How Republicans are trying to ObamaCare the music industry

By Peter Weber Last week, Senate Republicans introduced their version of the Songwriter Equity Act, with much ado, at Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe. Some well-known Nashville songwriters were there to promote the legislation. So were music-publishing and royalty-collection companies. Everyone used carefully poll-tested phrases like “level the playing field,” “road to fairness,” “fair market value,” and “unsung heroes.” You’d have to be a heartless jerk to not want songwriters to make a living from their craft. Without them, we’d have no music, and the world would be a paler, more joyless place. But you’d also have to be a copyright lawyer or music business insider to figure out what the politicians — Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), plus Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who introduced a House version in February — were talking about. You may not be surprised to learn that they were only telling part of the story — a long, complicated story about how music creators are paid. The Songwriter Equity Act tinkers with two sections of the U.S. Copyright Act, which has done much to shape and regulate the music industry for more than 100 years. More recent laws have updated and complemented the original 1909 law. Congress has also created or designated special courts to set royalty rates and arbitrate disagreements. As a result, there are archaic elements in U.S. copyright law and quirks found only in the American music licensing system. In short, nobody would design the music industry this way if they were starting from scratch — just like nobody would create the complicated, expensive healthcare system that has evolved in the U.S. Instead of scrapping that system and starting over, the Affordable Care Act is trying to reform the market without upending it. The Songwriter Equity Act is trying to do that, too — except that, unlike ObamaCare, it’s just tackling one leg of a rickety table. At best, the songwriter law would lengthen that one leg, all but ensuring that the other legs would have to be raised as well; at worst, it would make the table collapse. “The author’s point of avoiding a complete transformation is well made. However, like with the healthcare industry, if leaders in the field do not come together, roll up their sleeves and work toward the huge tasks needed to be accomplished, they can’t bitch when the government finally stumbles into the frame, looking for any opportunity to leave their mark i.e. earn money or votes. If the industry was not so screwed up to begin with, then the government would have less of a foothold in the decision-making processes.” Read the full article here:

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