FERRIER FILES: Artists recording before 1972 get no revenue for digital downloads

(Fox 17 News)

Nashville's Brenda Lee recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," but she doesn't see a penny of its digital download revenue.

Thousands of musicians who wrote, played or performed songs before 1972 have been cut out of the $500 million annual digital recording pie.

Steve Cropper is one of the those famous music maker who you might not recognize, but he is a legend. He co-wrote "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" with Otis Redding.

He wrote "Soulman" made famous by the Blues Brothers.

"I can't turn on the soul channel without hearing a Staxx thing and something I wrote or produced," Cropper said. "That's a good feeling, but when you know your kids aren't getting any money for it."

The record companies get half of digital royalties on anything written from 1972 to today. The featured artists get 45 percent, Non featured musicians and background singers get five percent. This was all part of the Federal Digital Recording Act of 1995.

For anything written before 1972, the record companies got 100 percent, and everyone else gets nothing from a $500 million annual payout in digital royalties.

"It's okay you leave your house and your clothes and your things, but I have a catalog that is very large and I want to give it to my family," Cropper said. "They can live on that for a long, long time."

If this doesn't see fair, you are not alone. State Representative Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, and State Senator Mark Green, R-Clarksville, are the champions of changing this law in Tennessee.

"The money is being made, the money should be paid," Rep. Matheny said. "It's that simple."

But of course, it's never that simple. The record companies want to keep all the money so they are lobbying hard against this new bill.

"If my colleagues will see through the lobbyists and their money and look at the truth, I think we can get this bill through the general assembly," Matheny said. "It is an issue of fairness because we are taking care of constituents here."

You can talk about percentages and how to divide it all. It can get as complicated as a piece of music, but the melody is simple.

"That's my income, royalties," Cropper said. "I survive on that."

There is a similar bill in Congress that would also level this musical playing field. It is co-sponsored by Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, but it has been sitting there collecting dust like so much legislation on the Federal Level.

Fox 17 News will continue to follow this bill as it moves through the legislature.

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