Posted on May 12, 2014
By Nate Rau
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch, introduced the Senate version of the Songwriters Equity Act, which seeks to increase royalty payments to songwriters and music publishers.
The senators made the announcement in front of an applauding crowd of music industry members at the iconic Bluebird Cafe. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, initially introduced the bill in the U.S. House in February.
The legislation would allow the federal rate court to factor in the fair market value for a song when determining the rate that songwriters and publishers must be paid when their songs are played.
The National Association of Broadcasters has expressed concerns about the bill, but the most ardent resistance figures to come from digital radio service providers, such as Pandora.
"We have to make sure this vibrant industry that means so much to our state remains vibrant," Corker said.
The announcement of Alexander, Corker and Hatch introducing the legislation was preceded by a songwriting round, a staple of the Bluebird, that featured successful songwriters Roxie Dean, Tom Douglas and Rivers Rutherford.
Bart Herbison, executive director of Nashville Songwriters Association International, said today's announcement was welcome news because it keeps the Songwriters Equity Act in the conversation about broader royalty reform.
"It means focus on an issue that is decades overdue," Herbison said. "It speaks to the potential passage of this legislation. I think it's a fundamental question of fairness."
The legislation is viewed by professional songwriters as critical to updating the copyright law they say is outdated. The proposal would let the rate court factor in the fair market value of a song, such as the synchronization fees paid for when a song is played in a film or television commercial, when it sets the royalty rates.
Hatch's inclusion as a sponsor is relevant because he is the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that would consider the bill.
"Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs — so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds," Alexander said.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, have also signed on as cosponsors.