Rep. Deborah Ross Introduces “Protect Working Musicians Act” To Allow Independent Artists to Collectively Negotiate with Online Platforms AND Artificial Intelligence Developers

Artist Rights Alliance
4 min readSep 20, 2023


Ground-breaking Legislation Developed in Partnership with Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) and American Association of Independent Music (A2IM)

(Washington, D.C.) — U.S. Representative Deborah Ross (D-NC) introduced an enhanced new version of the Protect Working Musicians Act today, legislation that would allow small and independent artists and music creators to collectively negotiate fairer rates and terms for the use of their music by online streaming services as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) developers. The Protect Working Musicians Act was written by U.S. Representative Ross in partnership with The Artists Rights Alliance and The American Association of Independent Music.

Under current laws, small and independent musicians have little ability to bargain for fair royalties for the use of their music by global online platforms that include Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube. Instead, these artists have been forced to accept whatever compensation is offered without the ability to collectively negotiate for market value rates. In addition, there currently exists no avenue through which to engage with AI companies who routinely scrape and use music without permission or consent. Artists are unable to work together in the free market to negotiate compensation with venture capital backed AI giants.

The current model threatens the livelihoods of the thousands of independent artists who seek to use online distribution platforms that provide essential pathways to reach current and potential fans, and whose music is being used by AI companies without authorization. While standing alone, independent creators have little power; together, they could collectively negotiate on a level playing field to secure fair licensing rates for their work.

“North Carolina has long been home to outstanding artists and a vibrant music scene that plays a vital role in our state’s culture and economy,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Working musicians and small independent labels face urgent challenges to their livelihoods posed by the market power of streaming platforms as well as the explosion of AI applications that use their work without licensing or pay. This legislation will help give small, independent music creators a level playing field, empowering them to stand together for fairer compensation and giving them a voice in important negotiations that will determine the future of the music industry.”

The Protect Working Musicians Act would:

  • Allow working artists and independent musicians to band together to negotiate with dominant streaming platforms and artificial intelligence developers.
  • Make clear the antitrust laws are no obstacle to these negotiations.
  • Grant working artists and independent musicians the ability to collectively refuse to license their music to a dominant online music distribution platform that refuses to pay market value rates.

“Musicians today are fighting for fair treatment on so many fronts, including both in the online streaming marketplace and against the growing threat posed by AI companies who exploit creators’ work without permission,” said Jen Jacobsen, Executive Director of the Artist Rights Alliance (ARA). “The ‘Protect Working Musicians Act’ will give small and independent artists a shot at facing these challenges by allowing them to negotiate collectively with the large and powerful entities who profit from musicians’ hard work. We thank Rep. Ross for her leadership in empowering creators with tools to navigate this ever-changing market.”

“Thank you, Rep. Deborah Ross, for championing the rights of artists through the introduction of the Protect Working Musicians Act. The PWMA would help level the playing field for indie artists who struggle to make a living from the mega corporations that control the streaming marketplace.” — Dr. Richard James Burgess MBE, President and CEO A2IM (American Association of Independent Music)

“I’m so grateful to my fellow North Carolinian Deborah Ross for fighting for independent music and the future of creativity,” said singer-songwriter Tift Merritt, Co-Chair of the Artist Rights Alliance. “Artists, songwriters, and independent labels have never needed each other more, and this legislation will ensure our voices are heard and we receive fair pay for our work.”

ARA Co-Founder John McCrea of CAKE said: “The Protect Working Musicians Act is a necessary tool for independent artists and labels to compete in today’s marketplace and receive fair compensation for their work from streaming platforms and AI companies. It is amazing that it even needs to be said, but people who make things have a fundamental right to negotiate with the giants who use and distribute their work.”

“We at Merge would like to thank Congresswoman Ross for endorsing the North Carolina music scene as the strong cultural and economic force it is and taking this step to make sure we can compete and succeed in the digital world,” Laura Ballance, Co-Founder, Merge Records and member of the band Superchunk.

Those who would like to reach out to their representatives in support of the Protect Working Musicians Act can do so at the link here:



Artist Rights Alliance

Artist-run, non-profit advocating for musicians, performers, & songwriters in the digital landscape. (Formerly the Content Creators Coalition or “c3”)