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NRB Music License Committees Submit Comments to U.S. Copyright Office on Proposed Licensing Study

NRBMLC logoThe NRB Music License Committees – NRBMLC and NRBNMLC – have submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in response to the office’s request for public input on the initiation of a study to evaluate the effectiveness of existing methods of licensing music.

Congress is currently conducting a review of the U.S. Copyright Act to evaluate potential revisions of the law in light of technological and other developments that impact the creation, dissemination, and use of copyrighted works. According to its Notice of Inquiry, the Copyright Office plans to use the information it has gathered to report to Congress.

“While the Copyright Act reflects many sound and enduring principles, and has enabled the internet to flourish, Congress could not have foreseen all of today’s technologies and the myriad ways consumers and others engage with creative works in the digital environment,” noted Jacqueline C. Charlesworth, General Counsel and Associate at the Register of Copyrights. “Perhaps nowhere has the landscape been as significantly altered as in the realm of music.”

Before the May 23 deadline, more than 80 sets of comments were filed by various entities, suggesting that the topic of music licensing is gaining widespread attention as Congress undertakes a review of the U.S. Copyright Act, which was last revised in 1976 and amended in 1998. 

In its 28-page filing, submitted by NRBMLC Counsel Bruce G. Joseph of Wiley Rein LLP, the NRB committees opened by reminding the Copyright Office that the U.S. Constitution specifies that the power extended to Congress to enact copyright laws exists to promote the public interest. 

Moreover, the committees pointed out that “the Supreme Court consistently has emphasized that the ultimate goal of copyright is to serve the public interest, not the author’s private interest.”

“Prior Congresses, presumably with encouragement from the Copyright Office, and under intense pressure from the entertainment lobby, seem to have turned the Constitutional mandate on its head by passing copyright extension acts every 20 years,” commented NRBMLC Executive Director Russ Hauth.

“In a recent frenzy of activity, it appears that the music industry has committed to solidarity like never before in order to pass new legislation and expand copyright laws. At this point, the Copyright Office appears willing to help them,” he added.

In their comments, NRB’s committees made the following suggestions to the Copyright Office, among others:

  • Any analysis of music licensing issues must be conducted in light of the public interest purpose of copyright law, with an eye toward maximizing the benefit to the public;
  • The market for music performance rights is not competitive, is adversely affected by competition-destroying collectives and major publishers that abuse their extensive market power, and, as a result, must effectively be regulated;
  • There is no justification for the creation of a sound recording performance right applicable to over-the-air radio broadcasts; and
  • It is essential to fix the sound recording performance right by, among other things, (i) changing the applicable statutory license fee standard to one that recognizes the public interest and forecloses adoption of supracompetitive fees, (ii) exempting radio station transmissions within their local service area, (iii) harmonizing the statutory license conditions with longstanding radio broadcasting practices, (iv) streamlining burdensome notice and recordkeeping obligations, and (v) reforming the rate-setting process.

Formed in 1985, the NRBMLC is a standing committee of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). The NRBNMLC was birthed out of the NRBMLC in 2002 shortly after sound recording performance rights became a huge threat to noncommercial streaming and webcasting. The NRBMLC and NRBNMLC represent approximately 900 full-power commercial and noncommercial AM and FM radio stations in their musical work and sound recording licensing dealings.

Published: June 5 , 2014

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