Who will fight for music’s interests in Washington?
While President Trump signed the Music Modernization Act (MMA) into law on Oct. 11, a historic victory for the music business, the stakes are still high going into midterm elections Nov. 6, with plenty more that music companies would like to achieve. The wish list includes an elimination of the “safe harbor” provision of copyright law that shields sites like YouTube from liability when users upload works without rights-holders permission, funding for arts and music education, immigration reform and legislation that might force radio broadcasters to pay performance royalties to record labels for airplay.
Neither Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6) nor Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — who introduced the MMA into the House and Senate, respectively — is seeking reelection; nor is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49), who introduced the CLASSICS Act into the House. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY-14), who introduced the Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act (H.R.1457) into the House in Mar. 2015, lost the Democratic primary to newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in what has been described as one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 midterm election season.
But an array of other midterm candidates, particularly in New York, California, Tennessee and Texas, could step up for the cause. Below is a list of key contenders seeking reelection in the House and Senate this year who could be the music industry’s strongest advocates next term. Other resources for evaluating candidates on music, copyright and net neutrality legislation include the Copyright Alliance, Battle for the Net and the Congressional Arts Report Card.
A handful of House Representatives from New York running for reelection have introduced the most talked-about music and copyright legislation of the past two years. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R.1836) into the House in Mar. 2017. His bill’s rate standard parity provisions, which apply the “willing buyer/willing seller” rate standard to mechanical royalties across digital services, were ultimately incorporated into the final version of the MMA. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8) then introduced the CASE (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement) Act (H.R.3945) into the House in Oct. 2017, with the intention of establishing a voluntary small-claims tribunal within the U.S. Copyright Office to offer more cost-effective litigation options for independent creators.
Fighting for music education, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-7) introduced the GAAME (Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education Act) Act (H.R.6137) in June 2018, proposing an expansion of music and arts education opportunities for disadvantaged and low-income students in local schools. Nadler and Jeffries are also cosponsors of the GAAME Act.
Over a dozen House Representatives from California were cosponsors of the MMA, including six original cosponsors running for reelection this term: Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA-27), Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15) and Brad Sherman (D-CA-30).
Chu, who serves as co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, is also a lead sponsor of Jeffries’ CASE Act, and was honored by the Recording Academy at the 2018 GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards in April for her work on behalf of music creators. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23), who works closely with the Recording Academy as co-chair of the Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus, is also seeking reelection.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA-42) has played a crucial role in rallying bipartisan support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), in the face of President Trump’s threats to eliminate both agencies. In Jun. 2018, Calvert, who serves as Chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, received approval for his budget to allocate $155 million to each of the NEA and NEH in FY 2019.
Running for reelection in the Senate is Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee who helped introduce the AMP Act (S.2625) into the Senate in Mar. 2018. A member of the Senate since 1993, Feinstein has played a crucial role in music reform over the past several years, dating all the way back to the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act (DPRA) in 1995 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998.
Congressional elections in Tennessee are under intense scrutiny, in no small part because of an unexpected catalyst: Taylor Swift.
On Oct. 7, Swift shared a lengthy Instagram post that not only encouraged her 112 million followers on the platform to vote, but also revealed her endorsements for Democrats Phil Bredesen and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN-5) in the Senate and House races, respectively. The pop star also harshly criticized Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) for voting against key pro-LGBTQ legislation, as well as against equal pay and domestic-violence protections for women.
According to the nonprofit Vote.org, nearly 65,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 registered to vote just 24 hours after Swift posted on Instagram.
But despite her voting record on social issues, Blackburn has tried to position herself as a vocal supporter of musicians’ rights on Capitol Hill. Serving as co-chair of the Congressional Rock and Roll Caucus as well as the Congressional Songwriters Caucus, she introduced the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act (H.R.4588) in May 2014, and was a lead sponsor both of Nadler’s Fair Play Fair Pay Act and of this year’s MMA.
Reps. Cooper and Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) were also two of the MMA’s lead cosponsors and are both members of the Congressional Arts Caucus.
