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musicFIRST launches campaign to rally US artists behind copyright reform 

By | Published on Thursday 31 August 2017

musicFIRST Coalition

US-based organisation The musicFIRST Coalition yesterday launched a new website and online campaign to rally artists behind the key issues on which it is lobbying, namely radio royalties, compulsory licences, the 1972 copyright quirk and those bloody safe harbours. Many of these issues relate specifically to American copyright law, though – of course – safe harbour is a global gripe for the music community.

musicFIRST has given each of the strands of its campaign a tongue-in-cheek title. ‘No Heart Radio’ is focused on the fact that, under US copyright law, AM/FM radio stations pay no royalties to artists and labels, the biggest beneficiary of which is American radio giant iHeart. Meanwhile the ‘SiriusLY’ strand notes that, while US online and satellite radio stations like Sirius do pay recording royalties, they can utilise a compulsory licence where rates are set by the Copyright Royalty Board. musicFIRST reckons that results in below-market rates.

Under the banner ‘That 70s Law’ is the campaign to extend federal copyright law to all copyright protected sound recordings, rather than only those released since 1972. As it currently stands older tracks are protected by state copyright law, throwing up all sorts of complications when it comes to the online and satellite radio royalties due under federal rules. And finally ‘YouLose’ is the title for musicFIRST’s campaign against the use of safe harbour protection by user-upload services, which – of course – mainly means YouTube.

The new digital advertising campaign targets American artists, seeking to get more music makers behind musicFIRST’s lobbying efforts. Among other things, artists will be encouraged to share their stories online and to send messages to their local representatives in US Congress, where the industry is seeking legislative reform.

Says musicFIRST Executive Director Chris Israel: “Music has incredible value and music creators should always be fairly compensated for their work. It is a very exciting time and the ways that we are listening to music are changing rapidly. Unfortunately, many laws remain outdated and often fail to protect music creators by denying them fair pay for their hard work. Our new campaign is focused on empowering music creators to advocate for the essential and enduring value of their works”.

Israel goes on: “Our goal is to rally the people and organisations who make and love music to ask Congress to address obvious flaws in our copyright system. We are simply looking for a level playing field with no government subsidies, grandfather clauses or decades-old safe harbours. The music industry has evolved, innovated and grown. Some of those who told us to ‘adapt to disruption’ are now the ones hiding behind outdated government protections. It’s time to modernise the rules to let competition, innovation and great music thrive. The real winners will be the millions of fans who ultimately drive everything we do”.