Copyright Law Hot Topic At Senate Hearing
Witnesses from the record industry, artist community, and technology businesses outlined their concerns about online music before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday (April 3), but comWitnesses from the record industry, artist community, and technology businesses outlined their concerns about online music before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday (April 3), but committee members did not indicate that they would step in to introduce legislation, Billboard Bulletin reports.
Napster interim CEO Hank Barry called on Congress to enact a compulsory license for the delivery of music over the Internet, analogous to the current music licensing in radio. He told lawmakers at a hearing last July that such a license wasn't necessary. A compulsory license supercedes the negotiated market mechanism for distributing copyrighted works, allowing prospective distributors to obtain a flat-rate license without negotiations with copyright owners.
The Recording Industry Association Of America, the Motion Picture Association Of America, and the National Music Publishers' Association voiced opposition to any such license. Robin Richards, president of MP3.com, went further, calling for Congressional reform of the compulsory-license section.
Lawmakers generally responded favorably to the new deal by RealNetworks, EMI Group, BMG Entertainment, and Warner Music Group to create the online subscription service MusicNet, although Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking Democrat on the committee, questioned the timing of the announcement.
He sought assurances from AOL Time Warner co-COO Richard D. Parsons and EMI Recorded Music president/CEO Ken Berry that the new service will offer equal access to content from labels that are not part of the deal.
Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, reacted most responsively to the problems facing artists. After the hearing, he told Bulletin he plans to look into artists' non-Internet concerns, such as the Copyright Act's work-for-hire provision (which has been repealed but remains ambiguous) and recoupment clauses in record contracts.
Leahy worried that creative incentive would falter if file-sharing technologies are not harnessed. "I wouldn't want Don Henley and Alanis Morissette not to continue to produce music because they weren't justly compensated," he said.
Henley, co-founder of the Recording Artists Coalition, and Morissette testified at the hearing, while about 70 Napster users, mostly teenagers, were allowed inside. "As we sit here, there's a pingpong game going on over our heads about business models when we don't know how our rights are going to be protected," Henley said.
He added that artists want a "seat at the table" and worry specifically about getting compensation for online performances and making sure that the copyright "fair use" doctrine isn't expanded to let consumers trade music for free.