Protectionist “Local Radio Freedom Act” Would Prevent Payment to Musicians for Songs
Under current law, recording artists remain free to negotiate performance payment rights with Internet, cable and satellite stations. Due to an unfair exception, however, artists cannot negotiate in the same manner with traditional AM-FM radio. Unfortunately, proposed federal legislation backed by broadcasting interests would cement that anomaly. Deceptively entitled the “Local Radio Freedom Act” (”LRFA”), the bill would stifle a potentially freer marketplace and foreclose future negotiation for payment to musicians for songs.
If successful, that would perpetuate terrestrial radio broadcasters’ ability to exploit a legal loophole allowing them to earn billions of dollars by playing songs whose artists would remain uncompensated. Exacerbating matters, those same terrestrial broadcasters simultaneously ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to pay them for retransmission of television programming from stations that they own. That similarly violates straightforward concepts of fairness and intellectual consistency.
This past January, CFIF joined an array of other free-market organizations in a letter to Congress opposing the LRFA and setting forth the policy basis for our objection:
The Constitution protects private property rights and specifically delegates to Congress authority to protect creative works. Unfortunately, LRFA closes the discussion about how best to protect property rights by resolving that terrestrial radio should never pay performance royalties on music broadcast on their stations used for raising advertising revenue. That is not equitable treatment for any musical artist or music distribution service.”
Fortunately, there’s a superior alternative also before Congress.
Representative Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee), perhaps the most reliable advocate of property rights in Congress, has joined Representatives from both parties in introducing the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015. This bill would correct the existing unfairness described above by finally requiring terrestrial broadcasters to negotiate with artists who seek compensation for broadcast of their creative works.
Advocates of LRFA claim that artists have no reason to complain when terrestrial radio plays their works without compensation, since that provides them publicity and free advertising. But that’s something for artists and broadcasters to freely negotiate, rather than have broadcasters make that decision for them and deprive them of choice in the matter. Some artists may indeed opt to allow their works to be broadcast for free. But as Taylor Swift just illustrated in standing up for her rights, other artists have a right to disagree and negotiate payment for those playing their songs.
CFIF believes that property rights, including intellectual property (IP) rights for artists and musicians, must be fiercely defended. America’s foundation of strong IP protections is one reason we’re the most innovative and artistically productive nation in human history. Accordingly, we encourage our supporters and activists to contact their representatives, demanding that they reject the dangerous LRFA and support Rep. Blackburn’s PRMA.