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Congressman George Holding

Representing the 13th District of North Carolina

Congressman Holding Introduces the RESPECT Act

May 29, 2014
Press Release
For Immediate Release: May 29, 2014
Congressman Holding Introduces the RESPECT Act
Requires Digital Radio to Pay For Music Recorded Before 1972
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman George Holding (NC-13) introduced the “Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures” or “RESPECT” Act to ensure older artists receive compensation from digital radio services that use their work.  House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers and several bipartisan members of the House, including five members of the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet joined as original cosponsors. Congressman Holding released the following statement:
“The Respect Act confronts an idiosyncrasy in the law that has resulted in some of our country’s greatest talents, who recorded music and other work, being denied just compensation by digital music services for work they recorded before 1972. 
Due to a loophole in the law, digital services argue they don’t have to pay under their federal copyright license because recordings made before February 15, 1972 are covered by state law. But they aren’t paying these royalties under state law either - claiming it doesn’t apply to digital services at all. Currently, great recordings from the American Songbook -- including Sinatra, Motown hits, Country Classics, Jazz from North Carolina’s own John Coltrane, and our Beethoven of Banjo – Earl Scruggs -- are unfortunately losing out. America’s legacy artists deserve to be paid for their work and their property as much as their peers who recorded from the mid 70’s ‘til today. This was never the intent of Congress; it goes against the nature of copyright and property rights generally.
This legislation isn’t meant to disrespect digital music services – it’s meant to respect the accomplishments and efforts of legacy artists.  Digital music services play an important role in promoting artists of all generations and should be commended for bringing forth new technologies that are allowing us to enjoy music in new ways, often providing new revenue streams for some artists. This legislation is part of a broader conversation but with such as discrete problem as the one facing our legacy artists, and a clear path forward, Congress has a duty to act.  In the end, we believe this fix will benefit artists, consumers, and companies operating in this ecosystem.
The RESPECT Act corrects this situation and will help to ensure that, as all us enjoy their musical legacy, those who came before us and created some of our country’s greatest musical treasures get the respect they deserve.”
Background: Songs recorded after February 15, 1972 are protected by federal law, while songs recorded before that date are protected by state law.  Some successful digital music services refuse to pay royalties for “pre-72” music, however, arguing that the federal license they use doesn’t require payment for songs protected by state law.  However, they also refuse to pay royalties under state law – claiming that state laws don’t cover digital services at all.
The RESPECT Act addresses this quirk of history and law by requiring digital music services that use the federal compulsory licenses to pay royalties for the pre-72 music that they play.  It does not pre-empt state laws or fully federalize all pre-72 recordings, a more complicated issue that has already been referred by the Copyright Office to the Judiciary Committee for review.   It does not create any new federal copyright claims or prejudice non-commercial users of music in any way.