At this stage of the copyright reform effort, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is meeting with stakeholders for “listening sessions,” which give concerned rights holders or users of content an opportunity to make their case for a copyright fix. To reach a broader audience, the Committee is going on the road to reach individuals and groups around the country, and one would think, to hear a range of opinions from the community. So, on September 22, they went to Nashville, a music mecca, to hold a listening session regarding music copyright reform.
Music, perhaps more than any other form of creative expression, needs to be re-examined. New business models for digital streaming, fair royalty rights, and requests for transparency have all created a need for clarity on who gets paid for what in the music business. We need policy that answers this question in a way that’s fair to everyone. One thing has been agreed on by copyright stakeholders thus far—people should be compensated for their intellectual and creative work. Wonderful.
But lo and behold—the same industry and trade group lobbyists that always get a chance to meet with the Congressional representatives and staff in DC turned out to be mostly the only music stakeholder groups that were invited to speak. What gives?
It looks like the House merely gathered the usual suspects—a list of “who do we know (already)?” to the table. It would have been simple for the Committee to convene a wide gamut of music stakeholders together to paint a full picture of the state of the music industry, given the fact that they met in Nashville. Ultimately, however, other key stakeholders (Out of the Box, Sorted Noise, community radio, music educators, librarians, archivists, and consumers) were not heard, and only one (older) version of the state of the music industry (that the Committee already knows about) took center stage.
So, why go to Nashville?
Don’t get me wrong. It is a good thing that the Committee wants to hear from all stakeholders and it is thoughtful to hold listening sessions in geographically diverse locations, but you have to give people you don’t already know an opportunity to speak. That’s the only way to learn about new business models and how best to cultivate music creators of tomorrow—to truly understand how the creativity ecosystem can thrive in the future and then what legislative changes are needed to realize that future.