By Miles Raymer
Updated February 05, 2015 at 09:21 PM EST
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Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill

The rules determining how music licensing functions in the U.S. are built on a framework that was erected not only before the advent of digital streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube, but even before the vinyl LP and the widespread adoption of radio. It’s a complicated but rickety jury-rigged structure that the increasing rate of new technology is threatening to topple.

In a rare instance of a government agency getting out in front of moving technology, the U.S. Copyright Office just released a lengthy report based on a year’s worth of research that proposes a number of radical alterations to the existing laws in order to bring them up to date and allow more flexibility. Among them: giving copyright owners (including musicians and songwriters) more power to opt out of deals with online distributors, extending modern copyright law to recordings created before 1972, and treating terrestrial radio stations the same as digital streaming services, which would mean paying out performance royalties that they’ve been exempt from for decades under a loophole that qualifies traditional radio play as a promotional tool.

Artists, songwriters, and producers would all stand to gain greater control over their music, as well as greater (and more easily accessed) royalty payouts. Following the report’s release, the not-for-profit American Association of Independent Music released a statement praising it for “ensuring greater licensing transparency” in the process of paying rights holders.

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