It’s rare that we get insight into just how sleazy the Congress can be–but Senator Ron Wyden is giving us all a guided tour when it comes to his singular dedication to screwing pre-72 artists. There is a process in the Senate called a “hold” (see this memo from the Congressional Research Service describing the rules for holds) which can seriously slow down passage of legislation. Any one senator can put a hold on any bill, and Senator Wyden appears to be threatening to put a hold on the Music Modernization Act if he doesn’t get significant changes to the pre-72 fix, probably before Thursday’s “markup.”
That would be the pre-72 fix in the CLASSICS Act that was just passed by 415 Members of the House of Representatives. That’s right–ONE senator can replace the judgement of FOUR HUNDRED FIFTEEN elected representatives of the American people. ONE senator can crush the hopes of thousands of pre-72 artists or their heirs, because some people have waited so long to get a fair shake from the Congress that they died.
Why would any senator do such a thing? You can kind of understand this anti-democratic shenanigans on a controversial bill, or a bill that barely passed the House. On this bill, however, I have to believe that Wyden’s threatened hold can only be explained by blatant cronyism and swamp fever. And Oregonians need to know the dark side to Ron Wyden.
MTP readers will remember the story of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and his descent into the swamp. You might think, what’s a senator from Oregon doing up to his eyeballs in cronyism and the slime? Easy answer–cheap hydroelectric power from Oregon’s part of the Columbia River that powers many huge data centers owned by…you guessed it…Google, Facebook, Amazon, Rackspace. Cheap power that goes straight to their bottom line.
All get tax breaks of dubious value to Oregonians according to a state audit and cheap power, crowding out local businesses and residents. Each job created by these highly automated data centers costs the local communities up to $800,000–which might make it worth it to pay the companies to stay away.
Google, Facebook, Amazon and Rackspace all are members of the Internet Association, home to Mr. Shoegazer who gives “voting with your feet” a whole new meaning. Google and Amazon are also members of the Digital Media Association or “DiMA”. And DiMA’s grubby little paws are all over the Music Modernization Act, particularly the blanket mechanical license which reads like tech industry lobbyists wrote it.
And Google’s grubby little paws are all over Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, both card carrying members of the Google Shill List and both leading the charge against the CLASSICS Act, now part of the omnibus Music Modernization Act in the Senate. Remember, the omnibus Music Modernization Act includes CLASSICS as the fix on the pre-72 loophole . CLASSICS allows artists who recorded prior to 1972 and their heirs to benefit from digital royalties when their recordings are played on SiriusXM, Pandora or any other noninteractive radio platform.
Wyden has proposed an insanely complicated and unworkable alternative to the version of CLASSICS that got the Music Modernization Act passed in the House. The only reason that anyone is taking him seriously is because of his threatened hold and he’s going to try to jam this philistine and nonsensical alternative right down the throats of all the artists who had their hopes lifted when the House passed the bill unanimously.
All that Wyden is doing is using the hold system to leverage his way into jacking with the copyright term and throwing a bone to Google, Lessig and the entire anti-copyright and anti-artist crew.
And here’s what he should get for it…
He should get nothing at all and should be sent packing. Let him place his hold and see what happens. He may be narcissistic enough to believe that he’s entitled to replace the vote of 415 of his colleagues with his own cronyism, but we don’t have to buy it.
Nothing. He gets nothing.