H.R. 848 by Rep. John Conyers has black radio in a tizzy

I received a text and a phone call this morning asking me if I were familiar with H.R. 848.  I wasn’t but started listening to 97.9 The Beat discussing the bill earlier.

The vibe from the Rickey Smiley show was that HR 848 is going to “kill black radio.”  The guests on to discuss the topic urged that Rep. JohnConyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, convene hearings.  Uh….according to the Judiciary Committee website, hearings were held Wednesday, March 4th at 10:00 AM; 2141 Rayburn House Office Building.

Anyway,  I did a little research and here’s what I found that HR 848 is all about:-

Performance Rights Act – Amends federal copyright law to:

(1) grant performers of sound recordings equal rights to compensation from terrestrial broadcasters;
(2) establish a flat annual fee in lieu of payment of royalties for individual terrestrial broadcast stations with gross revenues of less than $1.25 million and for noncommercial, public broadcast stations;

(3) grant an exemption from royalty payments for broadcasts of religious services and for incidental uses of musical sound recordings; and

(4) grant terrestrial broadcast stations that make limited feature uses of sound recordings a per program license option.

Prohibits taking into account license fees payable for public performance via digital audio transmission of sound recordings in any proceeding to set or adjust the license fees for the purpose of reducing or adversely affecting such license fees. (Current law prohibits taking those fees into account in such a proceeding without referencing the purpose.)

Prohibits anything in this Act from adversely affecting the public performance rights or royalties payable to songwriters or copyright owners of musical works. Prohibits taking into account the rates established by the Copyright Royalty Judges in any proceeding to reduce or adversely affect the license fees payable for public performances by terrestrial broadcast stations.

Requires that such license fees for the public performance of musical works be independent of license fees paid for the public performance of sound recordings. Revises provisions relating to proceeds from the licensing of transmissions.

The spirit of the legislation seems to be that artists and songwriters get paid by terrestrial radio for their work. Black Radio is already dying and I guess all of us need to see how badly we need stations where every other song is explicit even if it is indirectly.  On the surface, it’s hard to argue the need for artists to get paid, but there may be more here that I’m missing.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee  are both co-sponsors of this legislation.  I contacted Rep. Johnson’s office and they said that will be working today to understand the concerns that are being raised.  I’ll try to get more information as it becomes available.

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