Songwriter Equity Act returns to Congress to try changing composer royalties

gavel canvasThe Songwriter Equity Act has been reintroduced to Congress, which could lead to changes in how royalties to composers are calculated. The act, which was initially introduced last February but not passed, seeks again to amend two sections of the Copyright Act.

Section 114 of the Copyright Act currently prevents rate courts from considering the rates received by a recording artist when setting royalty rates for songwriters. The new act would remove that limitation, allowing courts to consider the rates for master recordings when determining songwriter performance rates.

The other rule in question is Section 115. As it stands, it doesn’t allow rate courts to consider other royalty rates when setting mechanical royalties. The proposed change would let courts consider the other rates when setting mechanicals.

The proposed legislature has the support of many music publishers and of the two major performing rights organizations, ASCAP and BMI. Many of these proponents of the bill see it as a first step toward further reforms in digital rights management. “The Songwriter Equity Act represents an important first step toward updating an outdated music licensing system that treats songwriters differently than other copyright owners and prevents us from earning a fair market royalty rate when our music is streamed or downloaded online,” ASCAP President Paul Williams said. “We look forward to working with policymakers to reform the broader regulatory framework, including ASCAP’s outdated consent decree with the DOJ, so that music licensing better reflects the way people listen to music today.”

Anna Washenko