Justice For Legacy Musicians: U.S. Senate Moves To Close Decades-Old Loophole For Pre-72 Recordings With CLASSICS Act

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Justice For Legacy Musicians: U.S. Senate Moves To Close Decades-Old Loophole For “Pre-72” Recordings With CLASSICS Act
Justice For Legacy Musicians: U.S. Senate Moves To Close Decades-Old Loophole For “Pre-72” Recordings With CLASSICS Act

Music, tech groups unified in support, momentum builds on Capitol Hill

Washington, D.C.Senators John Kennedy (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) today introduced the bipartisan CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act), taking a step closer to closing a flawed loophole that leaves some of our most cherished artists out of the federal copyright system. Currently only sound recordings made after 1972 receive payments from digital radio services under federal law.

This decades-old loophole has denied federal copyright protection to legacy artists who recorded music before the arbitrary cut-off date of February 15, 1972. The result: artists are subjected to a patchwork of unworkable state laws, robbing them of deserved royalties when their pre-‘72 recordings are streamed digitally and via Internet radio. The CLASSICS Act fixes this loophole by creating a new federal intellectual property regime to cover these “pre-1972” recordings. SoundExchange would distribute royalties for pre-‘72 recordings played by Internet, cable and satellite radio services just as it does for post-‘72 recordings.

Said Trombone Shorty (New Orleans-based musician, singer-songwriter, producer): “I want to thank the sponsors of the CLASSICS Act for honoring the rich musical heritage of Louisiana by introducing legislation to ensure that our legacy artists are treated fairly by digital music services.  The work of so many icons of American music who recorded before 1972 is part of the fabric of our cultural history and deserves equal treatment under the law.  It’s their recordings that inspired me and whole generations of artists to make music, and I am grateful to all of the sponsors of the CLASSICS Act for respecting their contributions.”

Said Dionne Warwick (legendary singer): “As a fellow New Jerseyan, I applaud Senator Booker for his support and leadership in cosponsoring the CLASSICS Act and gratefully salute all of the Senate sponsors.  Music is so important to all of our lives; to some of us it is literally our living.  But amazingly, because sound recordings prior to 1972 are not covered by federal law, artists and rightsholders are often not compensated for their pre-1972 music. This is not only a real harm to these artists who rely on royalties as their income, but it’s also just plain wrong.  Thankfully, this legislation would show the artists who’ve created some of our most beloved music not only admiration but respect. As I once sang in 1967, ‘I say a little prayer for you,’ and hope that this is the year when all those who write, sing, record, and produce the songs we love are recognized – and appropriately compensated – for their work.”

Said Mary Wilson (The Supremes): “As an artist who recorded music before and after 1972, I’m deeply grateful to the Senate sponsors for this important bill that will finally allow artists like me to get paid by digital radio services for our pre-’72 recordings. It’s unacceptable that songs by my group The Supremes like ‘Stop! In the Name Of Love’ or ‘Baby Love’ – both staples of SiriusXM’s ‘‘60s on 6’ station – are treated with less value than our 1976 hit ‘I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking’ and so many others recorded after 1972. With this bill, we are finally giving legacy artists the respect they deserve.”  

Said Steve Cropper (legendary guitarist and co-founder of Booker T. & the MG’s): “My first love has always been playing guitar, and throughout my decades-long career I’ve had the true pleasure of playing with some of the greatest musicians etched into music’s history – from Neil Young to Ringo Starr to Elton John to Isaac Hayes and so many more talented artists who felt blues, R&B, and rock music in their bones. I’ve also co-written and recorded songs like Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’ and Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour,’ among others – classic recordings from the ‘60s that are featured heavily on any digital radio service. It blows my mind that powerful digital radio corporations like SiriusXM can get away with making billions of dollars without paying legacy artists anything for playing their music. It’s downright disrespectful and truly unfair: songs made before 1972 should be treated no differently than songs recorded after 1972. I’m grateful to the sponsors of this bill for working to right this wrong and putting pre-’72 recordings on the same footing as all other songs.”

Said DJ Jazzy Jeff (DJ, musician, producer): “I appreciate all of the sponsors of the CLASSICS Act looking out for the legacy artists who made the era of music that inspired me to make music.  We can’t stand for the icons of American music to be treated unfairly by digital music services. I’m thankful that these senators have joined together to make sure we do right by artists who recorded before 1972.”

The legislation is a companion bill to the version introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year (H.R. 3301) by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and is supported by scores of artists as well as a wide array of stakeholders from across the music and Internet communities.

“The artists that gave the world Motown, Jazz, and Rock n’ Roll have been hampered by antiquated and arbitrary laws – until now,” said Roger Lynch, CEO of Pandora. “While many heritage artists are compensated through direct licensing deals, including by Pandora, it’s the independent musicians that this bill rightly protects. We commend Senators Kennedy, Coons, Tillis, Corker, and Booker for bringing pre-1972 recordings into the modern era, and ensuring that our most cherished artists are fairly paid for their record streams and finally on equal footing with their modern peers.”

“The value that legacy artists have contributed to American culture and society through their incredible recordings is immeasurable, and the fact that these artists and labels aren’t paid by corporate digital radio services like SiriusXM is inexplicable,” said Cary Sherman, Chairman & CEO of RIAA.  “Momentum is building to fix this injustice and properly recognize these icons who paved the way for so many by giving them their fair share. Our sincere thanks to Senators Kennedy, Coons, Tillis, Corker, and Booker for this important legislation that will do just that.

“This legislation erases an arbitrary and artificial line current policy draws between pre and post 1972 recordings, and rightfully provides compensation for some of America’s most treasured music,” said Michael Huppe, President and CEO of SoundExchange.  “It is emblematic of the growing demand for comprehensive copyright reform, including market based rate standards and a performance right for sound recordings across all platforms including AM/FM radio.  We thank Senators Kennedy, Coons, Tillis, Corker, and Booker for advancing the movement towards fairness and equity for music creators.”

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