Proposed legislation is a step in the right direction, but doesn't go far enough.
Today, Representatives George Holding (R-NC) and John Conyers (D-MI), will introduce the RESPECT Act, a bill meant to create a limited performance right for the use of sound recordings by satellite and Internet radio companies.
Under current law, there is no federal copyright for recordings made before February 15, 1972. Where rights exist at all, these recordings are subject to a patchwork of highly variable state laws and statutes. The lack of federal protection leaves pre-’72 recording artists without a reliable means of compensation and services vulnerable to legal action, as evidenced by recording industry lawsuits against Sirius/XM and Pandora.
The following statement is attributed to Casey Rae, VP of Policy and Education for Future of Music Coalition (FMC), a national non-profit research, education and advocacy organization for musicians:
“The bigger labels have pushed to keep recordings from older artists out of the scope of federal copyright for reasons that defy logic. Maybe they want big damages and to set new legal precedent. Maybe they don’t want the hassle of identifying recordings that they actually own, because then they’d have to pay other artist royalties. Maybe they want to continue to pretend that creators aren’t eligible to reclaim their copyrights under federal law.
“This stopgap bill is a step in the right direction. But with trade industry groups like the RIAA stating on record that we need to simplify current copyright law, adding scaffolding to an already unwieldy structure may not be the best way to ensure artist compensation across the board.
“Make no mistake about it: recording artists should be paid for the use of their work. And the best way to do this is for Congress to follow the recommendations of the United States Copyright Office and federalize pre-’72 copyrights.”