Smokey Robinson testifies in favor of Music Modernization Act

Robinson and other musicians appeared on Capitol Hill to support a digital music licensing bill.
18:31 | 05/15/18

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Transcript for Smokey Robinson testifies in favor of Music Modernization Act
Our body welcomed ABC news live I'm wade Johnson thanks so much for joining us some exciting stuff happening on Capitol Hill today. Music icon Smokey Robinson. And some other legendary artists were testifying on Capitol Hill today they're trying to convince senators to vote for the music modernization. Act and Robertson. Basically arguing that some of the rules that are in place allows for some loopholes and musicians are suffering some of them not being compensated. In a way that they should be due to some old laws that are still in place but take a listen to a part of what Smokey Robinson had to say. During that hearing this morning. Nicholas records of the fifties and sixties aren't cult classic because of their each vehicle that's it because of that greatness they still resonate today. They defying the American sound. And Robinson they're trying to protected musicians who created some of those classics including himself and some of his colleagues let's go to Capitol Hill ABC's or let signs was. They are inside the room during the hearing and are let they're calling this its is the protecting and promoting music creation. Of the 21 century what exactly is this about what are senators considering right now. While Smokey Robinson traded his spot on the concert stage for a seat at a congressional hearing today trying to convince lawmakers to support this Nelson this bill does. A number of things one thing it does is create a digital licensing system which would. Change the way that digital streaming services licensed songs as well as the way that royalties are writers and issue. That Smokey Robinson really was concerned about with the fact that copy right laws right now only cover songs. That were made a post in 1970 to you to think of Smokey Robinson. And the miracles this sounds like I second that emotion. Or here's a clown those are not covered. Under current copyright on its not Robinson talked a little bit. About that today saying why he and others who created music before 1972 should be can't compensate and take a let's. Miracles it was one of the papers excited to Motown in 1957. Record label's first million selling hits shop around in 1962. Emotion in 1967. Inches of clown in 1970. Those happen to be some the biggest records I've ever been associated with and to not BP because of it. Prior to 1972. Is so ludicrous is frozen concerned. A lot of work what did you make you know songs not just from the artist. But from the musicians. And the writers and that people who the producers and people. Who were involved. In making them and they deserve to be compensated. Musicians who recorded before February 15 ninety savvy to. Deserve to be compensated the same way as those who recorded after that date. Starting at at the beginning of 2016. I decided that I was going to audit everybody. Which idea audited every body that was the source of income from the order didn't two of them larger companies I ordered him and one of them. It turns up dead according to the audit that was done by professional auditors and to deal would be accord the million dollars. They told me it would give me 121000 dollars okay and I wanted to fight film didn't bring it on so now even in my position. It economically and whatever. How can I put myself to fight a company like that for twenty years aid what do Artis who is not. Poole who don't who doesn't have to find that you would call perhaps that I would have or something. Fighting a company like that it was trying to sue somebody. That's out of the question so we need your help we need this that we need to say that we need you guys to go to the rescue. Just Robinson's estimates that hip songs are played over 50000. Times. On the radio and streaming services each day center in York aren't listening now they have channels that are like the fifth. But fiftieth on fiber sixteenth on six bill sounds are not necessarily covered under current copyright protection and so what this bill would deal. It would extend those protections and make sure that song writers and in recording artist who made these songs like I second that emotion or think of my girl at the classic. Smokey Robinson wrote that song that's temptations saying it they're not getting compensation this bill would ensure that they would be protected and get compensation for those on Smokey Robinson was arguing that there's many people who aren't fortunate enough. As heat to still be recording music and still be touring he 78 years old he still out on that concert stage he says at that this would ensure. That artist of have been older generation would be able to get compensated. For their work the bill also. Would make sure that sound engineers and and mixers and producers that they could apply for a share of these royalties something that they're not. Always guaranteed right and are let this is mostly considered a bipartisan bill where does that stand right now what are its chances of passing what are the holdouts here. Well the how actually passed a similar version. This bill last month you have Republicans and Democrats champion in this bill one person is senator Orrin hatch a little known fact. About him is that he's a songwriter himself said this is on the particular in their particular importance. To senator hatch it's unclear when exactly the senate judiciary committee of night to mark up this bill. In the committee but I expect you do you have both sides of the aisle eager to help. Musicians at and that this has a good chance going forward. Our level is there reception like these senators in the presence of these music icons we could see some of them fan boy and fanned curling over some of these musicians there. The other is definitely a lot of fanned early in fan boy in. A -- nine you had senators posting photos of instant grand themselves hugging Smokey Robinson before the hearing. You heat had people at the senators actually spoke. And and delivered their remarks he had people use seeing a Smokey Robinson ponds so for instance senator Pamela Harris of California. When she was urging lawmakers to support this bill she told them that she was asking them to second about a motion and that's. Doctor is I'm last in a crowd you also in addition. To Smokey Robinson he had Dion Warwick. You had Darlene lives and you had one of the founders. The supreme so there's a lot of celebrity. And star power at this hearing and the senator is were gushing over and kind of taken away it. All