Record label and artist groups are gearing up to lobby Congress for a performing right over terrestrial radio. Sources say that the groups now laying the groundwork for the push are the RIAA, the American Assn. of Independent Music (A2IM), the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC), the Recording Academy, musicians' and vocalists' unions AFM and AFTRA, and sound recording performance rights organization SoundExchange.

Currently, owners of most types of copyrighted works have an exclusive public performance right. Music publishers and songwriters have this right, receiving royalties for their compositions broadcast over-the-air (e.g., terrestrial radio) and streamed digitally. Broadcasters license these rights from, and pay these royalties to, ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.

In most countries outside the U.S., sound recording copyright owners and performers hold performance rights for terrestrial (i.e., analog) broadcasts and digital transmissions. But U.S. law only grants copyright owners and performers a performance right for digital transmissions. As a result, only satellite, cable and Internet radio must pay performance royalties to publishers as well as sound recording owners, musicians and vocalists in the U.S.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters is already gearing up for the fight. Calling any performance right for recordings a "tax" on broadcasters, NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton tells that there is a great value to record companies and artists through airplay on commercial radio stations. Broadcasters already generate enormous revenue for labels and artists through that airplay.

Now that Senate and House Judiciary Committees have moved patent reform issues along, sources say that some committee members will begin considering whether it's now time for U.S. copyright holders and performers to have this right.

The move to lobby Congress is the first step in a long process that's likely to take a couple years.