Music Industry News Network [06-30-2014]

Paul Williams To Congress: Modernize The Music Licensing System


Award-winning songwriter and ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams today urged Congress to protect the rights of songwriters and preserve the value of voluntary collective licensing as it considers ways to reform the nation's music licensing system. Williams's comments came in testimony before the US House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.

This hearing comes at a critical moment for American songwriters, as the US Copyright Office has undertaken a study of the effectiveness of existing methods of licensing music and the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a review of the Consent Decrees that govern the nation's two leading performance rights organizations (or PROs), ASCAP and BMI.

Williams emphasized the benefits of voluntary collective licensing through PROs for music creators, licensees and listeners, but warned that outdated federal regulations increasingly threaten to undermine the entire system. To prevent that, Williams outlined three specific updates to the 73 year-old Consent Decree, which ASCAP is asking the DOJ to consider:

* Allowing ASCAP to accept a partial grant of rights from its members, meaning ASCAP is able to license certain uses while the rightsholders handle others directly. Allowing greater flexibility is necessary to hold the system together.
* Replacing rate court with a faster, less expensive dispute resolution process.
* Permitting ASCAP to offer all the rights in a music composition a licensee needs to operate their business - something that ASCAP's competitors are free to do.

Without meaningful regulatory reform, Williams expressed serious concerns about the future of American songwriters and the music industry as a whole.

"We are here today because technology is changing the world in wonderful ways. We are moving into a world where people no longer own the music they love, they stream it whenever and wherever they want," Williams said. "At the same time, the federal regulations that govern how music is licensed - and thus, how songwriters, like me, are compensated for our work - don't reflect the way people listen to music today. Indeed, they are stuck in the distant past. And it's threatening the very future of American music."

Williams added, "We need a music licensing system that works the way we will be, not - to paraphrase a great songwriter and friend - the way we were."

Today's hearing was the second hearing held this month by the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet to address music licensing reform. The panel of witnesses also featured representatives from across the music industry, including Recording Industry Association of America, SoundExchange, the American Association of Independent Music, the National Association of Broadcasters, SiriusXM and Pandora.


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