right are let science forest on capitol thanks so much for your insight there are a little peek behind the scenes what was going on during that hearing. We want to bring in out Mike muse is well are up pop culture music political expert. That pick a bigger picture at this because. You know for folks were watching this at home they say okay well this impacts you know some of these older musicians but what does this mean for the broader music industry. Yet what are they did a fantastic job of covering it I had a chance to watch it on television and it was really cool to watch and so I Watson violate those cynics subcommittee hearings on these men ends of this of the more interesting once the watts and Smokey Robinson what do legend right now been so it was cool to watch him an action and and his control of the subject in this thousands of it so well I'm issue and explained it clearly in a way that I thought that you know was it was great for the senators and even average folks watching at home understand he did when he that he humanize it right because. What we're talking by the very technical very monkeys and so he being there are a lot of the demonization of an artist's perspective to the public things that play here is of the classical music act and then there's the music minds as they should act right in to what the classical act does is allows individual as an artist pre 1972. To be allowed to have a share the pot if you will right and so is bringing them up to speed that it can participate in the revenue sharing in terms up publishing copyrights except Iraq. But then what happened this thing you bring them along the music modernization act site now allows and had access the days of streams and our talk about the Spotify nauert amateur titles now we're government to pandora's. Southern participate that it stands now they are now left out of that sharing in the revenue sharing of that publishing rights. Now on Spotify so don't always like that I miracles being able to access some of these new platform exactly can't. Good point with so what's happening if it their music is on tummies platform is right now but there is no law that requires those diesel streaming platforms actually paid the miracles but not songs so is almost four artists like Smokey Robinson the miracles that two prongs that. One has allowed their music to be into the copyright conversation by law to participate in revenue sharing and then from there it takes into the modernization act and Alan dues are streaming platforms. They now have participation sharing that day not to be fair they are some digital streaming platforms are our ratings are opting to pay these r.'s revenue streaming but it it. And out of levels a playing field and makes it equal. What do you think the whole of has been all these years and we were talking about a a law from the seventies. And that's still in place why do you think these loopholes have been. Holding for so long. It's economics and it's a money plays as a small Luka hold a lot of corporations haven't sighted take advantage. And loopholes stems from the federal government laws vs the state laws so the state laws allow for these copyrights to be paid but there's a loophole in the Federalist government law system that does it. Require them to do it because then your at odds is a state vs federal Federalist state what trumps wet and it who have discretion if you will. And so now that loophole has not been existence now this act close that loophole but yet I think about it witness so many competing interest right to you have. Your song writers your producer is right you have your performers but they are to have your record label is acts right and then you have owners that think that can Valle who all of these new digital platforms and streaming into it ever will want a piece of the pie as they had that meeting competing interest how they indeed neutralized situations that all out clowns can be equitable. And so now we're at a point now where this bill is on the outcomes hopefully will be equitable. But whit Sunday with a pay attention to what we have here come out hearing right now and I'm hoping as I'm net mention out during a markup could period of his bill. That we'll get to termination agreements rant against smoking gun accompanied by economics and though he was sanity have bodies company's audited and costs in two margin 50000 dollars. Delta had audited. An artist by about imagine knows who didn't have the type successfully rhymes that they may not have the current income revenues into a fight in court so would this legislation solve the problems over there are still other battles that need to play out in the years ahead this still out of thousand of bad news ahead in the second part what part of the battle what's her what's smoking was alluding to partly was. Termination rights for the stands right now there's thirty years that a record label can own the song or the product of an artist. After that. That their rights expired but any artist then passed to engage in exercise their right. An order for them to receive their music back to them so they couldn't negotiate better fair pay. And more equitable contacted view think about this though wit the only person who success the able to get himself out of that was prints. So today's date prison only one who was able success the exercise his rights and has termination agreement so he can own all this materials that he can negotiate better deals to make a more equitable. Why is that import you may be wondering until listeners that home think about those arm is back in the 1970s and 1960s right who really. Just had a whole didn't have any social economical means to have great lawyers we negotiate on their behalf for contract. We are no they probably got the short end of the deal right in so if this admit Nicholson to mark up and you could termination clauses in there it will offer other artists has been marginalized and listening on the margins even prior to the conflict meantime. To be but what we're take their their owners sit back take their product take their property take their intellectual capital back. And then renegotiate. Better fare for better pay. Mike stand by for a second I believe our Latin is still with us or be great if we could go back to her just for a moment on Capitol Hill because we're talking about the our let the likelihood that this could pass through the senate and ultimately become law. Have we heard anything from the white house on this and is this something that if the senators say okay and they sign off on this music modernization act that this is. Something that could actually be signed in the law in the near future. Now this isn't something that the White House has been an out there