Elementary concepts of fairness demand that musical artists and performers remain free to negotiate performance rights with broadcasters that seek to play their songs. Indeed, current law allows artists to mutually bargain with satellite, Internet and cable stations.
The only exception: traditional AM-FM radio stations, which are unfairly protected by federal law from having to negotiate with artists for performance rights. This is precisely the sort of crony capitalism against which the American electorate is increasingly irate.
Unfortunately, rather than advocating market reform, some in Congress wish to cement the current protectionist status quo. Under the so-called “Local Radio Freedom Act,” whose very name contradicts its real-world effect, terrestrial radio’s unjustifiable exemption from having to negotiate performance rights would be made more permanent. The bill would foreclose bargained-for negotiation between artists and stations for compensation, perpetuating stations’ ability to earn billions by playing songs without paying for them. And in an example of of supreme chutzpah, the same traditional radio stations benefiting from that loophole turn around and ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to pay them for retransmission of television programs of stations they happen to own.
The bill’s proponents advance the offensive claim that artists seeking payment should just shut up and appreciate that their works get played over the air, thereby providing them publicity and advertising. But that’s not something that stations should dictate. The creators and performers of those songs should be free to determine which market model they prefer – performance for payment or free of charge. That’s how a free market works.
Accordingly, we at CFIF have joined an array of fellow free-market organizations in a letter to Congress stating our objections to this protectionist and crony capitalist proposed legislation:
We urge you to refrain from co-sponsoring the Local Radio Freedom Act, which sanctions the status quo, and has a chilling effect on the development of a forward-thinking policy that respects the rights of all music producers in all media. The Constitution protects private property rights and specifically delegates to Congress the authority to protect creative works. Unfortunately, LRFA closes the discussion about how to best protect property rights by resolving that terrestrial radio should never pay performance royalties on music broadcast on their stations used for raising advertising revenue. This is not equitable treatment for any musical artist or music distribution service.”
Americans are justifiably fed up with the sort of protectionism and cronyism that this proposed legislation represents. We accordingly urge Congress to reject it, and that our hundreds of thousands of supporters and activists across the country to contact their representatives in Congress and express their opposition as well.