The Los Angeles Times reports today (registration required) that the RIAA and a number of artists groups are getting ready to advocate for the repeal of a law that exempts over-the-air radio broadcasters from paying the same performance royalties to record companies and artists that webcasters and satellite radio does. Broadcasters are exempt from those royalties both for their analog and new digital “HD” radio services. We have said that treating different radio services differently in this context is unfair. To the extent that this exemption might have been justified at one time because of the promotional value of broadcast radio airplay, today that value is no different if the radio service is delivered via satellite or the Internet.
What makes the current push for the exemption's repeal even more interesting is that last week the Copyright Alliance was re-launched, ostensibly to protect artists and large copyright holders from the likes of PK and its allies who want balanced copyright. Former MPAA boss Jack Valenti created the Alliance years ago, and most of its members remain the same, including both the major music companies and Hollywood studios, two of the professional sports leagues, and a few of the unions and guilds. But scroll down the list of members, and there you see – surprise – the National Association of Broadcasters, which is a virulent opponent of repealing the exemption (they also oppose the radio broadcast flag, which is something else the recording industry would like Congress to enact). So right off the bat, the Copyright Alliance will be unable to speak on a matter that is the number one copyright priority for the recording industry and recording artists. And to the extent that the Alliance may instead focus on attacking PK and its allies on other copyright issues, it makes less likely a powerful strange bedfellows alliance on the public performance issue.