commenting on what we can certainly. Ask that we know it that it this is going to be going through the Senate Judiciary Committee and it will be going through a mark ups there could be changes. To the legislation it made to try to get some other folks on board and you know we'd just have people. Up there at that hearing today talking about why this should be a pass there is also. A woman with a public interest groups say that there are some changes that need to be made to this legislation she was arguing. That this would extend copyrights. For up about a 144. Years meaning that these songs would be out of the public domain and that's. Actually not in the public interest so the committee will be hearing both sides of these arguments as they mark up this legislation and try to get it to the full senate for a vote and over the White House for the president to sign. Paula that's a really had received quite a lot of bring Mike back into the conversation what about this argument that you know this that this isn't perfect that there are issues that need to be solved moving forward. Yup so where are that brought that out house who want to mention that too as well in that she's right this and a hats do Marca that's for example the term agreement that's gonna come up in the house that there is a represented in California actually leave your home state. Who is considered bring up this and ended with a term agreement. But what she's organs are her name was Wesley rose and so she actually comes from the public knowledge institute and so which is among the public domain that she believes that that the years for this music to be into public domain it's too long in so now images for the current contemporary market. Acts an artist but she also wants those pre 1972 you see of about the on the same threshold if you will when there. Music can get released in the public domain and that's important witness because it allows for the study write something about scholars think what academics think about those who want to understand the origins of music right answer that's aid to debate that we have brunch at dinner at the bar. So where in Iraq general come from. Wright who invented it who invented blues rank so they have on this music pre 1972. You can only begin to understand the study in the migration patterns of blues right from the delta Mississippi it moved north and migration patterns of Chicago and asked him blues and jazz is great creole music kind of gotten extended. But having met in the public domain from pre 1972. Allows us against a study that and create white papers and research so we can begin to answer those questions where it is music come from who created it. When where and. How are now want to bring are allowed back in just one more time I know you gotta run to do some other things. We saw some of the senators that taking cell fees with Smokey Robinson and some of the other artists. That was in the quite the scene on Capitol Hill today. Yeah I you don't have celebrities up here very often but often times when they are up here you DUC. Lawmakers and senators kind of gushing over at south adding yet senator Orrin hatch who is also a Fella a song writer he posted on his social media accounts us but as with him senator Graham. Of South Carolina he also posted some photos sell it finds seen up here at to have such a legend like Smokey Robinson who so many of us. Have listened to for generations up here on the hill. Idol I think or let thank you so much for your time we appreciated again attending that hearing him bring councilman information Michael wanna bring that one more question that clerks to bring it back up to the Celtics yes flew to bring it back to the average Joseph. Music consumer yet rice what does this do for access and in the future if something like this were to pass wit that they're fantastic questions. So as I'm for the consumer of your fan of music both this from historical perspective. And as any content. Contacts that allows us pre nineteen Sammy to be more in the domain. And allows more equity so you can hear more bluntly on different platforms because now these platform owners if you will would more comfortable having this music on their systems. Now they know there's technical ways that they can be paid because they have a seat at table two as well so part of these two act allows for committee. Today to be established that order it said I determine what the pay rates be Wright than I had everyone at the table determine these fair rates and now as a consumer. I can hopefully one day go to almost every distribution content platform and joy to hear music from the past now also left but also to wit what's happening right now is that it allows those that we don't talk but often those names don't hear and those of the song writers those are sounds in the years of the producers. As it stands now there are making fractions on the penny to the dollar on places like Spotify in my title. This now allows them to come into the current and allows them is he the table to negotiate better compensation patterns for them. What's happening now is that most music Morse art as vocal artists if you will do using streaming platform to create their brand nor to get booked professed both like Coachella who. Lila to lose that SXSW. But who don't you see on the stage the producers the sound engineers a song writers are not being paid for so the artist the vocal performance have found a way to get compensated where the songwriters can't. So the modernization. Act which is the part two of this. Now allows those individuals have a participating share the revenue on the site. So it's great consumer break the song writer though through invisible those on here talk about and it's really break those historians really understand the context the music. Mike muse it's great to have this conversation we and it is an interesting day on Capitol Hill considering all the politics out there this is maybe something of it doesn't get as much attention. But Smokey Robinson ruined wait a minute what's going on better taking a deeper look isn't it is that. In packs a lot of people in the musically listens as some might think so much idea wanna go as are a let was talking about some of those tweets that we can show some of the pictures there. We we don't have those pictures really get a Orrin hatch and senator Lindsey Graham did take an up vision exactly itself. Again thank you so much for joining us this is ABC news live my name is whit Johnson. You can follow this story and all the stories we're covering on ABC news and abcnews.com. And down potter ABC news app I'm way Johnson. Have a great day.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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