Here and Now: More Pandemic Relief? At the time of this writing, Congress is either inching toward another round of assistance for Americans impacted by the pandemic or failing once again.
- It falls short: The agreement under discussion appears to fall far short of what is needed, apparently excluding broad needs like stimulus checks and aid to state and local governments and health care workers on the front lines. Those shortcomings will flow down through the rest of the economy and hurt working artists and songwriters.
- But maybe offers help for venues?: The deal originally excluded relief for music venues forced to close to protect public health, but late-breaking reports suggest Democratic leaders have insisted it include significant funding for shuttered theaters and clubs.
- And it might renew federal pandemic unemployment benefits: On a more positive note, discussions appear to include an extension of unemployment benefits. It is not clear if a possible extension will have an additional weekly enhancement, like the added $600/week included in the CARES Act. ARA, in partnership with other music community advocates, is particularly focused on ensuring relief includes self-employed workers and, in determining the amount workers are eligible for, fully takes into account the multiple income sources they often have.
- The Bottom Line: This will go down to the wire, and we won’t know for sure what’s in or out until the votes are cast.
The Biden Transition: As the Biden transition begins the process of staffing up, ARA is joining with music community advocates to ensure the Administration includes personnel who understand the needs of working musicians and songwriters and respect the need to ensure we are fairly compensated for our work. On the other hand, we’ve joined with consumer and public interest groups in advocating that the incoming Administration isn’t stacked with former executives from the big tech companies, who often don’t respect the needs of working musicians and songwriters.
Looking Ahead to 2021:
- Which Way The Senate? All eyes will be on Georgia’s January 5 runoff elections to determine which party controls the Senate. ARA and local creators, including Athens’ legends R.E.M., have been working to spread the word and encourage all Georgians to participate and be heard.
- Pandemic Relief and Vaccine Distribution: In early 2021, we hope and expect the new Congress and Administration to immediately focus on more far-reaching relief for Americans impacted by the pandemic and the mechanics of distributing vaccines to the nation. It’s the first priority and should be.
- Copyright Developments: At the same time, we believe behind the scenes discussions about longstanding barriers to fair compensation for musicians will become a matter of public debate.
▹ DMCA: Senator Thom Tillis, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler have both signaled an interest in revisiting the 22-year old Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Recently, Senator Tillis asked for comments to inform DMCA reform legislation he will unveil perhaps, as early as this month. ARA weighed in, calling the law “the original sin of today’s imbalanced and unfair digital creative economy” and reform a matter of “professional viability” for working performers and songwriters. In addition, we made a number of specific policy recommendations. You can read our complete letter here.
▹ ASCAP/BMI Consent Decree Reform: The outgoing head of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice is engaged in an ongoing review of the ASCAP/BMI Consent Decrees, longstanding restrictions of ASCAP/BMI. Some of these restrictions, many argue, have artificially depressed pay for songwriters and the value of music overall. At the time of this writing, it is not yet known how the Antitrust Division will conclude this review. Possibilities range from doing nothing, making recommendations, or making big changes to the decrees. ARA’s take: No matter what the Antitrust Division does, this issue has been one of longstanding concern, and it isn’t going away. In all likelihood, in 2021, this will be a focus of the Biden Administration, Congress, or both.
▹ The MLC Comes On-Line: The new Mechanical License Collective will open its doors on January 1, 2021, simplifying the process for songwriters of getting paid for streaming. It’s been a huge lift standing up this major new rights administrative body, and working out the kinks will likely be a big part of the music policy scene next year. ARA has been actively pushing for fair treatment for working songwriters and independent publishers throughout the year and will be watching closely in 2021.