In 2008, the Department of Commerce urged Congress to expand the statutory royalty scheme for digital music streaming to include terrestrial radio transmissions, arguing that this would: (1) level the playing field between satellite, Internet, and terrestrial broadcasters, (2) increase the incentives for performers and record companies to produce new recordings, and (3) make it possible for U.S. record producers and performers to receive substantial amounts of foreign performance royalties that have previously been held back by foreign PROs. Public performance royalties would also replace some of the mechanical royalties that record producers and performers have lost due to the proliferation of unauthorized downloads.
The Obama Administration’s support for performance rights in sound recordings is consistent with the position that the Copyright Office has argued for decades. However, opposition from the broadcasting industry has consistently scuttled legislation designed to achieve this goal. Until the U.S. enacts a broader public performance right for sound recordings, domestic performers and record companies will be unable to claim their share of foreign performance royalties (a share which probably exceeds $100 million per year), because most countries (or their collecting societies) impose a reciprocity requirement which U.S. law does not satisfy. It is ironic that the country that produces the most popular sound recordings in the world is unable to collect the royalties from those overseas performances. KEEP READING