Issa introduces bill to extend copyright protections to classic recordings

Sound recordings made prior to 1972 would be covered by federal copyright protections under legislation that U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced to ensure legendary artists are fairly compensated for their work.

Under the Sound Recording Amendment to the Fair Play Fair Pay Act that was approved by Congress in 1971, federal copyright protections were only extended to sound recordings made after Feb. 15, 1972. Recordings made prior to that were subjected to an inconsistent patchwork of laws, which has created issues for musicians, holders of musical rights, distributors and digital streaming platforms.

The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act, H.R. 3301, would address the issue by treating pre- and post-1972 recordings the same under federal copyright laws.

“This is an important and overdue fix to the law that will help settle years of litigation and restore some equity to this inexplicable gap in our copyright system,” Issa said. “It makes no sense that some of the most iconic artists of our time are left without the same federal copyright protections afforded to their modern counterparts.”

The CLASSICS Act would ensure that radio broadcasting of all sound recordings are treated the same under federal law, and it would guarantee that artists receive the same share of royalties regardless of agreements reached between record labels and digital music platforms.

“This bill is the product of a great deal of work to build consensus across party lines and varying interests all-over the music and entertainment landscapes on how to best resolve this long-standing problem. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here. It will go a long way to helping bring music licensing laws into the twenty-first century,” said Issa, the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.

The measure has drawn bipartisan support in Congress, and it has been endorsed by the American Association of Independent Music, the Recording Industry Association of America, Pandora and legendary musicians, among others.

Steve Cropper, a guitarist, songwriter and producer, said the fact that U.S. copyright protections don’t apply to sound recordings made after Feb. 15, 1972, “makes absolutely no sense.”

“Early rockers like me and my peers are on heavy rotation these days on popular oldies channels and on digital radio services,” Cropper said. “And unlike many other platforms, we’re not compensated for it. How is that fair? It’s our music that attracting listeners and thus we should be paid ….”