Three senior Republican U.S. senators announced today at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville that they are introducing legislation that would allow songwriters to receive compensation based on the fair market value of their songs.
The Songwriter Equity Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) – a songwriter himself and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee that would consider the legislation. The legislation would amend federal law to allow songwriters to be compensated for the fair market value of their work.
The senators made their announcement accompanied by songwriters Roxie Dean, Lee Thomas Miller, Tom Douglas and Rivers Rutherford, who performed some of their signature songs and discussed the importance of removing government restrictions.
Senator Alexander said: “Italy has its art, Egypt has its pyramids, Napa Valley has its wines and Nashville has its songwriters. Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs – so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds.”
Senator Corker said: “There’s no place where the music industry is more vibrant than in Tennessee, where we are blessed with talented songwriters, musicians, and small and large businesses that work to bring to life the music we enjoy each day. As technology advances, it’s important we not forget the sometimes unsung heroes of the music industry – the songwriters – and modernize the way they are compensated for their talents.”
Senator Hatch said: “The music business is one of the toughest industries out there and our songwriters and composers shouldn’t have to accept artificially low royalty rates for their works. Allowing them to receive the fair market value for their songs is the right thing to do, and I’m pleased to support this bill that will do just that."
The legislation would allow songwriters to receive market-based compensation and remove government price controls in two ways:
First, it would direct the Copyright Royalty Board to set compensation according to the fair market value when songs are sold, such as through music downloads and CD purchases, replacing the current below-market standard.
Second, it would remove a provision of law that narrows the scope of evidence the federal rate court may examine when asked to set songwriter compensation for when their song is played, such as in a restaurant or at a concert.
Songwriter compensation is dictated by the federal government. The rate of compensation that is set by the Copyright Royalty Board has increased only 7 cents over 100 years, and is currently 9.1 cents per song. The so-called “federal rate court” determines compensation rates for public performances, occasionally requiring songwriters to engage in complex litigation to be paid reasonable fees for their work.
The legislation the senators introduced is the Senate companion to H.R. 4079, legislation introduced on Feb. 25 by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) with 14 cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.).
Senator Alexander currently serves as the Ranking Member, or lead Republican, of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senator Corker serves at the Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Hatch is the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, in addition to being a senior member of the Judiciary Committee.