Heard on the Hill

Artists Want Better Pay for Their Work

Big names write to Congress calling for updated copyright laws

Country music superstar Blake Shelton is among the nearly 200 artists calling on Congress to update the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (Richard R. Barron/Courtesy Creative Commons, BY-SA 3.0)

Household-name singers, Grammy winners and rock legends are pushing Congress to protect aspiring creators’ ability to make a living through music.  

Nearly 200 recording artists — including Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Billy Joel, Elton John, Maroon 5 and U2 — wrote to Congress to highlight problems with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  

Between country music (The Band Perry, Kenny Chesney, Little Big Town), pop (Sheryl Crow, Britney Spears), and aging rockers (Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney) the music industry is coming together to demand that the 1998 law be updated.  

The letter reads, “It has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish.”  

The artists, who also include Christina Aguilera, One Republic, and James Taylor, are asking Congress for a change to the law that “balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment.”  

In May, the “Stand with Songwriters” Advocacy Day , led by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, urged members of Congress to update federal music licensing laws. Utah Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch joined industry advocates to support their efforts.  

In April, the Recording Academy lobbied on Capitol Hill for the Allocation for Music Producers Act which would make it easier for producers to receive performance royalties, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act which would change music licensing for sound recordings, and the Songwriter Equity Act which would also update licensing for songwriters and composers.  

For the academy's annual GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards, Zac Brown Band was honored for its work in pushing for updated copyright laws for the industry.  

One of the biggest artists on the letter, Grammy winner Swift, has been known to go to great lengths to protect her music, and to copyright popular lyrics. She has tried to trademark “Swiftmas,” “Blank Space,” “and I’ll write your name” and “1989,” which is the title of her most recent album.  

On Swift's birthday in December, Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash responded to a Washington Post headline, “For Taylor Swift’s birthday, should she get to trademark her birth year?” with a mere “no.”

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