March 15, 2012

ASCAP President Paul Williams Testifies at U.S. Senate Committee on Finance Hearing

ASCAP President Paul Williams Testifies at
U.S. Senate Committee on Finance Hearing on
Implications for Music Creators of Russia’s World Trade Organization Accession

New York, NY, March 15, 2012: ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) President and Chairman Paul Williams testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance today in Washington, D.C. The Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winning Hall of Fame songwriter represented ASCAP’s 427,000 members before the committee, which is led by Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The subject of the hearing was the implications for the United States of Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization and whether to recommend granting Russia “permanent normal trade relations” (PNTR).

Williams’ testimony served to highlight the challenges American songwriters, composers and publishers face in securing fair compensation from the public performances of their music in Russia and urged the U.S. Government to address these challenges as they consider Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organization. Williams pointed out that American music creators are grossly underpaid for the public performances of their works in Russia. 

American music creators depend on the efficiencies of performing rights organizations (PROs), like ASCAP and its reciprocal relationships with a network of foreign societies around the world, to license their public performance rights and collect and distribute royalties. Williams pointed out that RAO, ASCAP’s Russian counterpart, is handicapped in its efforts to collect on behalf of American music creators through an ineffective legal system and threats to its authority to collect royalties for music used in films and shown in Russian theaters. In addition, Russian fiscal authorities require RAO to collect a “Value Added Tax” or VAT at a statutory rate of 18%, further reducing royalties paid to American music creators.

Commented Williams: “We know there is no magic wand that our Government can wave to ensure American music creators and copyright owners are fairly compensated in Russia…If Congress decides to grant PNTR, the US Government must aggressively use all available enforcement tools to protect American songwriters, composers, and publishers. Agreements without enforcement may be worse than no agreements at all.”

Paul Williams’ hearing statement is available here.

Established in 1914, ASCAP is the first and leading U.S. Performing Rights Organization (PRO) representing the world's largest repertory totaling over 8.5 million copyrighted musical works of every style and genre from more than 427,000 songwriter, composer and music publisher members. ASCAP has representation arrangements with similar foreign organizations so that the ASCAP repertory is represented in nearly every country around the world where copyright law exists. ASCAP protects the rights of its members and foreign affiliates by licensing the public performances of their copyrighted works and distributing royalties based upon surveyed performances. ASCAP is the only American PRO owned and governed by its writer and publisher members.

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