WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) of the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet introduced bipartisan legislation to close a long-standing gap in federal copyright law. The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act (the CLASSICS Act), H.R. 3301, resolves uncertainty over the copyright protections afforded to sound recordings made before 1972 by bringing these recordings into the federal copyright system and ensuring that digital transmissions of both pre- and post-1972 recordings are treated uniformly.
The CLASSICS Act serves as an update to the “pre-72 treatment” of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act – a broader music licensing bill introduced by Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Nadler earlier this Congress – and represents a broad consensus from a variety of stakeholders across the music landscape.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler: “For years, we have been working to ensure royalty payments for artists who recorded many of our great musical classics before 1972. The Fair Play Fair Pay Act set down a clear marker on the need to resolve the dispute over pre-72 music, as we worked toward a long-term solution that benefits multiple stakeholders. The bill we are introducing today updates this Pre-72 provision, once and for all guaranteeing royalty payments for our great legacy artists while providing certainty for digital music services. Hopefully, this new measure will serve as an example of the consensus that can be reached between the creators and distributors of music as we work to comprehensively update our music licensing laws. Many of these older musicians are past their working years and have no other way to make ends meet. I’m thankful to the supporters of this bill for recognizing that pre-72 recordings have value and that those who create it should be paid regardless of their age.”
Congressman Darrell Issa: “This an important and overdue fix to the law that will help settle years of litigation and restore some equity to this inexplicable gap in our copyright system. It makes no sense that some of the most iconic artists of our time are left without the same federal copyright protections afforded to their modern counterparts. This bill is the product of a great deal of work to build consensus across party lines and varying interests all-over the music and entertainment landscapes on how to best resolve this long-standing problem. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here. It will go a long way helping bring music licensing laws into the twenty-first century.”
The bill is introduced with the support of stakeholders across the music and entertainment industry including American Association of Independent Music, the Recording Industry Association of America, Pandora, musicFIRST, the Internet Association, the GRAMMYs, SoundExchange, Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, the Future of Music Coalition, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and the Living Legends Foundation. The bill is also supported by several noted artists, many of whom spoke out in support of the CLASSICS Act.
In addition to Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Nadler, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Ted Deutch (D-FL) joined as original co-sponsors to the legislation.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Congress made sound recordings eligible for federal copyright protection with the Sound Recording Amendment of 1971, but the law as passed only applied to works created on or after February 15, 1972. Sound recordings made before 1972 were excluded from federal copyright protection
This gap has meant that different recordings made before 1972 have been subject to an inconsistent patchwork of different laws, creating significant uncertainty for rights holders music creators, and distributors, including digital streaming services, who wish to be able to fairly compensate artists and utilize these recordings.
The differing treatment of pre and post 1972 was an inexplicable and arbitrary oversight on the part of Congress. The U.S. Copyright Office has expressed their bewilderment with the decision, writing in their recent report on federal copyright protections for pre-1972 sound recordings that “Congress did not articulate grounds for leaving pre-1972 sound recordings outside the federal scheme and there is very little information as to why it did so.”
This gap has meant that updates to copyright law and new protections extended to sound recordings under the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have excluded pre-1972 recordings. The most significant of these being the ‘safe harbor’ provisions for online piracy and ‘compulsory licenses’ made available for internet and satellite radio streaming.
Quotes of praise for the CLASSICS Act:
“This is a great step forward for legacy artists. Thank you to Representatives Issa and Nadler for recognizing that music made before 1972 is just as important and valued as post-1972 music.” — Mary Wilson, The Supremes
“I am overjoyed and extraordinarily grateful for Congressmen Issa and Nadler’s bipartisan relentless efforts to correct an inequality in the law that discriminates against myself and my peers– the legacy artists who recorded our hit records prior to 1972. It is has been unfair and outrageous that the artists, such as myself, who recorded some of our country’s most iconic music, have been forced to resort to lawsuits in order to get paid for the commercial use of their recordings. It is phenomenal that finally there is light shining at the end of this very long tunnel we’ve been looking at for so long. Knowing there is a consensus agreement to resolve any portion of this outrageous problem makes me proud and furthers my hope that I will still be alive to see the other issues Reps. Nadler and Issa have championed in the Fair Play Fair Pay Act come to similar positive bipartisan resolution and conclusion.” — Sam Moore
“I have found so much inspiration in the songs of the past, the songs I grew up with. The least – the very least – I could do is show them respect and honor them by urging Congress to fix the law so that they can get paid by digital radio. That’s why this bill is so important.” — Melissa Etheridge
“Every artist making music today stands on the musical shoulders of those who came before them. I would not be doing what I do if it weren’t for the heritage acts I grew up listening to, idolizing and trying to emulate. The fact that these amazing artists are not getting compensated for their indelible work and profound influence is simply unfathomable to me, and must be fixed. I am grateful to the sponsors of this bill for finally trying to even the scales, as there is no future in music without honoring the past.” — Dave Koz
“It’s a travesty that artists who shaped our creative minds and inspired us to want to play music in the first place are not being acknowledged and compensated for the music they gave us. I’m hopeful this important legislation will address this issue for all time.” — Carlene Carter, Singer-Songwriter, Daughter of country music legends June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, and granddaughter of “Mother” Maybelle Carter of the original historic Carter Family
“The fact U.S., copyright protection does not apply sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972 makes absolutely no sense. Early rockers like me and my peers are on heavy rotation these days on popular oldies channels and on digital radio services. And unlike many other platforms, we’re not compensated for it. How is that fair? It’s our music that attracting listeners and thus we should be paid. I’m grateful for the leadership of Reps. Issa and Nadler and their efforts to fix this enormous injustice with this important bill.” — Steve Cropper, legendary guitarist, songwriter and producer