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Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "Respecting Artists with the American Music Fairness Act"

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a hearing on "Respecting Artists with the American Music Fairness Act:"

"Music has the power to bring people together.  Now, more than ever, as we continue to seek means of staying connected amid a global pandemic, people are turning to music to enjoy and to participate in a sense of social belonging.

"Music has also brought us together today to reflect on one of the most longstanding injustices that, unfortunately, has been a feature of the music landscape for decades—the ability of AM/FM broadcasters to play music without paying the performing artists a royalty.  Unlike all other music platforms, terrestrial radio is allowed to use, and to profit off of, the creation—the intellectual property—of the artists, for absolutely free.  I am aware of no other instance in which this is allowed, and it is time for this unfairness to end.

"While granting this exemption to broadcasters has been grossly unfair for decades, its impact has become increasingly inequitable over time as the shape of the industry has changed.  

"Four years ago, Congress and the music community came together to pass the bipartisan Orrin Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act—a landmark piece of legislation bringing much-needed updates to many aspects of the copyright system governing music.  It is time to complete that project by passing another bipartisan measure, the American Music Fairness Act, introduced by Representatives Deutch and Issa, which would—at last—require AM/FM radio stations to pay royalties for the recordings that they broadcast.

"I thank both Mr. Deutch and Mr. Issa for their leadership on this issue and, as a longtime advocate for closing this unfair loophole that harms artists, I am proud to join them in this effort.

"For years, broadcasters have argued that they should not have to pay a performance royalty because their airplay holds promotional value that leads to artists’ fair compensation through album sales, tour interests, and publicity.  Although this has always been a dubious claim, the advent of popular digital media and streaming platforms have now made this argument progressively less relevant.  Terrestrial, satellite, and digital radio all play the same music to the same audience on the same speakers.

"Critically, it is also clear that it is through these new digital platforms that a lot of new music discovery takes place today.  In other words, these new services play just as important a role in music promotion, yet only they are required to pay this performance royalty.  This puts the streaming services, and especially satellite and internet radio, at a competitive disadvantage to terrestrial radio.  Simply put, similar businesses should be treated similarly under the law.    

"Additionally, the failure of U.S. law to establish a performance right on terrestrial radio means that our singers and other musicians miss out on royalties when their music is broadcast overseas.  Nearly every other developed nation in the world compensates performers for playing their music on terrestrial radio, but since we do not have a similar performance right at home, American artists do not receive royalties when their music is played abroad.  This deprives U.S. artists of up to $200 million annually. 

"The lack of a performance right costs our economy millions of dollars each year.  But at bottom, this is an issue about fairness to artists, which is why I am so thankful that we will be hearing from three accomplished artists today to help us better understand how this issue impacts our county’s enormous and diverse body of musicians.

"While every artist deserves to be paid when their music is used by broadcasters, this royalty stream would be particularly meaningful for the thousands of working-class artists who are a critical part of our country’s vibrant music industry.  It would also be particularly meaningful for artists who are not readily able to tour and perform—and this unfortunately has been the case for all artists over the past two years during the COVID pandemic.

"It is time, once and for all, to create a system that is platform-neutral and that respects artists.  We have an impressive range of witnesses here today, and I look forward to their testimony as we explore this critical issue."

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