On Tuesday, just before the Senate recesses for its summer vacation, an abridged version of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the proposed sound recording performance royalty for over-the-air radio. Internet radio royalties were also encompassed in this discussion, principally concerning the issue of "platform parity", i.e. whether all music services subject to the sound recording performance royalty should pay a royalty determined by the same standard, or perhaps even the same royalty. We’ve already written this week about some of the issues surrounding the broadcast performance royalty (why it’s still being considered given that a majority of the House of Representatives has already signed a resolution against the royalty, here, and discussing the likely amount of the royalty were it to be adopted, here). Neither of these issues was discussed in depth at the hearing. But a multitude of other issues were raised in the hearing. and we’ll address many of them over the next few days. But first, today, a summary of the issues raised.
First, it should be made clear that there was not a full committee in attendance. While a few Senators came and went without saying a word, questions were asked or comments made by only 5 Senators of the 19 on the Committee. So judging how the full committee feels about the issues raised when only 5 Senators (4 of them Democrats) asked questions may not be a fair assessment of how the committee as a whole feels about the issues raised. But, broadcasters should take warning that all of the Democratic Senators in attendance seemed to be sympathetic to the idea of adopting a broadcast performance royalty. However, it must be noted that all also seemed somewhat sympathetic to the concerns about the financial impact of the royalty on broadcasters. Just as members of the House have cautioned broadcasters to negotiate on a royalty before one is imposed on them, Senator Leahy of Vermont, the Chairman of the Committee, echoed those sentiments, promising that "legislation will move" on this issue – meaning that the issue will not simply fade away, despite the signatures on the NAB petition opposing the performance royalty.