House Subcommittee Chairman To Go After Performance Royalties
July 31, 2007

A House subcommittee hearing was held today on the new battle for an artist performance royalty on terrestrial radio. The musicFIRST coalition's push for the performance royalty hit Washington today, with Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) vowing to begin fighting for the royalty. Berman is the chairman of the House Intellectual Property subcommmittee and told the room, "I've wanted to hold this hearing for a very long time, not only because of my constituents but because as a policy matter it is time for Congress to re-evaluate the limitations of the current performance right for sound recordings," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Berman continued, "I will come right out and indicate my bias -- I have supported the expansion of the performance right for over 20 years, with two caveats: one is that by extending this right it does not diminish the rights and revenues of the creators of musical works and second, that terrestrial broadcasters, large and small, remain a viable source of music."

The NAB has vehemently opposed the royalty, which it has labelled a "performance tax." Speaking on its behalf was Radio Board Second Vice Chair Chester Warfield Jr., President/COO of ICBC Broadcast Holdings. Warfield said, "there is no justification for changing a system that has worked for the music industry as a whole for so many years. The United States has the most prolific and successful music industry that is the envy of all the world. Upsetting the careful balance that Congress struck by imposing a performance tax on local radio broadcasters would be a shift of seismic proportions. For over 80 years, Congress has not seen fit to alter this mutually beneficial policy, and there is no reason to do so now."

Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, noted that American artists do not get a royalty from European radio because there is no royalty stateside. She told the committee that it is estimated that U.S. performers and record labels lose almost $70 million a year from overseas because of the lack of a performance royalty.

According to the Reporter, Berman is expected to bring a bill proposing changes in radio royalties to the House floor by the fall, with a likely Senate bill on the way as well.

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Jon Zellner
EVP/Programming Operations

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