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Music publishers get in their wish list to President-Elect Trump

By | Published on Friday 18 November 2016

Donald Trump

After the US Internet Association, repping web giants like Google and Amazon, got in quick earlier this week with an open letter to President-Elect Donald Trump making various requests, including some in relation to ongoing copyright debates, America’s National Music Publishers Association has got its quill out and penned its own missive to the incoming Commander In Chief.

Noting Trump’s promise to overhaul Washington politics and take on the shady lobbying machine, the letter begins by saying: “As you have said many times, Washington needs to change, and one of the changes we hope comes from your Presidency is fairness for one of America’s most important small businesses: songwriters. Giant technology companies have had a stronghold in Washington under the Obama Administration. Google, which owns the largest music streaming company in the world – YouTube – enjoyed a well-documented, close relationship with the White House, in particular”.

It goes on: “Relationships like these led to an unfair and often hostile stance towards the creative community whose work has been systematically devalued by the very technology companies who rely on its product. Such companies recently wrote to you requesting support for the internet industry and its ‘innovation’, however we implore you to keep in mind that innovation is the first casualty of a lack of incentive”.

Noting the value of the copyright industries to the US economy, the letter continues: “Once the songwriters, producers and publishers behind the music cannot make a living, not only will they suffer, but so will all of the technology and entertainment industries they fuel”.

Trump and his Republican pals in Congress will likely make reducing government regulation a key part of their agenda. Tech firms would argue that strict copyright rules are the unnecessary regulation that hinders their operations, while the music industry sees the compulsory licences in US copyright law and the consent decrees governing collecting societies BMI and ASCAP as the unwarranted intrusion of government into their business.

Expanding on that theme, the ‘summary of priorities’ attached to the NMPA’s letter says: “For more than 100 years, songwriters have been denied the ability to negotiate the value of their intellectual property in a free market. In fact, today 75% of a songwriter’s income continues to be regulated by outdated laws and government regulations. The results from this rigged process have clearly benefitted large technology companies who use music, which is why they are spending millions to keep songwriters under these crippling regulations”.

Back in the letter itself, the music publishing trade group concludes: “Like many small business owners in America, songwriters are under attack by overregulation and degradation by Washington bureaucracy. We are hopeful that your administration is a sign of change for them – and that under your leadership they will be able to profit from the work they produce in a fair and free-market way, as other property owners do”.

In terms of its priorities, the NMPA mentions consent decree reform, safe harbour reform, tech firms doing more to combat piracy and the US government putting pressure on those countries where IP protection is currently rather slack. You can read the full letter here.

It remains to be seen how a Trump government tackles copyright matters. It would sort of be ironic if his anti-lobbyist, anti-regulation leanings ending up helping the music community, most of whom have been very open about their distaste for a lot of what the President-Elect stands for. But we’ll see, I guess.