I am writing regarding the Internet Radio Fairness Act. I am a musician, registered Oregon voter and participant in the Future of Music Policy Summit on November, 13 2012. In fact, I played the role of Oregonian #1 during your speech. I volunteered my time to contribute to the event and involved myself by managing the stage for the presentations, an activity I receive 20-35 dollars/hour for in Portland, placing me in a front row seat for the event. We met immediately before you began your speech. I am fairly certain you don’t know my name, it is Graham Smith-White. Given the nature of the government in these United States, I am not surprised by this. I most certainly do not think it positive, however. It is this discontent which moves me to write to you on the matter of the Internet Radio Fairness Act which you introduced to the United States Senate and supported in your presentation at the FMC Policy Summit.
It is with great concern that I discovered the bill as you introduced it contains language which is most likely antithetical to your proclaimed advocacy for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In the conversation with the audience during your presentation you suggested that the language in question may be “simply a boilerplate”, but you weren’t sure. While that may be the case, it concerns me further that the process for introducing legislation to our system of governance is treated so casually. It reminds me of a phenomenon in the music production process referred to as “fixing it in the mix”, wherein performances are recorded without regard to quality and subsequently rearranged by an editor in a process that takes exponentially more time and energy than had it been done right the first time. This, of course, becomes more and more difficult to accomplish the more intricate and delicate the use of the musical language gets. I am sure I don’t need to stress the delicate and intricate nature of the use of language for legislative purposes.
In your presentation you also presented the concept that “the future”, in the form of disruptive technologies and the businesses that seek to make a profit from them, does not have a lobbyist. I found that to be a patently false statement. In fact, later that day we heard support for your bill from a representative of an organization that is just that, a lobby for technology companies. It is no secret that Google and other Silicon Valley technology businesses (like Pandora, Apple and others) actively engage in and contribute to lobbying Congress and other departments of the federal, state and local governments to act in their interests. I found it personally disingenuous, as a constituent, artist and audience member, to hear you propose that in order to make the internet a “fair” place for the profitability of third party music services, selling access to the hard work of myself and my peers, we need to concede a diminishment in our constitutional rights and compensation for the use of our work.
I fundamentally disagree with the proposed legislation for a myriad of reasons. Most notably in that it seeks to address the needs of only one side of the market. Further, it does absolutely nothing to address the most glaring disparity in the copyright royalty situation, the complete lack of a performance royalty for radio broadcast. This issue finds the United States of America alone in the developed world and damages the global profitability of American artists. It is so glaringly abominable that it dominated the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property hearings on Wednesday, November 28th, to the seeming astonishment and concern of the committee members. I do agree that the current royalty situation is a strange collection of laws and backroom deals which make involvement in the market a mire to sort out. But I do not think that any of the royalties are exceptionally high. As was testified before the House Subcommittee, they are dismally low to non-existent.
There is great need for reform and fairness in the music industry, at all levels. I know this first hand from my years of involvement with an initiative called Fair Trade Music (http://www.fairtrademusicpdx.org), which formed to address issues in the local live music market in Portland, Oregon and continues to grow around the country. At every turn musicians face entities which seek to profit off their hard work, time and financial investments without compensation. It is a social ill which is undermining the viability and sustainability of artists at all levels in this country, without whom, the radio corporations, internet or otherwise, have little to offer. I am in the Metro Washington D.C. area for a few months, working on a music project titled American Heritage (http://www.solarpoweredmusic.com/heritage). It is my hope that the heritage of American music does not become one of pure exploitation and poverty, though it does appear to be headed in that direction. To this end I would like to express my interest and willingness to make time to discuss this issue with you and your staff.