From performing rights to piracy, a number of issues that directly or indirectly touch the music industry will arise in Washington, D.C., in 2013.
The highest-profile topic, for all intents and purposes is about webcasting royalties. The Internet Radio Fairness Act, introduced last year, sparked a strong PR battle between its supporters, including Pandora and Clear Channel, and its opponents, mainly labels and artists. The issue took on an even greater importance for Pandora earlier this month when it was revealed that it'll pay a 25% rate increase with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Increases from other publishers could follow.
The IRFA expired at the end of the 113th Congress on Jan. 3, but the battle over webcasting rates is hardly over. D.C. insiders say to expect some sort of follow-up to the IRFA, probably with a different name and different language, and a counter bill that would seek to address broadcast radio's lack of performance royalties for sound recordings.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has indicated he wants to continue the discussion on music licensing issues that began with the November hearing on webcasting royalties. Next up could be reform of Section 115, the section of copyright law that provides a compulsory license for use of a composition in a sound recording.
National Music Publishers' Assn. president David Israelite says music publishers and digital media companies have "largely agreed on the framework for a solution" for the out-of-date law. A higher rate standard in Section 115 would be consistent with Section 114 and lead to "higher rates for songwriters, especially in the area of digital downloads," he says.
The music industry should have a receptive House of Representatives for the next two years. Legislation regarding intellectual property or copyright that's introduced in the House will be heard by the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. Two big speed bumps exist, however: The subcommittee now has gun control and immigration reform on its plate.
Although the subcommittee lost a longtime music industry supporter in Howard Berman--due to redistricting he had to run against another Democrat--it's now chaired by Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., who sources say has a reputation for being friendly to content owners' interests. In fact, RIAA senior executive VP Mitch Glazier was once Coble's chief of staff. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, is also known to support music industry causes.