New Bipartisan Senate Bill Levels Digital Music Playing Field, Assures Satellite Firms Play By Same Rules As Others
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) hailed the introduction of new legislation to level the playing field for satellite radio as a major step forward in the music industry's drive for parity among digital music services. The bill – introduced late Tuesday by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) – would reform the appropriate section of copyright law to assure satellite services play by the same rules as Internet music services – both in rate setting and content protection standards.
"We are big fans of satellite radio and celebrate its growth," said Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO, RIAA. "At the same time, that growth should not come at the expense of the music community, displacement of licensed sales and the integrity of the digital music marketplace. There is a critical need for the government to harmonize the current protections and rate regimes that make for the haphazard patchwork covering digital music services. This patchwork is allowing satellite radio to morph into something altogether different – a digital distribution service – with the creators of music left in the lurch.
"This legislation seeks to right that wrong and ensure a marketplace where fair competition can thrive," added Bainwol. "We're extremely grateful for the leadership of Senators Feinstein, Graham and Frist. This bill moves us far closer to achieving the platform parity that is so key to the health of the music industry in years to come."
The digital music marketplace is undergoing a convergence across all platforms – a convergence creating arbitrary advantages for certain services over others at the expense of creators. While offering great opportunities for the music community, satellite broadcasters and music fans, the convergence of radio-like services and downloading capability requires changes in the law to protect against a satellite company transforming its model into a download service without the appropriate license.
The RIAA and others in the music community have made it clear that satellite radio services should be required to obtain a license in the marketplace to offer the capability to cherry-pick individual songs and then permanently store them in a digital library. Legislation – such as the Feinstein-Graham-Frist bill – is needed to ensure that satellite services play by the same set of rules everyone else does and not profit from becoming a download/subscription model without acquiring the appropriate license and compensating artists and songwriters.
Because traditional terrestrial radio is not covered by the government license or this legislation, private market negotiations on measures to similarly protect high-definition (HD) radio are currently in progress. The RIAA has also praised the introduction of legislation by Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) that requires users of free government spectrum to protect content delivered through HD radio receivers through private market agreements.
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