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It’s Time for Copyright Law to Protect Our Country’s Music Icons

It’s Time for Copyright Law to Protect Our Country’s Music Icons by Cary Sherman, Chairman & CEO, RIAA

February 8, 2018

The Supremes. Dionne Warwick. Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. Brenda Lee. Ray Charles.

All different artists from different backgrounds and genres. But they all have one thing in common: they likely don’t get paid when they are played on platforms like SiriusXM.

Why? Sound recordings were brought under federal protection via U.S. Copyright Law in 1972, whereas a myriad of state laws covered their protection before then. Because of that, services like SiriusXM conclude that they don’t have to pay artists for musical recordings made before 1972 and are even challenging pre-‘72 protection under state law in courts throughout the country. So for example, the 50s on 5 and 60s on 6 and even some of the 70s on 7 channels on the prosperous satellite radio service might be fun and exciting to listen to for fans, but they aren’t much fun for the artists who aren’t paid a dime for their work. It’s a little-known fact that causes most folks to furrow their eyebrows in disbelief when they learn it.

Because WHY should it be OKAY for those legacy artists who recorded before 1972 – those musical giants who created the sounds and stylings that you hear rooted in today’s modern music – be left out in the cold when it comes to getting paid by satellite radio for their work? It’s a sad fact that many of these important icons must go out on exhaustive tours – especially tiring in their older years – to be able to pay the bills. They would greatly benefit from being paid for their work, just like everybody else. It’s a wrong that is in desperate need of righting.

That’s why we at the RIAA have thrown our support behind bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. John Kennedy, Chris Coons, Thom Tillis, Bob Corker, and Cory Booker in the Senate, and Reps. Darrell Issa and Jerrold Nadler in the U.S. House of Representatives, called the CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legendary Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act) which would, among other things, require digital radio platforms such as SiriusXM to pay pre-’72 music creators for their work. It’s an important step in the right direction for our musical heroes that have inspired so many artists of today.

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