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Songwriters, music executives urge Congress to pass first music copyright reform in decades


Senator Lamar Alexander played a few tunes written by Senator Orrin Hatch while they discuss the Music Modernization Act
Courtesy Lamar Alexander office

WASHINGTON – Music legend Smokey Robinson and Nashville-based songwriter Josh Kear urged Congress on Tuesday to pass the first major music copyright reform law in decades, saying that many songwriters are struggling financially because they are not being adequately paid for use of their songs.

“It’s a livelihood thing — it’s not just about music, it’s about lives,” said Robinson, the writer of such classics as “My Girl,” “I Second That Emotion” and “Tears of a Clown.”

Kear, who wrote the Carrie Underwood smash “Before He Cheats” and the Lady Antebellum hit “Need You Now,” said many songwriters can no longer make a living off of the royalties they receive for their music.

“It used to be a songwriter could make a decent income from sales of albums or CDs, but those, and the income derived from them, are relics of the past,” Kear told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “People don’t buy music anymore. They stream it.”

Legislation before the Senate would drastically change the way digital music companies obtain a license to play songs and ensure that songwriters are paid when their music is played.

The Music Modernization Act would create a new music licensing organization, run by publishers and songwriters, that would be in charge of identifying a composition’s copyright owners

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