Washington, DC (July 28, 2017)—A bipartisan bill hopes to close a loophole for sound recordings made before 1972, which are excluded from Federal copyright protection and receive no royalties from digital radio play.

A joint statement issued on July 19, 2017 by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet (respectively), elaborates on their legislation to close a long-standing gap in federal copyright law.

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Congress made sound recordings eligible for federal copyright protection with the Sound Recording Amendment of 1971, but the law as passed only applied to works created on or after February 15, 1972. Sound recordings made before 1972 were excluded from federal copyright protection.

This gap has meant that different recordings made before 1972 have been subject to an inconsistent patchwork of different laws. The U.S. Copyright Office has expressed bewilderment with the decision, writing in its recent report on federal copyright protections for pre-1972 sound recordings that “Congress did not articulate grounds for leaving pre-1972 sound recordings outside the federal scheme and there is very little information as to why it did so.”

This gap has meant that updates to copyright law and new protections extended to sound recordings under the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have excluded pre-1972 recordings. The most significant of these are the ‘safe harbor’ provisions for online piracy and ‘compulsory licenses’ made available for internet and satellite radio streaming.

H.R. 3301, the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act (the CLASSICS Act) resolves uncertainty over the copyright protections afforded to sound recordings made before 1972 by bringing these recordings into the federal copyright system and ensuring that digital transmissions of both pre- and post-1972 recordings are treated uniformly.

The CLASSICS Act serves as an update to the "pre-72 treatment" of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act — a broader music licensing bill introduced by Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Nadler earlier this Congress.

The bill is introduced with the support of stakeholders across the music and entertainment industry including American Association of Independent Music, the Recording Industry Association of America, Pandora, musicFIRST, the Internet Association, the GRAMMYs, SoundExchange, Screen Actors Guild?American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, the Future of Music Coalition, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and the Living Legends Foundation.

In addition to Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Nadler, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Ted Deutch (D-FL) joined as original co-sponsors of the legislation.

Congressman Darrell Issa
issa.house.gov

Congressman Jerrold Nadler
nadler.house.gov