Rep. John Conyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee brought the Performance Rights Act (HR 848) up for markup this morning.
HR 848 created no small amount of disagreement among radio broadcasters, minority broadcasters, trade unions and civil rights groups. However, a group of minority artists, including Duke Fakir of the Four Tops, Dionne Farris and Jon Secada, recently sent a letter indicating support for Rep. Conyers and this legislation. The letters stated in part:
As minority artists, we support a strong and vibrant local radio industry. We know that minority broadcasters play a vital role in our communities. And we support efforts to create accommodations in the legislation for small, minority-owned stations. But the creation of a fair performance right cannot be delayed further. We have already waited far too long. “Not now” is not an acceptable answer.
To address the concerns of minority broadcasters, Conyers offered the following amendments at today’s markup:
Affordable payment for small, rural, nonprofit, minority, religious and educational broadcasters
· Any station that makes less than $100,000 annually will pay only $500 annually for unlimited use of music
· Any station that makes less than $500,000 but more than $100,000 annually will pay only $2500 (half of the amount in introduced bill) annually for unlimited use of music
· Any station that makes less than $1,250,000 but more than $500,000 annually will pay only $5000 (the amount in introduced bill) annually for unlimited use of music
Relief for current economic situation
· No payment for 2 years by any station that makes less than $5,000,000 annually
· No payment for 1 year by any station that makes more than $5,000,000 annually
Parity for all radio services
· Establishes a “placeholder” standard to determine a fair rate for all radio services that will encourage negotiations between the stakeholders
Cannot hurt local communities
· Assures that this legislation cannot affect broadcasters public interest obligations to serve the local community
Assures consideration of relevant evidence
· Evidence relevant to small, noncommercial, minority, and religious broadcasters and religious and minority royalty recipients must be considered by the Copyright Royalty Judges
Other minority and civil rights groups that sent letters expressing support for the act included the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, Rhythm and Blues Foundation and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute.
The executive director of the musicFIRST Coalition, Jennifer Bendall, supported the committee’s decision:
“We applaud Chairman Conyers and Committee members for their work on the Performance Rights Act and for supporting artists, musicians and rights holders in their fight for fair compensation when their music is used by AM and FM radio stations.
The Performance Rights Act will bring fairness to artists, musicians and rights holders and one that’s fair to radio and its counterparts. It also includes accommodations for small and minority-owned broadcasters. musicFIRST looks forward to the next chapter and to Congress to ensure that U.S. artists and musicians receive the performance right they deserve.”
Now that HR 848 has cleared the committee, it will be brought in front of the entire House for debate and vote.