What You Need To Know: The United States is alone as the only major country in which AM/FM radio stations pay absolutely no royalties to performers or copyright owners when they play a song on the air. The radio industry has long profited from this glaring omission in the law and has sought to extend their exemption through legislation that would continue to block performers from their deserved royalties.
In June 2021, U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch of Florida and Darrell Issa of California introduced legislation known as the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), which addresses radio’s unfair exemption. The law introduces modest changes in the Copyright Act and brings terrestrial radio under the umbrella of performance rights. The AMFA would introduce a royalty rate-setting process similar to that for digital streaming services and would be revisited every five years. The AMFA also sets low, yearly royalty fees for small radio broadcasters, protecting local and independent broadcasters and recognizing their importance to the music ecosystem.
MAC’s Perspective: It is shameful that the U.S. alone denies performers any remuneration when their work is played on terrestrial radio. The AMFA addresses this, and sets sensible standards and guardrails for a new royalty system. The radio industry has made a fortune on the backs of performers, building entire businesses by free-loading off of performers’ labor. Even if radio had even a fraction of the influence it once did, nothing could justify an unfair deal foisted on performers who see not-a-dime of the billions-upon-billions of dollars broadcasters make each year. MAC gives its full-throated support to the AMFA, and will push for Congress to take up and pass the Act promptly.