The Songwriter Equity Act returned to Congress yesterday afternoon. While an identical bill proposed last year was unsuccessful, there is an increased level of optimism surrounding it's reappearance.
Presented with bipartisan support, the Songwriter Equity Act would update Sections 114 and 115 of the Copyright Act, giving the special royalty rate-setting board the ability to factor in fair market value of a song when determining appropriate royalty rates. The amendment would be music to songwriters' ears as they've fought to maintain sustainable careers in the face of rising streaming service popularity.
Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a supporter of the bill, told The Tennessean "Italy has its art, Egypt has its pyramids, Napa Valley has its wines and Nashville has its songwriters. Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs –- so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds. My hope is that in this new Congress we will pass this legislation to help give our nation's songwriters the fair pay they have earned."
The groans coming from the radio broadcasting sector are audible. The Songwriter Equity Act will offer songwriters a fairer shake within the industry, but a sizable portion of that fairer payout will likely come from radio broadcasters and online radio companies who suggest higher royalty payouts could cripple their businesses - a side of the fence songwriters have been sitting on for quite some time.
ASCAP president Paul Williams released the following statement saying “The Songwriter Equity Act represents an important first step toward updating an outdated music licensing system that treats songwriters differently than other copyright owners and prevents us from earning a fair market royalty rate when our music is streamed or downloaded online. We are grateful to Senators Hatch, Whitehouse, Alexander and Corker and Representatives Collins and Jeffries for their efforts to attract bipartisan support for these simple and reasonable changes. They are vital to ensuring that next generation American songwriters are able to make a living creating the music we all love. We look forward to working with policymakers to reform the broader regulatory framework, including ASCAP’s outdated consent decree with the DOJ, so that music licensing better reflects the way people listen to music today.”
Read the proposed legislation here.