April 25, 2014

Reps. Chu and Marino Call for Support of the Songwriter Equity Act

by Peter Munters

Reps. Chu and Marino Call for Support of the Songwriter Equity Act

(l-r) ASCAP's Beth Matthews, Paul Williams, Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. Tom Marino

Paul Williams began this motivational panel bridging the gap between music creators and legislators on a harmonious note: "We are here to work together. We want in no way to come between consumers and the music."

Together with allies, Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and California Congresswoman Judy Chu, Williams engaged in a passionate and insightful talk about the future of intellectual property legislation moderated by ASCAP's Elizabeth Matthews.

The Congressman and Congresswoman each addressed the audience first. Marino introduced himself and shared his empathy for creators of great American music:

"I know firsthand what it is like to work hard for a paycheck and stretch a buck into next week. I appreciate the painstaking hours you put into your craft. When I think of songwriters, I think of the extraordinary gifts songwriters create for society. Music provides the soundtrack to our lives."

A longtime friend of ASCAP and copyright law reform in general, Marino's words were uncompromising and awesome to hear.

"Call me crazy, but if you work for hours and hours on a hit that is played around the world, your paycheck ought to reflect that success and make a good living for you and your family," Marino said.

Next, Representative Judy Chu spoke directly to the power of performance rights organizations in the battle for equity for songwriters.

"It takes an ASCAP to organize, mobilize and educate those in peril to become advocates for their future," she offered." The urge to amend section 114 of the Copyright Act is an ASCAP contribution!"

The Congresswoman thanked songwriters for "the growth in the creative sector," adding that the copyright industry contributed over a trillion dollars to the GDP last year.

"Music is a great American export," she said. "I believe there should be fair compensation for all artists across all platforms."

The panel discussion continued returning to several common themes:

1) Remedying the unfair compensation of songwriters, and their inability to represent and negotiate their own value in the marketplace on a legal level, will involve music creators banding together and taking advantage of strength in numbers.

2) Congressman Marino and Congresswoman Chu both adamantly asked for advocacy from any willing creator, for the review of consent decrees that bind performance rights organizations to the courts that determine their royalty rates. Marino even went so far as to say these decrees should be demolished altogether. I certainly applaud that. It is a tenet of our freedom to let the market decide, and certainly at the heart of rock and roll.

3) Paul Williams continued to add to his positive, firm approach to supporting legislative initiatives like the Songwriter Equity Act and the formal call to review the federal Copyright Act by the Library of Congress. Some choice quotes:

"The time has come today to step up to the plate and change the way we do business. If I can change, the Department of Justice can change, too!"

"The stream is the dream for the music lover...it should not be a nightmare for the people who make music."

"We can make a difference in the lives of songwriters that haven't even been born yet if we take action now."

Williams also reminded us creators and "musoids" to sling the #StandWithSongwriters hashtag around our social networks, amplifying the movement.

The panel ended with a rousing call to arms, with several audience members approaching the mic to ask if they too could join the team of creator advocates in their trips to Capitol Hill.

"What happens in the next year or two will the decide the course of our industry for decades to come," said Williams.

"There are songwriters in each district in America," said Marino. "If each of these songwriters reaches out to their members of Congress, we can make a difference. Advocacy is of the utmost importance."

"We have talent in my district, where there are as many cows as there are people. I can only imagine the talent that exists all across America."

Visit ASCAP's advocacy page to find out more about the Songwriter Equity Act and what you can do to help advocate for music creators.

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