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. identicon
    Sandy, 9 Feb 2009 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Radio is piracy now?

    "In maybe the most audacious increase in lobbyist spending history, Clear Channel Communications Inc., which owns nearly 1,200 radio stations and some television stations, had a clear interest in the relaxation of media ownership rules to expand its holdings into more market areas. In 2001, Clear Channel spent only $12,000 on lobbying the government. By 2003, the year of the FCC vote, it spent $2.28 million, an increase of 19,000 percent in just two years' time. That same year, Clear Channel's CEO, Lowry Mays told Fortune magazine what he thought of the publicly owned airwaves entrusted to his company: "If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn't be someone from our company. We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers products."

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