FERRIER FILES: Tennessee lawmakers kill pre-1972 digital royalties bill

(FOX 17 News)

A critical vote for a bill that would obtain digital royalties for music made before 1972 failed on Tuesday.

Right now, musicians and artists who made music from 1972 to present get paid for their work. However, musicians and artists who made music before 1972 get nothing - not one cent of the big digital download/streaming annual pie.

Many of these people are destitute. These are Tennesseans they are not getting any money.

“These are your constituents, they deserve better,” music manager Tony Gottlieb said Tuesday.

The Recording Industry Association of America is against the bill. Right now they get 100 percent of that pre-1972 money. They say that's not why they are against it, and they want the federal government to pass a law to divide that digital pie.

“I agree with many of the issues,” said RIAA spokesman Wendell Moore. “ Its an issue long overlooked but for the first time we are close. At this time, at the federal level, the classics act was marked up in the senate this week. The RIAA and a very large coalition is just asking give us a chance to get this passed."

Nevertheless Brentwood Senator Jack Johns said he thought it was in good hands in Congress and argued against passage.

“I don't want us to jeopardize us doing this the right way where this is something that effects the entire United States," Sen. Johns said. "I think it is in good hands. This is interstate commerce."

Senator Bo Watson from the Chattanooga area didn't think Tennessee could come up with a legal way to pay the musicians and so he argued against it as well. The bill died again even as many of these musicians are dying without ever seeing a penny of digital royalties.

Highly regarded studio musician Bruce Bouton said they should have passed this bill.

“This money comes into sound exchange, and we just basically reallocate some of that money and disburse it to the legacy artists," Bouton said. "There is a way to do this. Plus, just set a good example for the federal government that Tennessee backs its own musicians. It makes me sick."

The bill goes to summer study, and Fox 17 News will watch what happens at the federal level. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and Senator Bob Corker are both sponsors of the "classics act."

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