The Senate race between incumbent Ted Cruz (R-TX) and current Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX-16) could have a significant impact on future copyright reform. Earlier this year, Cruz proposed, and eventually withdrew, an amendment to the MMA that would have weakened the bill’s proposed board to administer rights and create a database of songs to simplify royalty payments.
O’Rourke has support from several celebrities including Travis Scott, who spoke at the candidate’s rally on Oct. 29. O’Rourke and Cruz have collectively spent over $100 million on this race, the most of any Senate rate in U.S. history.
In the House, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) was an original cosponsor of the MMA and also serves as the chair of the new Congressional Jazz Caucus. In Dec. 2017, Lee introduced the National Jazz Preservation, Education and Promulgation Act into the House, which would authorize $2 million for each fiscal year from 2018 to 2020 for the purpose of preserving the history and importance of jazz music.
Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA-10) helped introduce the CASE Act into the House alongside Jeffries and was also an original cosponsor of the MMA. (Marino withdrew from President Trump’s nomination to become the nation’s next drug czar in Oct. 2017, after reports that Marino supported a bill that would have protected large pharmaceutical companies and hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to combat the U.S. opioid epidemic.)
In the Senate, Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) is an outspoken advocate for music education, and was the recipient of the 2017 SupportMusic Champion Award from the NAAM Foundation. Sen. Casey was a champion of the Obama-era Every Student Succeeds Act, which specifically mentioned music as a distinct part of a “well-rounded education” for the first time in U.S. history.
One of Congress’ most outspoken advocates for copyright reform is Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA-9), who first introduced the MMA (H.R.4706) into the House in Dec. 2017. Collins serves as co-chair of the Creative Rights Caucus alongside Chu, and as vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on courts, intellectual property and the internet. Two other House Representatives from Georgia running for reelection, Hank Johnson (D-GA-4) and Karen Handel (R-GA-6), were key sponsors of the MMA.
Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD-8) both cosponsored the MMA. Hoyer, who serves co-chair of the Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus alongside McCarthy, has been a champion for musicians’ rights in Congress for many decades and hosts an annual luncheon with fellow Congress members and arts leaders on National Arts Advocacy Day.
Five cosponsors of the MMA are running for re-election in Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Reps. Val Demings (D-FL-10), Theodore Deutch (D-FL-22), Ted Yoho (R-FL-3) and John Rutherford (R-FL-4). Sen. Nelson, who has served in the Senate since 2000, is also facing a battleground race against Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), who previously chaired the pro-Trump Rebuilding America Now Super PAC.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) has been a vocal advocate for arts education and creators’ rights in Congress. In Mar. 2017, Dingell introduced the CREATE (Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy) Act (H.R.1649), which features provisions to give local artists and entrepreneurs wider access to federal resources such as micro-loans, incubators and grant programs, as well as expedited visa application processes.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) were original cosponsors of MMA in the House and Senate, respectively. Cicilline also co-sponsored the CASE Act and GAAME Act, and serves on the Congressional Arts Caucus.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) was elected as the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus in Apr. 2018, and is currently serving a two-year term as ex-officio member of the National Arts Council. A vocal supporter of federal arts funding and arts education, Pingree is also a lead cosponsor of the GAAME Act.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7) is the co-chair of Congressional Arts Caucus, and received the Congressional Arts Leadership Award from nonprofit Americans for the Arts in Mar. 2018.
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7) is one of the few Congress members to sponsor all three of the MMA, CASE Act and GAAME Act. The first Indian-American woman to serve in the House, Jayapal is also an outspoken advocate for pro-immigration reform.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the GAAME Act (S.3391) into the Senate in Aug. 2018, as a companion to Rep. Velazquez’s eponymous act in the House.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a leading advocate for gun control and wider access to healthcare, has also garnered endorsements from several out-of-state celebrities, including Meryl Streep, Diane von Furstenberg and The Grateful Dead founding member Phil Lesh.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) led the successful bipartisan effort, alongside Calvert, to raise federal budgets for the NEA and NEH to $155 million each in FY 2019. McCollum was also a lead co-sponsor of the GAAME Act.