On September 22, Senators Alex Padilla and Marsha Blackburn announced the introduction in the Senate of the American Music Fairness Act – S.4932. If it becomes law, the bill would secure full public performance rights for owners of copyrighted music sound recordings. In particular, the bill would secure the right of sound recording owners to receive royalties when their music is broadcast by terrestrial AM/FM radio stations. Current copyright law specially exempts AM/FM radio stations from having to pay such royalties, thereby giving those stations free rider use of copyrighted sound recordings for commercial purposes. That exemption should be removed from copyright law.S.4932 is identical to H.R. 4130. The latter bill received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on February 2 of this year. The House Judiciary hearing on the bill was the subject of my February 24, 2022, Perspectives from FSF Scholars,"American Music Fairness Act Would Secure Copyrights in Sound Recordings." Additional reasons for supporting the legislation were offered in Free State Foundation Legal Fellow Andrew Magloughlin's March 2022 blog post, "Broadcasters' FCC Filing Undermines Radio Copyright Exemption." And the American Music Fairness Act was one of the many interesting issues discussed during FSF's July 2022 webinar, "Hot Topics in Copyright Policy."
Notably, the American Music Fairness Act provides for significantly reduced royalty payment rates for non-profit and small commercial AM/FM radio stations. And don't for a minute confuse royalties with taxes. Royalties are payments owed to private parties for usage of their property rights. For more on royalties versus taxes, see my blog post from September 6 of this year, "In Debate Over Radio Royalties, Congress Should Favor Property Rights."
Hopefully, the 117th Congress will dedicate time in its remaining schedule to pass the American Music Fairness Act into law. By doing so, Congress will accord owners of copyrighted music sound recordings what is rightfully due to them when their music is played by commercial AM/FM radio stations.