NMPA Applauds Bipartisan, Bicameral Introduction of Songwriter Equity Act

March 4, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga) today introduced the Songwriter Equity Act. The legislation modernizes sections 114 and 115 of the Copyright Act to achieve fairer royalty rates for songwriters. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) joined Hatch on the Senate bill.  Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D- N.Y.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) are original cosponsors of the House version. National Music Publishers’ Association President and CEO David Israelite praised the bill’s introduction.

“Three-quarters of a songwriter’s income is regulated by the federal government,” said Israelite. “While most property rights are valued in a free market, songwriters have suffered under a system that devalues their work and takes away their most basic property rights.

“As the recent Copyright Office report on music licensing recommended, if songwriters’ royalties must be regulated, they should at least be based on fair market value. I am grateful for members of the Senate and House who are standing up for creators and ensuring that songwriters’ work is valued properly, considering the value they bring to our lives and the businesses they fuel.”

Background: The Songwriter Equity Act addresses two significant inequities under current copyright law that prevent songwriters and music publishers from receiving compensation that reflects the fair market value of their work.

Created before the existence of recorded music to regulate player piano rolls, Section 115 of the Copyright Act is shorthand for a complex compulsory license system that dates back to 1909.  This system effectively prohibits songwriters and music publishers from negotiating for the use of their songs, forcing well-below market rates instead of fair value.  In 1909, Congress set a rate of 2 cents per copy.  Today, more than 100 years later, that rate has increased to only 9.1 cents.  The incremental increase is a result of the Copyright Royalty Board’s (CRB) legal obligation to apply a below-market standard when determining mechanical royalties for songwriters and music publishers.

Section 114(i) was enacted by Congress to protect songwriters and ensure that their compensation was not unfairly diminished.  But the effect of the provision has, in fact, been the exact opposite.  This legislation would help restore what Congress originally intended – fair compensation for the public performance of a songwriter’s work.  It allows the federal rate courts to consider rates paid to recording artists for the performance of sound recordings over digital platforms – evidence that the court is currently prohibited by law from considering.

Support: The bill has broad support by organizations such as the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) and Broadcast Music Inc (BMI). A one-pager of support can be downloaded below.

About the NMPA: Founded in 1917, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) is the trade association representing all American music publishers and their songwriting partners. The NMPA’s mandate is to protect and advance the interests of music publishers and songwriters in matters relating to the domestic and global protection of music copyrights.