[SoundExchange Chief Legal Officer Colin Rushing lays it down before Senate Judiciary]
Throughout the 80 years that the terrestrial radio performance right has been under discussion, broadcasters have argued in many ways that they are special and deserve different treatment than other business interests. Their arguments that their special status should result in them not paying performers– never valid – have now also been overtaken by events.
They say AM/FM radio is important because it is free, but they are no different than any other free ad-supported music platform available to consumers. They argue that providing public service announcements and news information is a reason to require music to subsidize their platform, and yet many music platforms provide these same services, not to mention that most digital music platforms are delivered over devices that provide local emergency notifications.
To the extent that AM/FM radio may be promotional, this is not a trait that sets them apart from other music services that compensate performers. Nor does it justify an uncompensated “taking” of musicians’ property. Rate-setting proceedings and licensing negotiations take promotional value into account as a matter of course, along with many other variables.
The potential for promotion exists in a lot of licensing arrangements. Television broadcast of a professional basketball game may promote a local team, but no one would suggest that the NBA should surrender the broadcast rights for free because of that “promotional value.” Why should music be any different?