SoundExchange and a coalition of recording artists launched an awareness campaign called Project72, coordinated with the introduction of new legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives called The RESPECT Act. At stake is the earning power of records released before February 15, 1972.
That key date represents a milestone in the U.S.’s formulation of copyright law. The U.S. Copyright Act absolves distributors from mandatory royalty payment for the use of oldies released before then.
When AM/FM radio was the near-exclusive distributor of music listening in the home, the car, and through portable devices, the 1972 boundary was less consequential — radio has never paid mandatory music royalties to labels at all, no matter when the music was released.
With the growth of digital listening services (including AM/FM web streams), which are required by law to license records from their rights-holders (labels and performers), the trove of pre-1972 music represents lost revenue — unfairly lost, in the view of SoundExchange, the Performing Rights Organization (PRO) which collects and distributes royalties to labels and artists.
SoundExchange appears to blame digital music services which “refuse to pay artists for songs recorded before 1972.” Shifting the focus to Congress, SoundExchange endorses The RESPECT Act’s sponsors and their effort to eliminate the royalty-free loophole. “We applaud Representatives Holding and Conyers for taking this step toward righting a wrong being done to pre-72 artists whose music has inspired all of us. The RESPECT Act rightfully requires digital radio to treat all sound recordings equally, regardless of the date they were made,” said Michael Huppe, SoundExchange president and CEO.
Project72 is starting with an open letter signed by over 70 performers, some of them owners of influential pre-1972 music recordings — Martha Reeves, Tommy James, Richie Furay, and others.