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Legislation Introduced to Increase Royalties to Songwriters From Streaming and Digital

Senate Judiciary Committee Member Orrin Hatch of Utah and Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) of Georgia, the Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Courts and the Internet, introduced legislation to apply free market principles to music licensing and ensure songwriters are fairly compensated for their work. They were joined in introduction by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) from New York and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) from Rhode Island, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) from Tennessee and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) from Tennessee.

The Songwriter Equity Act (SEA) updates Sections 114 and 115 of the Copyright Act that have prevented modern songwriters from collecting fair market royalty rates for their work. To remedy this, the SEA would allow a “rate court” to consider other royalty rates as evidence when establishing digital performance rates, and it would adopt a fair rate standard for reproduction (mechanical licenses).

Rep. Collins: “In my home state of Georgia alone, there are close to 50,000 songwriters who have dedicated their lives to a talent and a calling that, in my view, God gave them. It is critical to ensure that songwriters – the engines that drive the music industry – are compensated fairly for their work. Copyright laws were never intended to create barriers to creativity that forces songwriters to sell their intellectual property at below-market rates. Congress should write laws that not only promote creation and pay creators, but also remain relevant even in times of rapid technological change. The Songwriter Equity Act is a vital step toward a music licensing system built on free market principles and fair compensation to creators.”

Sen. Hatch: “The music business is among the toughest and most competitive industries, and our songwriters and composers should not have to accept below-market rates for their work. Ensuring that they are able to receive the fair market value for their songs is the right thing to do.”

Rep. Jeffries: “The Songwriter Equity Act is a balanced effort and a strong step in the right direction to ensure that America's artists are fairly compensated for the fruits of their labor. The protection of intellectual property is a constitutional charge that is essential for the continued vitality of the United States economy. Songwriters are quintessential small business entrepreneurs whose creativity is an essential part of the music ecosystem. They deserve our protection. I am thankful for the leadership of Rep. Collins, Senator Whitehouse, Senator Hatch and Senator Alexander, and look forward to working together to ensure passage of this important legislation.”

Sen. Whitehouse: “Rhode Island’s vibrant artistic community has produced many talented songwriters. Unfortunately, some of these songwriters are not currently compensated fairly. The Songwriter Equity Act will help ensure that songwriters finally receive market-based compensation for their work.”

Sen. Alexander: “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.”

Sen. Corker: “Music showcases the incredible talent and vision of Tennesseans - its songwriters, musicians, and small and large businesses - across the country and around the world. Unfortunately, it’s easy for some to forget the countless people who bring to life the music we enjoy each day. We turn the knob, hit the button, click the mouse, and our favorite songs are there. As technology advances, it’s important that we remember where the music begins and modernize the way songwriters are compensated for their work.”

The bill has received public support from The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC.

Reps. Nadler (D-N.Y.), Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rooney (R-Fla.), Cohen (D-Tenn.), Schiff (D-Calif.), Cardenas (D-Calif.), Roe (R-Tenn.), Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Cooper (D-Tenn.), Deutch (D-Fla.), Chu (D-Calif.) and Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) are original cosponsors of the Songwriter Equity Act.

Full bill text can be found here.