And here we thought doing things as they pertained to the 1800s was good enough …
In an effort to bring itself and its haphazard laws into the 21st Century, the U.S. Copyright Office released a massive report yesterday outlining its recommendations to update existing laws already in place.
Interestingly enough, most copyright standards followed today were created before the vinyl LP was even invented and radio was hardly a household mainstay. For anyone to come out and claim them to be “old and in need of reform” are about 50 years behind and in need of help with subtle understatements.
The office’s recommendations, among others are:
- To have radio stations pay performance fees to recording artists — much like satellite and Internet radio stations already do — and not consider “exposure” (as they have been) a form of viable payment.
- To shut a loophole that allows digital streamers to play songs recorded before 1972 without paying royalties (Pandora, we’re looking at you, bud).
- To treat like things alike. The office wants the copyright attached to a songs composition — normally owned by a songwriter and publisher — to fall onto the same plane as the copyright attached to a recording — generally owned by labels and artists.
As with anything written in verbose and unintelligible legalese, the report took a long time to say very little. (Too long; didn't read!) We’d be curious to see what the cost of a report like this would be, though, as it probably doesn’t come cheap to taxpayers. The brunt of it really is just common sense wrapped up in a fancy sounding, high quality paper burrito.
If it were us writing the report it would have only taken a full weekend — most of it side-tracked by trips to the park — and a few text messages saying:
“Hey man, wanna change laws?”
“Cool cool, hey, let’s hook up the artists more.”
“Sweet, let’s also close some loopholes and make things fair.”
“Nosh” … “shit sorry I meant Yeah”
Life really can be that easy. If we dream it, we can do it …
Under federal law as it stands, if artists wish to be paid royalties with protection they must be signed under ASCAP or BMI — a basic all or nothing deal they have no control over when it comes to negotiating royalties. If the U.S. Copyright Office gets its way, artists will be able to pull out of certain areas of the deals, but not all — therefore giving them more power to do their own bidding, like, how much they get paid from online streamers.
So, again, it would most likely be lawyer vs. lawyers regardless, but control over an artist’s own work would be more accessible. Funny how that works, yes? We can already imagine the pushback from radio conglomerates if they’re forced to pay more … and it probably won’t be pretty … or swift.
All the report does as of now, however, is act as a guide on how Congress should move forward in the future — if it even will — and how to go about refurbishing archaic rules.
The announcement seems to be in favor of artists, or at the very least getting the back and forth going about updating the existing fundamentals. No one should really hold their breath, however, because as we’ve seen with anything having to do with Congress, it’s like watching freakishly balding toddlers in thrift store suits barking dog-obscenities towards emissions-rattling vehicles.
So even though the report itself is wordy and redundant, the main objective of it is to simplify the way licensing works and to give back to music rights owners, composers, performers and producers what they’ve so obviously lost in the past. What this means for the industry moving forward is hard to guess at this point, but likely if any of this goes into the voting process it will be dissected, fought over, re-worked and twisted to the point of unrecognizable drivel.
But it’s a start, finally, and something that could very well be big news through 2015.