South O’ the Highway

Paul McCartney, Billy Joel Lobby Congress for Ownership of Classic Songs

Paul McCartney recently joined a long list of artists who are lobbying Congress to adopt the CLASSICS Act in April, which will ensure that musicians and copyright owners are fully compensated for the digital radio play of their pre-February 15, 1972 recordings.

The reason for this weirdly specific date is that the 1971 Copyright Act Sound Recording Amendment went into effect on that date. Before that, there were no federal laws protecting an artist’s ownership of produced sound recordings. This legislation effectively protected the rights of all songs created after that date, but it didn’t apply to any songs released prior. Certain states offer protection for older songs, but with no federal laws, the royalty fee requirements for digital radio services, such as SiriusXM, Pandora and Spotify, remain very ambiguous and allow these platforms to rake in billions of dollars each year off of music they don’t pay to use.

The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act, introduced in 2017 by Representatives Jerry Nadler of New York and Darrell Issa of California, would correct this issue and guarantee that copyright holders of classic hits (released after 1922) would have the ability to protect and license the use of their recordings and receive royalty fees from online radio services that wish to play their songs. Being introduced in both chambers of Congress, the bipartisan legislation now heads to the House Judiciary Committee, which will begin marking up a music copyright package containing the CLASSICS Act, amongst other items, on April 9.

The legislation’s list of signatures has surpassed 300 and includes many big names in music, such as: Billy Joel, Blue Oyster Cult, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Dolly Parton, Grateful Dead, Lindsey Stirling, Lionel Richie, Neil Diamond, Phil Collins, Ringo Starr, Shawn Mendes, Tony Bennett, Toto and the estates of Chuck Berry, Frank Sinatra, George Harrison, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Muddy Waters and Smokey Robinson.

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