Representative Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee) is perhaps the most steadfast property rights advocate in Congress. In that vein, she has joined Rep. Anna Eshoo (D – California) in introducing another important piece of proposed legislation: the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act (PRMA).
Under current law, terrestrial radio broadcasters exploit a loophole that allows them to play songs without compensating artists who created and performed them. That stands in contrast to other forms of radio transmission – including satellite and Internet radio – that justifiably pay the performers whose songs they play. Terrestrial radio companies thus earn billions of dollars in advertising revenues largely on the basis of songs for which artists remain uncompensated, contrary to fairly straightforward concepts of fairness.
Ironically, some of the companies that own those terrestrial radio stations turn around and ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to compensate them for retransmission of television programming of stations they own. Fair enough that they be paid for such retransmission, but the same logic should in turn apply to their own radio programming.
Representative Blackburn’s proposed PRMA would correct that ongoing unfairness by requiring broadcasters to practice what they preach and pay performers for the works they’ve worked hard to create.
Importantly, the legislation would also interrupt broadcasters’ effort to force tech companies to include an analog FM radio chip in smartphones and other mobile devices. If device manufacturers wish to include FM chips in their products, that’s all well and good. Indeed, many already do. And if consumers demand products that include them, then the market will respond accordingly. But it’s simply not something the federal government should be dictating.
By the way, that FM chip mandate proposal is also a sneaky way for terrestrial broadcasters to expand their exploitation of playing songs without compensating artists. After all, as noted above, Internet broadcasters must pay artists under current law. But by asking the federal government to compel FM chip inclusion, terrestrial broadcasters would be able to expand their loophole to mobile devices.
That is the epitome of crony capitalism.
We at CFIF remain strong defenders of property rights, including intellectual property rights for artists and musicians. Accordingly, we applaud Rep. Blackburn for her leadership on this issue, and encourage our supporters and activists to ask their own elected representatives to stand alongside her.