The US Copyright Office Demands That Broadcasters Start Paying Artists…

Speaking to a crowd of people from the creative industries at the World Creators Summit in Washington, DC, the US Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, has confirmed that she’s looking to “provide a full public performance right for sound recordings”.

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In other words, she’s looking to give US artists the right to get paid when their music is played on terrestrial radio – as well as when it’s played at restaurants, clubs, hairdressers and in shops, just like songwriters have for a very long time.  It’s not a new concept; the vast majority of developed countries do.

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Pallante’s announcement can be seen as the result of Pandora’s misguided attempt to get Congress to intervene in its negotiations with the music community in order to lower the rates it had already agreed to.  During the Senate hearing on the issue, the digital radio service declared that the fact that it had to pay over 50 percent of its revenue to record labels and publishers, while terrestrial broadcasters didn’t have to pay labels at all, gave Pandora an unfair disadvantage.

Record producer and musician Jimmy Jam agreed, and suggested that traditional broadcasters should, indeed, move into the modern age and pay artists.

Pallante’s announcement to creators is a sign that Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren’s cunning plan may have backfired.

This is surely not music to Clear Channel’s ears. Has the testimony of a few real-life musicians had more of an effect in Congress than the deep lobbying coffers of the US broadcasting industry – which, incidentally, makes as much from advertising as the entire world’s record industry makes in a year?

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Pallante chose to go with a Rolling Stones quote, to illustrate: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.”

It could have been worse – it could have been “Under My Thumb”…

19 Responses

  1. perturbed

    Westerberg got a parking ticket, and he plea-bargained it down to a murder charge.

    • Adam Smith

      Stunning news! Awesome indeed! I just heard Westergren’s brow krinkle. Maybe Eric Schmidt can airbrush the krinkles out.

      • Eponymous Coward

        Pallante’s announcement is not the result anyone’s “cunning plan.” The Copyright Office has supported the public performance right for at least 9 years, since long before Pallante ever took over there.

        Testimony by her predecessor, from July 2007:

        Testimony by David Carson, July 2004:

        Carson’s testimony points out that the Copyright Office was aruging that broadcasters should pay up in 1961.

        So, unless Westergren’s cunning plan also involve time travel, the OP is probably giving him too much credit.

  2. Serious Question

    …but if the CRB sets rates for performance of sound recordings over terrestrial radio, they will undoubtedly be lower than current webcasting rates. Then Westergrin continues to argue he simply wants parity with terrestrial radio. In the end, artists finally make money off radio airplay but webcasting rates may get even lower if Westergrin’s argument prevails, right?

    • An Indie

      A very serious concern indeed. This is an anonymous coward posting a reply – so take it for what it’s worth – but I promise you that there are independent label & artist representatives working hard to insure that the majors’ zeal for a (proper) terrestrial radio performance right isn’t accomplished at the expense of independents by too drastically discounting webcasting/satellite radio performance royalties.


    In my “perfect world” the artist or the label will be paying radio for privilege to get exposure.
    We have to remember that 78% of discovery of music comes from all sorts of radio! Another 15% comes from those nasty restaurants, bars, clubs and stores – guess what in my “perfect world” those guys also deserve stream of cash from music industry.
    It is overdue to switch to Discovery Moment Monetization.
    It will provide virtual walls to Music Trade, will choke most of the piracy and convert all the ID guys or similar song “suggest guys”
    to new frontier retailers and cash registers of the industry.
    This is the only way to restart and enter profitable future!

    Just look at the airline industry – for years they could not make a penny on airline tickets – finally they are profitable, guess how? They monetize luggage!

    Dear Ms. Maria Pallante,
    Do not listen to your golf playing RIAA and label guys,
    they do not understand their own business. They do not want to sale music. The plan is to extort cash from most productive participants of the game. In the meantime out of desperation and Parker’s muster confusion they are participating in creation of new style Nupsters like Spotify or Deezer.
    Best regards,
    Tune Hunter


        It will be my way in 24 months. This is the only way to market music.

