Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dick Armey lobbies for RIAA's 'big enchilada' (or 'music tax,' if you prefer)

National Journal's Tech Daily Dose reports that former House Majority Leader Dick Armey has signed on to lobby for an RIAA-backed effort to extend copyright's public performance right to sound recordings broadcast on terrestrial radio stations -- an effort that the labels' trade association has termed its "big enchilada" for 2009. Armey -- now a "Senior Policy Advisor" (i.e., big-time lobbyist) with DLA Piper -- is technically working on behalf of the Music FIRST Coalition, which includes the RIAA and other interested recording industry groups.

Performance rights legislation has already been introduced this year in the House and Senate, with bipartisan sponsors including Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Corker (R-TN), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and John Shaddegg (R-AZ). (Leahy press release and legislative analysis here.)

Of course, the radio stations that would have to pay a new set of royalties (they already pay one to music publishers) will not go down without a fierce fight. Their own trade association -- the National Association of Broadcasters -- has released a statement and a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attacking the performance rights bill as a "recording industry bailout" and a "music tax."

Dick Armey shilling for rock stars and lobbying for a new "tax"? I thought I'd never live to see the day...

(UPDATE: I should say that, whatever one thinks of the merits of the performance rights legislation, I don't think it's fair to call it a "tax," which is money paid to the government. The bill would simply expand the scope of copyright owners' exclusive rights, enabling them to demand a license fee for certain uses that, as of today, require no license. But no money would be paid to the government.)

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