Cross party support to protect pre-1972 sound recordings and a new music database in the USA

August 2017

Recorded music, broadcasting


US legislation has been introduced to close the long-standing anomaly in US copyright law which means that pre-1972 sound-recordings are nor protected by federal law, a position highlighted in the long running litigation between SiriusXM and Flo & Eddie, the California corporation with the rights to songs by the 1960s group The Turtles (“Happy Together,” “She’d Rather Be With Me”).


The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service and Important Contributions to Society Act (CLASSICS) was introduced by a group of House Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Issa is the chairman of a key House Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property, and Nadler is the ranking member

The legislation would make the owners of the pre-1972 recordings eligible for royalties for digital broadcast. The legislation also ensures that artists are entitled to the same share of royalties regardless of whether a label and a digital music platform reach an agreement on payment.

“This an important and overdue fix to the law that will help settle years of litigation and restore some equity to this inexplicable gap in our copyright system,” Issa said.

“For years, we have been working to ensure royalty payments for artists who recorded many of our great musical classics before 1972,” said Nadler.

SoundExchange would distribute the royalties for the pre-1972 recordings, just as it does for music after that date.
However, the legislation does not address the other major contentious issue around sound recordings in the USA: namely that whilst digital and satellite broadcasters have to pay to play, unusually, traditional broadcast radio stations do not have to pay royalties to artists and labels for US airplay, even though the music industry has long sought legislation to require compensation for broadcasts of performances.

musicFIRST executive director Chris Israel said: “Recordings made before the arbitrary date of Feb. 15, 1972, are among the most popular and valuable in the world. And yet, because of an anomaly in U.S. copyright law, the creators of those sound recordings have had to endure years of litigation simply for the right to be paid, and the litigation continues to this day. It’s time for Congress to fix this injustice so legacy artists are paid when their music is used by digital radio.”

Recording Industry Association Of America CEO Cary Sherman said: “This bipartisan legislation helps close, once and for all, the loophole in federal law that has short-changed legacy artists for decades. If enacted into law as we hope it will be, music’s founding generation of iconic performers and creators will finally share some of the value generated by the music that is the backbone of digital radio. It’s the right thing to do, and that’s why a growing chorus of voices throughout the music community support this effort. We commend Representatives Issa and Nadler for their leadership on this important issue and encourage its swift passage”.

n another legislative move, The Transparency In Music Licensing & Ownership Act has been proposed by Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner, Blake Farenthold and Steve Chabot as well as Democrat Suzan DelBene. The Act would oblige the US Copyright Office to build a publicly accessible database of music rights ownership (both for compositions and sound recordings), while limiting the remedies available to copyright owners if they fail to provide the required data for the new system. The lack of a publicly accessible central database of music rights information (linking recordings to songs,  and listing who currently owns and/or controls those works) has been much debated within the music community for some time and the lack of such a database has been a real issue in the digital era, especially on the music publishing side. The much vaunted Global Repertoire Database, which had the support of PRS for Music, SACEM, ASCAP and Buma-Stemra amongst others, previously stalled in 2014.



US collecting societies ASCAP and BMI have now (26.07.17) announced that they are working on a combined music rights database that will be publicly available and which – the two organisations say – will “deliver an authoritative view of ownership shares in the vast majority of music licensed in the United States. Note: this is music only (and not sound recordings), its US based (not global) and doesn’t as yet include the involvement of the other two US music collection societies GMR and SESAC AND

No Comments

Comments are closed.