  4. Visitor

    The NAB will sink it before it becomes reality.

  5. hippydog

    Whats funny, is if this ever goes thru, Tim Westergren (years later) will be heralded as the saviour of the music industry..

    “I didnt frack up, I did it on purpose to force them to change things, to make things better for the Artists”

    seriously.. I am willing to bet $20 on it coming true 🙂

  6. perturbed

    if it comes off, it will take years, the broadcasters will be paying additional millions of dollars. Let’s hope they keep Mr Westerberg on their radar but don’t start sending their news divison reporters looking at how his share price is performing and the strength of his business and the artists dissatisfaction with his business model.

  7. Radio & Records Vet

    In 20 yrs none of this will matter. Terrestrial radio won’t even exist in most parts of the US, Europe, or Canada .. or Korea, or Japan or most of the rest of the modern world. IT will all be Internet based.

    • Casey

      I’ve been saying that for years, but few seem to comprehend it. So many artists are willing to spend their resources fighting for something that will soon be irrelevant. That’s the shortsighted world we seem to live in. I would say less than 20 years too. The transition has been picking up speed since the introduction of 4G. The next generation will probably bring high enough caps and capacity to deliver a death blow to broadcast radio’s safe haven, the car. The large corporate debt loads will only accelerate the switch to the internet to lower high operation costs.

      • ibleedinstereo

        I live in the mountains. I we don’t get 4g. We don’t get ANY g. We DO have radio. Just something to think about.

        I have a galaxy s2. I can only pick up the Edge net work (my provider is tmobile, i know already don’t give me greif). The ATT Elivate box and the Jump-thing-whatnot from Verizon are able to almost catch a decent signal, we use them to broadcast live sporting events. They are the ONLY mobile highspeed solution, and not reasonable for most people.

        People are so quick to thow away traditional radio. I keep saying it needs revision it simply has to become something else than what it is.

        • Casey

          A revision for radio would be great, but the FCC is never going to allow that to happen. I’m all for expanding the FM band into VHF and moving the class C & D AM stations to that band. Blowing up HD radio and translators in favor of DRM/AM Stereo and LPFM. Allowing Shortwave stations to broadcast to the domestic audience. Crack down on interference. Force non-commercial FM stations to stay in the non-commerical band. Etc. But I accepted long ago that the FCC wants nothing to do with radio. Selling spectrum makes them more money.

    • ibleedinstereo

      I’m a Radio guy myself, and being in the industry I disagree.

      The radio is the first source of information for many people, and will continue to be so for many a year if not for ever into perpetuity and the history of mankind until such a time as we have telepathic powers.

      My point is there is always going to be a place for radio. It may not be the same format(s) we know now it may be something total different but terrestrial radio will exist on some level if only for it’s functionality and ease of reliably reaching HUGE crowds of people. The internet is great but how many people have an iPad in their earthquake kit? Now raise your hand if you have a radio in your kit.

      And I’m sure you will contest that in the future it will be different and devices will blah blah blah. No disrespect intended in any way here, I just feel that on some functional level there will always be radio.

      First thing you do when you invade a country? Take over the radio stations.

      • Casey

        Gone are the days were people used radio for emergencies. The cell phone has become the new emergency kit for many people. It has replaced the radio, flashlight, and landline. A lot of people who were affected by Sandy admitted to not even having a working flashlight or portable radio in their entire house. I personally can’t imagine being so unprepared that I would have to walk to a drug store to use their generator power to charge my phone, but people did exactly that. People don’t know any better anymore. They care only about what is going on now. To think we have gone from having completely batteryless emergency crystal radios to nothing at all is a shocking reality. Or to an emergency crank radio which may end up being nothing at all if you let the internal battery fail.

        Of all the emergencies I have been through, the only radio that has proven useful is a WX radio. Traditional radio either broadcast their syndicated programming from another state or went offline.