What's in the New Stimulus Package for the Music Industry

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak after a press conference on Capitol Hill on December 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate finally came to an agreement on the coronavirus relief bill and a vote is expected on Monday.

Within the omnibus budget appropriation and COVID-19 relief legislation passed late Monday night by both houses of the U.S. Congress are several long-sought measures for the music business: the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act), the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act, and the Save Our Stages Act, which reserves $15 billion in aid for independent music venues, Broadway theaters and museums.

The Case Act:

The CASE Act benefits songwriters and publishers, allowing them to press copyright infringement claims without going through an expensive lawsuit. It creates a three-judge panel Copyright Claims Board at the Copyright Office that would hear and rule on claims where damages would be capped at $15,000 per claim and $30,000 in total. The United States Copyright Office has one year to establish the Copyright Claims Board, unless the Register of Copyrights extends the time period for up to an additional 180 days for good cause. Read more about it here.

The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act:

In another move, Congress made streaming of copyrighted work without the proper licensing a felony, which would allow the Dept. of Justice to file charges against digital services that provide such material for financial gain, but excludes individual users from being prosecuted under the law. Read more about it here.

Save Our Stages:

Save Our Stages Act provides up to $15 billion that can be disbursed in grants through the Small Business Administration for venues that can show they have lost more than 25% of revenue; and venues with largest losses will be able to apply first. It allows them to support payment to employees and handle other costs like rent. Read more about it here.

While not specifically aimed at the music industry, unemployment benefits provided for in the final package will nonetheless have widespread implications for those who work within it. These include both the new round of $300 federal supplemental unemployment payments as well as extended unemployment aid for freelance workers -- who make up a sizable portion of the industry’s workforce -- through March 14, 2021. An extra $100 weekly unemployment benefit for “mixed earners” -- those who earn income both as employees and freelancers -- will benefit workers who were barred from receiving benefits under the unemployment program created for freelancers and gig workers because they qualified for traditional unemployment benefits.

One notable measure excluded from the final package was the HITS Act, which would allow musicians, technicians and producers to deduct up to $150,000 in recording expenses on their taxes in the year they were incurred. Billboard has learned that a separate effort to pass the HITS Act will continue in the new year.

The legislation awaits President Donald Trump’s signature in order to become law.