[Editor Charlie sez: Because MIC Coalition members got legislation passed that violates international law, the U.S. lost a WTO arbitration so the U.S. taxpayer paid royalties to Irish songwriters that American songwriters don’t get paid. It would have been cheaper for the taxpayer to stop this crony capitalism and require the restaurants to pay songwriters like everyone else.]
The part of the U.S. Copyright Act that exempts some small restaurants and bars from paying public performance fees to collecting societies could be costing rightsholders more than $150 million a year, according to a study by the consultancy PMP Conseil.
The study was presented today (Nov. 8) by Keith Donald, chairman of the Irish Collecting Society IMRO, at a meeting of the International Council of Creators of Music. The research was funded by GESAC, the organization of European composers groups, in an effort to push the U.S. to change its copyright laws.
The issue stems from 1998, when Congress passed the Fairness in Music Licensing Act, which let more bars and restaurants play music on a stereo or television without getting public performance licenses from ASCAP or BMI. (The bill was attached to the Copyright Term Extension Act.) Although more sweeping exemptions in the original text of the bill were withdrawn, the final version allows restaurants and bars of less than 3,750 square feet to play music without a license, provided they meet certain conditions.
After the law took effect, the European Commission began a dispute proceeding against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization, on the grounds that the exemption violated the Berne Convention — which the U.S. is obligated to abide by under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). The WTO ruled in favor of the Commission, and in 2003 and 2004, under the terms of a settlement, the U.S. paid into a European Union fund to benefit songwriters. But it hasn’t paid since then.