Primer on Terrestrial Radio’s Performance Royalty History by Future of Music

Although the composers and songwriters receive public performance royalties from broadcast (terrestrial) radio, most often through collection societies like ASCAP & BMI, they are exempt from paying the performers. So, with an often used example of the song “I Will Always Love You” performed by Whitney Houston, a broadcast radio station plays the song, Dolly Parton gets paid for writing it but Whitney Houston’s performance goes uncompensated.

A great primer on this subject here on the Future of Music website, here.

“At least 75 nations, including most European Union member states, do have a performance right. This means that foreign broadcasters pay royalties to songwriters/composers and performers. But since there is no reciprocal right in the US, foreign performance rights societies cannot distribute these royalties to American performers.” – Future of Music



2nd Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing: Testimony from Rosanne Cash, RIAA, SoundExchange, ASCAP, etc.

On June 25th, the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet had a second round of testimony at the Hearing: Music Licensing Under Title 17. Among those testifying were representatives from Labels, Collection Agencies, Internet Radio and most important Artists.

This hearing brought testimony regarding the consent decrees ASCAP & BMI operate under, terrestrial radio’s current exemption from paying public performance royalties, and the lack of federal protection for pre-1974 recorded copyrights. For a summary of each witness’s testimony read this Digital Music News article, “Pandora, SoundExchange, ASCAP, RIAA, Sirius to Testify Before Congress.”

Paul Williams — President and Chairman of the Board
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

“… how songwriters are compensated for our work – don’t reflect the way people listen to music today. Indeed, they are stuck in the distant past. And it’s threatening the very future of American music.” — ASCAP Press Release

Rosanne Cash — Singer, Songwriter, Author and Performer
On Behalf of the Americana Music Association (AMA)

There are various legal obstacles that currently hinder creative people in the music business from making a fair living from their work. (An example is) The lack of a public performance right for terrestrial radio play for sound recording artists. The United States is among a small number of countries that lack a broad sound recording performance right for artists. The others are China, North Korea and Iran. That list speaks for itself.” — American Songwriter

The last general review and revision of US Copyright Law took place in the early 1970’s and culminated with the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act. Now the goal is to modernize the law to address the needs of the digital age, you can find more information in this Billboard article “Copyright Office Opens Up For Comments Ahead of Overhaul.”

What is the RESPECT Act?

The RESPECT Act is an anagram for Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures Act. Legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and George Holding (R-N.C.) that would require digital radio services such as Sirius and Pandora to pay royalties to classic artists whose music was recorded before 1972.

Read more in this Huffington Post Article “Music Legends Push Respect Act For Unpaid Digital Royalties”