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Lawmakers Call For Performance Rights Act Negotiations

By Ed Christman, N.Y.

With both the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee now having approved the Performance Rights Act, the chairman of both committees – respectively Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) – with a bipartisan group of committee members are asking key stakeholders in the legislation to negotiate a resolution.

In a letter to musicFirst Coalition executive director Jennifer Bendall; National Assn. of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith; the National Assn. of Broadcasters chairman of joint radio and television board Steve Newberry; the two chairman and other key members of both committees requested that the key stakeholder “enter into negotiations before this legislation is considered on the floor of either House. The negotiated resolution will be considered by Congress as it takes up passage of this Act.”

They further requested that negotiations begin on Nov. 17 and continue through Dec. 1. “The negotiations will be led by members and staff of the Judiciary Committees, taking into consideration issues important to both sides, the letter stated. “We will request a recommendation from Committee Members and staff resulting from the negotiations.”

The musicFirst coalition is in favor of the legislation, which if passed, would for the first time have terrestrial radio make royalty payments to master copyright owners and the performers on the masters, something that occurs in most other countries around the world and also here in the U.S. For music played on satellite and internet radio. The NAB opposes the legislation, calling it a radio tax.

The House committee approved their version of the legislation on May 14 while the Senate approved their version on Oct. 15.

“musicFIRST will participate in the discussions hosted by members and staff of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees,” said Jennifer Bendall in an e-mailed statement. “We have always said we are ready to sit down with NAB and others in the music radio business to create a performance right that is fair to artists, musicians and rights holders and fair to radio.”

Commenting on today’s letter, NAB Executive VP Dennis Wharton issued the following statement: “NAB is of course willing to talk with members of Congress on this issue and any issue that could negatively impact the ability of free and local hometown radio stations to serve our listeners. We would hope that any discussions would also include the nearly 300 members of Congress who oppose the RIAA-backed bill.”

While the music industry has worked hard in getting the Performance Rights Act off the ground, the NAB induced congressional members to introduce the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes what the NAB calls a performance tax. So far, 252 House lawmakers and 27 U.S. Senators have signed the resolution, according to the NAB.