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The Honorable Russ Feingold
United States Senator
The Performance Rights Act and Parity among Music Delivery Platforms
Statement of Sen. Russ Feingold
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing, and thank you to all of the witnesses for making the effort to appear here today.
Whether to create a performance right for music played on traditional radio is not a simple question. I have met with people on both sides of this issue, and I can appreciate the strong views that the issue inspires.
Radio always has been -- and continues to be, despite competition from assorted new technologies -- nothing less than the soundtrack of American life. Whatever our different experiences, we are all the beneficiaries of radio's direct and vital delivery of information and entertainment. Radio is a public medium that can and does serve the public good. And so, it is not my intention, or the intent of the proponents of a performance right, to support legislation that would harm radio.
But it is also critically important that Congress ensure that musicians are being adequately compensated for their work. I generally believe that this should include some kind of performance right. What we need to do is strike the proper balance, being careful not to take action that will have the unintended consequence of further reducing the number of local voices on the radio. Given this need for a balance, I am encouraged that additional carve-outs for small broadcasters, and a delay on the imposition of fees, to help the broadcasters negotiate these difficult economic times, were added during House consideration of this legislation.
As I understand it, under the current House version of the legislation, the rate that a station will pay for the unlimited use of music, and when performance right fees will kick in, are determined by the annual gross revenue of that station. These fees range from $500 to $5,000 for all stations with gross annual revenue of less than $1.2 million. Any station with more than $1.2 million in gross annual revenue will pay a rate to be set by the Copyright Royalty board. Additionally, if a station makes less than $5 million in gross annual revenue, payments from that station will not be expected for 2 full years after enactment. For those stations bringing in more than $5 million, payments will not be due until one year after enactment. I hope and expect that similar provisions will be included if the Judiciary Committee takes up the bill.
According to estimates, the changes in House bill will mean that 85% of Wisconsin stations would fall into one of the flat rate categories, and 97% of stations would not have to make payments until two years after enactment, with the remaining 3% beginning payment after one year.
I look forward to the testimony of today's witnesses as we continue to analyze this legislation to ensure an appropriate balance between payment to artists and ensuring diversity on the radio.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.