Congressman Buys Recording Industry Argument That Radio Is Piracy

from the and-here-we-go-again dept

For pretty much the entire history of radio, everyone has known that getting your songs played on the radio was promotional. It helps sell albums. It helps sell concert tickets. There is no better way to prove this than to just look at the history of "payola" whereby record labels would pay radio stations to get their music heard. Obviously, the recording industry put tremendous value into being on the radio and was willing to pay for the privilege (even if it was illegal). In the US, radio stations have to pay royalties to composers and publishers -- but not performance rights to the musicians. That's because Congress also recognized that radio was a benefit to those artists.

Yet, in the last few years, with the recording industry execs desperate for more cash and unwilling to embrace business models that actually take some work, they've been running to Congress demanding that radio stations now pay performance rights to the labels. They even came up with a silly study that attempted to prove that radio play decreases sales. Late last year, it got so silly that one of the recording industry's many lobbying groups, called musicFIRST, claimed that radio is a "form of piracy." musicFIRST has been hiring big name lobbyists, like former House Majority Leader Dick Armey to push this view, and (of course) some politicians have obliged.

Rep. John Conyers has once again introduced a performance rights bill which is mistakenly described as creating "parity." It's only "parity" if you think that doubling the tax on playing music on the radio is "parity."
This is, once again, nothing more than the recording industry trying to get the government to force others to hand over money, because the labels are too lazy (or clueless) to learn how to embrace some of the new business models that are earning musicians plenty of money. And Congress has no problem helping to prop them up.

It's worth noting, of course, that among the top contributors to Rep. Conyers recent re-election was the American Intellectual Property Law Association as well as DLA Piper, the big law firm that (oh look!) Dick Armey has been working for... It's also worth pointing out that Conyers, as head of the House Judiciary Committee, just so happened to have recently abolished the subcommittee on intellectual property -- which (hmm...) would have almost certainly been chaired by Rep. Rick Boucher, one of the few folks in Congress who actually has been known to fight for the rights of consumers, and against the RIAA, when it comes to copyright. This gave Conyers, rather than Boucher, control over new IP related legislation.

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  1. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 9 Feb 2009 @ 10:03am

    Parity or Systematic Dinosauritis?

    One of the problems with government is that they will always support a dated, dinosaur industry over nascent, innovative ones. Even if the newer industry would be much better for the economy and benefit more people.

    That's because the new industry has no lobbyists, no big money, no power brokers, no existing relationships, no alumni in positions of power, no "they're killing jobs" argument they can make.

    Politicians back the old industry time and again for two consistent reasons: they are sell-outs to incumbent industry, and/or they don't understand the subject matter and are fooled by the incumbent's FUD.

    So we get this weird paradox of right-wingers, who supposedly are free-marketeers, supporting incumbent industries by proposing more and more laws to bolster them up. Hah! Some free market! Meanwhile, the true right-wingers, like Ron Paul, get shut out of the discussion.

    I'm a left-of-center kind of guy, so I don't mind a regulation once in a while, but for God's sakes, they shouldn't be supporting the incumbents. All the advantages are already theirs, if they'd just start competing.

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