Performance Rights Heats Up

The performance rights issue, or as NAB calls it, a “performance tax,” is getting more attention in advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue scheduled for next week.
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The performance rights issue, or as NAB calls it, a “performance tax,” is getting more attention in advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue scheduled for next week.

NAB President/CEO David K. Rehr said in a notice to members this week the trade group anticipates Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., will introduce a bill calling for radio stations to pay the record labels for performance rights. Radio has traditionally been exempt from the fees in recognition of the value of airplay to new artists.

Berman and the Recording Industry Association of America and their allies have worked for months on such a bill, states Rehr. “They have spoken with members of Congress to co-sponsor this legislation and will attempt to create momentum for this bill by utilizing the power of the press and leveraging their rhetoric.”

There may be a Senate co-sponsor so a companion measure is introduced in that chamber, states Rehr, who adds “Just as our opposition has created news in the general press and in industry publications, their announcement will too. Expect to see media coverage of this event and our response in as many venues as possible.”

In response, Reps. Gene Green, D-Texas, and Mike Conaway, R-Texas, have introduced a resolution opposing a performance royalty called the “Local Radio Freedom Act.”

The MusicFirst Coalition, which supports the royalty, has reportedly floated possible exemptions to the new fee.

Free Radio Alliance Spokesperson Cathy Rought said in a statement: “Don’t be fooled by the record labels’ proposal for a lower performance tax on small and noncommercial broadcasters. Just ask Internet radio how well that deal has worked out for them.”

Rehr stated that NAB believes the Berman bill could include exemptions for certain broadcasters however “the clear goal of the RIAA and the record label executives” is to have the levy apply to all stations.

“Including exemptions in legislation is a typical way legislators try to ‘ease in’ controversial measures and over time work to eliminate the exemptions. If your company falls under the exemption, your relief will be very short lived. The Copyright Registrar has already said, on the record, that anyone who airs recorded music should pay this tax.”

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