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Music Groups Applaud Watt on Performance Rights

However North Carolina Democrat may not be around long enough to secure passage

Music industry groups applauded Rep. Mel Watt’s plans to introduce a bill to require radio stations to pay performance royalties.

MusicFirst Executive Director Ted Kalo said “AM/FM radio stands alone among all forms of radio in refusing to pay music creators for airing their performances. The lack of this right, almost universally recognized in other countries, also robs Americans of the royalties they have earned for the use of their works overseas.”

MusicFirst is backed by several record labels.

SoundExchange, which collects the royalty fees and distributes them to artists, also praised Watt, calling him a champion for musicians’ rights.

Radio does pay royalties on recorded music to songwriters and publishers, and says the PR it provides to new artists is invaluable.

NAB says adding another royalty fee to stations would be like paying twice and instead favors broadcasters working out private, individual deals with the labels.

Internet audio services and satellite radio are required to pay royalties to artists.

The North Carolina Democrat told colleagues during a House Judiciary hearing on copyrights that while the new bill doesn’t go as far has his 2009 bill, the new one will establish that musicians have public performance rights to their work. “It would recognize a performance right so [broadcasters] would have to sit down with artists and either work out a regime on their own or be subject to litigation about the value of what they’re playing,” Watt told The Hill.

He intends to introduce the bill next week before lawmakers leave Washington for the August recess.

However, it’s unclear if Watt will be around to ensure passage of any legislation. Earlier in the year, President Obama nominated Watt to be the next director of the Housing Finance Agency and he awaits full Senate confirmation.