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15 July 2014Copyright

US House subcommittee to discuss artists’ rights

Officials from the Songwriters Guild of America and the Future of Music Coalition are among witnesses due to give evidence today (July 15) at a hearing on moral rights, termination rights, resale royalty and copyright term by a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Congressman Jerold Nadler, the ranking member of the subcommittee on courts, IP and the internet, introduced the American Royalties Too Act earlier this year and said his proposal will be discussed at the hearing. It is designed to ensure visual artists are compensated when their original artwork is resold.

His legislation, he said, “would bring fairness to American artists who, unlike their fellow visual artists in 70 countries, do not receive any compensation when their works are resold at public auction.”

Nadler added: “The time has come for us to consider establishing a resale royalty right here in the US. We should join the 70 other countries who provide a resale royalty right in an effort to fairly compensate visual artists. This would ensure that, in addition to resale royalties for works resold in this country, American artists also benefit when their works are sold overseas.”

The bill, he said, “attempts to correct an existing injustice and would help American artists wherever their works are sold—whether it be in New York, London, or Paris.”

Among the witnesses will be Casey Rae of the Future of Music Coalition and Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America. In written testimony to the subcommittee, Rae said he believes “that musicians and songwriters should have a choice in how they exploit their copyrights.”

Carnes, who has written songs for artists such as Garth Brooks and Alabama, said the current fair use guidelines in Section 107 of the Copyright Act establish an “excellent, flexible framework for courts to settle questions concerning the adequacy of a fair use defence in any copyright infringement action” and that “the system does not need to be and should not be disturbed.”

Similarly, he said, “suggestions that the US should break with the rest of the world to reduce the current term of copyright protection, designed specifically to allow creators to address the economic welfare of their families for a time period limited basically to the lives of their grandchildren, in order to stimulate ‘faster growth of the public domain’ should be rejected outright.”

However, Karyn Temple Claggett of the US Copyright Office said in her written testimony that certain visual artists, including painters, illustrators, sculptors, and photographers “may indeed operate at a disadvantage under the copyright law relative to other authors, and that Congress accordingly may wish to consider resale royalty legislation to address this disparity.”

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