The RIAA, Pandora and SoundExchange are among a chorus of industry bodies and music companies who’ve welcomed a new push in the U.S. to establish the copyright in all sound recordings beyond 1972.
Two American politicians this week introduced bipartisan legislation into Congress seeking to extend the digital performing right on sound recordings and repair a legislative loophole which rips off heritage artists.

In a quirk of U.S. federal law, only sound recordings made on or after February 15, 1972 receive royalty payments from digital radio services, which include Internet, cable and satellite radio platforms.

But that could change after Darrell Issa (R-Cali.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on Wednesday (July 19) dropped the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act (the CLASSICS Act) in Washington D.C., a bill that would fix the legal flaw and establish royalty payments whenever pre-1972 music is played on digital radio services.

In a joint statement, the three industry voices welcomed what they described as a “breakthrough” bill. The updated legislation “helps close, once and for all, the loophole in federal law that has shortchanged legacy artists for decades,” said Cary Sherman, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Chairman & CEO. “If enacted into law as we hope it will be, music’s founding generation of iconic performers and creators will finally share some of the value generated by the music that is the backbone of digital radio.”

Sherman, like his opposite numbers at Pandora and SoundExchange (which would distribute royalties for pre-‘72 recordings played through digital channels as it does for post-‘72 recordings), says “it’s the right thing to do.”

Steve Bené, Pandora’s General Counsel adds: “For decades, the artists that gave the world Motown, Jazz, and Rock n’ Roll have been hampered by antiquated and arbitrary laws – until now. While many heritage artists are compensated through direct licensing deals, including by Pandora, it’s the independent musicians that this bill rightly protects.”

Artists, songwriters and labels have been quick to applaud the move as a great step forward, and it comes after musos Flo and Eddie of the Turtles filed class-action lawsuits against SiriusXM in various states over unpaid royalties, with mixed success.

Legal battles over pre-1972 recordings have rumbled on through the courts for some years now, creating friction between labels and Internet radio services.

The RIAA’s members in 2015 struck a $90 million settlement to end litigation over Pandora’s use of sound recordings authored pre-972, just months after the trade body announced a $210 million settlement with SiriusXM. SiriusXM has yet to comment on the new bill.

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