If you have loved the webcasting royalty wars and threats to Internet radio -- stay tuned! It appears that once again the recording industry is gearing up to lobby Congress to expand public performance rights to regular (terresterial) radio.
See Hollywood Reporter, May 9, 2007.
For long and complicated reasons, sound recordings do not have public performance rights. When radio stations pay royalties for playing records on the air, the blanket annual royalties they pay to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC go to the composer of the musical composition performed on the recording but not to the record company or performers. Over the years, the recording industry has lobbied to provide peformance rights for sound recordings.
In 1995 and then again in 1998 the recording industry was successful in getting Congress to provide provide performance rights for sound recordings when that recording is transmitted via digital means. The result was an amendment to Section 106 which added a new subsection (6) to the Act. Then the fun began with disputes over royalties for webcasting and including sound recordings on websites.
Now that the recording industry is receiving performance royalties for digital transmissions of their recordings paid to Sound Exchange, one might think they would be satisfied -- not so apparently.
Both record labels and artist groups now want performance rights for sound recordings played over terrestrial radio. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is leading the charge along with some other associations and SoundExchange.
Heading the opposition is likely to be the National Association of Broadcasters.
Mike Madison discussed this in his blog a couple of days ago. See Madisonian.net. Mike raises some interesting philosophical questions to which I am adding some additional ones.
1. If public performance rights are afforded to copyright holders, why should sound recordings be excluded generally? In other words, why award rights only for digital transmission of these recordings?
2. Is the major objection really that the public has come to expect free terresterial radio? Somehow radio stations have been able to pay royalties to the composer for years and years.
3. Are the real objections based on how high the royalties are likely to be based on the webcasting royalties? It is estimated that many college radio stations and other small broadcast entities will not be able to afford performance royalties for webcasting and thus will not webcast at all. If the same is true for terresterial radio, will stations simply disappear?
4. Don't record companies earn enough money from sales of their works both in CD and as downloads and in going after P2P file sharers?
5. Will television stations be the next target? They also pay annual ASCAP, BMI and SESAC royalties to the composer.
6. Because other countries provide public performance rights for sound recordings generally, does it mean that the United States should do so?
7. Should there not be some focus in this debate on what is good for the public?
Educational institutions will be affected by this issue through the college-run radio stations, Stay tuned!