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AM/FM performance royalty bill coming in Oct.; NAB guns blazing

Posted on: 10/19/2007

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) has officially announced that he will introduce legislation next month that would force broadcasters to pay a royalty to copyright owners when their material is played over the radio.

The legislation, which broadcasters are calling a “performance tax,” would reverse the broadcast industry’s decades-old exemption from such a royalty.

During his keynote address at the NAB Radio Show in Charlotte, NAB President/CEO David Rehr pledged that the broadcast group would vehemently oppose the legislation.

“The big record labels are spinning the same old tune to Congress — asking them to impose a tax on radio to line the pockets of international record executives,” said Rehr (pictured below). “We can’t and won’t let that happen.”

In his statement, Rep. Berman attempted to preempt concerns over the impact of a new royalty on different types of businesses, assuring broadcasters that he intends “to ensure that small and religious stations — and, indeed, all stations — will not be unduly burdened and that any new payment requirement will not be excessive.”

Berman, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, the Courts and the Internet, presided over a hearing in July that first introduced the issue on a Congressional level [RAIN coverage here].

Panelists at the recent Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington D.C. devoted substantial time to the issue of performance rights [RAIN coverage here]. Gigi Sohn, Presdient of Public Knowledge, argued that proponents of the legislation “think the time is absolutely now to push for a performance right,” which she attributed to a full plate of issues being faced by the NAB, as well as what Sohn called “a leadership [at the NAB] that is not as respected as it used to be.”

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