text has not been received for H.R.3219 - To amend title 17, United States Code, to provide copyright owners in sounds recordings with the exclusive right to negotiate in the marketplace the performance of their works to the public by means of an audio transmission, and for other purposes.

“Bills are generally sent to the Library of Congress from GPO, the Government Printing Office, a day or two after they are introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed.”

Undoubtedly, this lack of information is the result of the government shutdown, which took effect on October 1, 2013 at 12:01am.  (The Copyright Office has a notice on its site explaining that the site is down because of the government’s shutdown, and will not be available again until the office reopens.)  Current status, list of co-sponsors and any applicable text of the bill can be found here once it is made available by the Library of Congress.