June 24, 2005 · Lessig
According to Cathy Kirkman of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, the Register of Copyrights has decided to propose abolishing the compulsory right granted by section 115 of the Copyright Act. This is the provision that gives recording artists the right to record “covers,” so long as they pay a specified fee.
Remember this quote from a 1967 House Judiciary Report, considering a modification to the law as it existed then:
[T]he record producers argued vigorously that the compulsory license system must be retained. They asserted that the record industry is a half-billion-dollar business of great economic importance in the United States and throughout the world; records today are the principal means of disseminating music, and this creates special problems, since performers need unhampered access to musical material on nondiscriminatory terms. Historically, the record producers pointed out, there were no recording rights before 1909 and the 1909 statute adopted the compulsory license as a deliberate anti-monopoly condition on the grant of these rights. They argue that the result has been an outpouring of recorded music, with the public being given lower prices, improved quality, and a greater choice.
Copyright Law Revision, Committee on the Judiciary, 90th Cong. 1st, Sess., Rep. No. 83 66 (March 8, 1967).
Apparently the Register believes performers no longer “need unhampered access to musical material on nondiscriminatory terms.” What progress.