Nadler Announces New Bill for AM-FM Performance Rights, Pre-1972 Royalties

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

April 13 — Federal copyright law would be amended to require traditional terrestrial broadcasters to pay performance royalties to recording artists under a bill introduced April 13 by Reps. Jerrold L. Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

The bill also seeks to create royalty rights in sound recordings made before 1972. Currently, such recordings—which include some of the most successful pop, rock and soul records—are governed by state law, not federal copyright law.

Currently, Pandora Media Inc.—the operator of the Pandora online music streaming service—and Sirius XM Radio Inc.—the parent company of SiriusXM satellite radio—are fighting in court over whether they must pay royalties for use of pre-1972 sound recordings under state law.

The Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015 (bill number unavailable) is the latest in a series of attempts to secure a performance right. Currently, AM and FM radio stations pay royalties when playing a recording only to the composer or publishing company that holds musical composition rights, not to the performers and musicians who made the recording.

In contrast, both composers and recording artists are due royalties for a sale of a copy of a recording.

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).

Musicians, Singers Join Politicians at Event 

Nadler was joined in New York for a press conference announcing introduction of the bill by Blackburn, whose district stretches between the suburbs of Nashville and the suburbs of Memphis, both important locations for the music industry.

At the press conference, Nadler stressed that the bill would not create untenable burdens for the radio industry. He pointed to provisions that would cap annual royalty requirements for small radio stations at $500 and public broadcasters at $100.

The bill would also not require any royalties based on “religious services or incidental uses of music.”

The legislation also seeks to “level the playing field” across different media and technologies, such as satellite and internet radio.

Also speaking at the event in support of the bill were several celebrities, including performers Cyndi Lauper, Martha Reeves, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Elvis Costello, Ronnie Spector, Martha Wash, Marshall Crenshaw, Gloria Gaynor, Nona Hendryx, Cassandra Wilson, Lenny Kaye and Ray Parker Jr. The event was hosted by Theodore E. Kalo, executive director of the Music First Coalition.

Kalo noted past failed attempts to get such legislation passed, even with the approval of the judiciary committees in both houses of Congress. He said that previously, Music First and other parties had thought they had a deal with the National Association of Broadcasters that would have gotten something enacted, but that “the NAB reneged on our deal.”

“This time we're not going to count on deals,” Kalo said. “We're going to count on people telling Congress what to do.”

He also rejected a suggestion that the radio industry as a whole was suffering, noting that much of it is controlled by “big, corporate” chains who, he said, could afford to pay royalties to recording artists.

“That's an old argument,” Kalo said, to the idea that radio is unable to pay royalties. “It's never the right time for them to do the right thing.”

“We would not listen to any argument from any industry that says, ‘we do not want to pay our workers,' period,” Nadler said.

As with previous incarnations of performance royalty legislation, the speakers noted that under international reciprocity rules, the absence of such rights in the U.S. prevents American artists from collecting royalties that have accumulated on their behalf in other countries.


To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at

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