House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) takes the fight over terrestrial radio’s refusal to pay performer royalty fees to the next level.
It seems the debate over terrestrial radio performance royalty fees is heating up these days with news that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) recently said that the lack thereof makes slaves out of artists.
“In 1865, slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment. No more free labor,” Conyers told a crowd at a musicFIRST, a RIAA-funded advocacy group, press conference. “It abolished at the same time involuntary servitude. What does that have to do with what we’re here for today? Well, when you tell somebody that you’re benefiting from their work product but there’s no avenue for compensation, it kind of harkens back to that great problem.”
Calling slavery a “great problem” is sorting of putting it mildly, but comparing it to the lack of a performance tax for musicians cheapens the misery endured.
Aside from the fact that slaves couldn’t simply choose another vocation as music artists can, injecting such heated rhetoric into the debate only complicates the ability of both sides to have a rational dialogue with one another, especially when Conyers says that he’d first like to find a compromise with radio broadcasters before moving forward with legislation.
Not helping any is comments by the NAACP referring to the lack of a performance tax as a violation of musicians’ civil rights.
“Being paid fairly for your labor is one of the most basic civil rights, which is why we are pleased to support musicians everywhere to ensure that they are duly and fairly compensated when their music is enjoyed by radio listeners,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy.
Now when it comes down to it I agree with the RIAA that radio broadcasters should have to pay the same royalty fees as everybody else – online streaming broadcasters, satellite radio, etc.. Why should terrestrial radio be exempt from paying what everybody else has to?
It’s just not fair.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the so-called “voice for the nation’s radio and television broadcasters,” is doing its best to fight Conyers efforts and the proposed “Performance Rights Act.”
It calls the new fees a “job-killer” that would harm “struggling artists,” and has made the brilliant move of countering Conyers’ bill with a bill of its own – the “Local Radio Freedom Act.” After all, who doesn’t like freedom right? Especially when it’s local.