No Election Surprises for Music Industry (Including Clay Aiken)

Clay Aiken
Gerry Broome/AP Images

Clay Aiken speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Aiken is seeking the Democratic nomination for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.

As far as the music industry is concerned, Tuesday's elections provided no surprises.

Republicans won a majority of seats in the Senate and strengthened their hold in the House of Representatives, and lawmakers expected to hold the reins on music industry issues all won their election bids.

In the Senate, committee leadership will change hands due to the Republicans taking a majority. Chuck Grassley is expected to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Since bills related to copyright or intellectual property must pass through this committee, Grassley can wield a great deal of power in music industry matters.

There's evidence Grassley supports music industry cases. He was originally a supporter of anti-piracy bill PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA, before changing his stance amidst vocal public opposition. Earlier this year Grassley received the "American Songwriter" award from the National Music Publishers' Association and Church Music Publishers.


Also as expected, House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte easily won reelection for Virginia's 6th District. Goodlatte has been spearheading a review of copyright law with the intention of passing a major update to U.S. copyright law in the next four years.

And to no surprise, Clay Aiken lost his bid for a seat in the House of Representatives. The former American Idol contestant lost the election for North Carolina's 2nd district by nearly a 3-to-2 margin to Republican candidate Renee Elmers.

The House Judiciary subcommittee that oversees intellectual property was set for a change regardless of election results. Subcommitee chairman Howard Coble's retirement leaves an opening for a new chairman. A leading candidate is said to be Darrell Issa, who handily won reelection for California's 49th District. While Coble has been known as a supporter of the music industry, Issa leaves insiders guessing. He's a proponent of a performance right for terrestrial radio but opposed the entertainment-industry backed Stop Online Piracy Act.

Important issues debated since last year will likely continue to be debated by the next Congress. Lawmakers have expressed an interest in the establishment of a performance right for terrestrial radio that would pay record labels and performing artists. A performance right for pre-1972 recordings and fair-market royalties for songwriters are two more hot-button topics.

But Congress could wait for some important developments before moving on these and other issues. Two court decisions regarding pre-1972 recordings will be appealed. The Copyright Office will next year release a report on music licensing that incorporates the feedback of stakeholders throughout the industry. The Department of Justice will conclude its review of ASCAP and BMI's consent decrees that sets rules and limits on how the two organizations license repertoire. An appeal of the Capitol Records v. Vimeo lawsuit could redefine what constitutes infringing behavior of user-generated audio or video. And near the end of 2015, the Copyright Royalty Board will set new webcasting royalty rates for 2016 through 2020. On some or all of these issues, Congress may wait for resolution before deciding if and how to address them through legislation.


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