Performance Royalties and the Push for “The Next Great Copyright Act”


Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, head of the United States Copyright Office, stated in a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing this week that Congress should consider “the next great copyright act, which will need to be more forward thinking and flexible than before…. if one needs an army of lawyers to understand the basic precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.” Ms. Pallante specifically highlighted performance rights, declaring, “Congress already has had more than a decade of debate on the public performance right for sound recordings, and has given serious consideration to improving the way in which musical works are licensed in the marketplace. These issues are ripe for resolution.” 

Notably, Ms. Pallante in the past has included support for a performance tax on broadcasters as one of her agency’s priorities. In a 2011 report, she noted with concern that “traditional broadcasters remain free to transmit public performances of sound recordings over the air without the permission of the copyright owners and without making any royalty payments.”

NRB will continue to vigorously oppose a performance fee for broadcasters. Indeed, earlier this month the NRB Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution finding, “The radio broadcasting industry has had a long, and mutually beneficial relationship with the music recording industry; further, those radio stations which have played music have… substantially benefited performers and music companies by airing and promoting their music.” The NRB Board consequently urged “Congress to resist any attempt to create a ‘music performance right’ that would impose a new copyright fee on radio stations that play over-the-air music,” as well as a consistent, fair, and non-burdensome webcasting royalty regime.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations

Published: March 22, 2013