Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Help Strengthen Intellectual Property Laws for Music Legends

Coons, Kennedy, Tillis, Corker, Booker sponsor legislation supported by musicians, singers, record labels, and music distributors.

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators led by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Kennedy (R-Louis.) today introduced the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act, or CLASSICS Act, which would ensure that recording artists from the pre-1972 music eras are fairly compensated when their music is played digitally.

For historical reasons, sound recordings made before February 15, 1972 are governed by state, not federal, law. And, in recent years, this oddity has led to disputes as to the scope of state law rights when sound recordings are performed by digital music services. The CLASSICS Act would correct that oddity by bringing those pre-1972 sound recordings into the federal system, thus allowing the artists and ownersof such recordings to be fairly compensated when their music is digitally transmitted.  

In addition to Coons and Kennedy, the CLASSICS Act is co-sponsored by Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

A one-pager on the CLASSICS Act is available here

“The music performed and recorded by artists before February 15, 1972 is an important part of our shared cultural heritage.  It’s the music many of us listened to growing up on records and cassettes, and it simply is not fair that when we listen to that music today on digital platforms, those legacy artists are not compensated even though their modern counterparts are,” said Senator Coons.  “I’m pleased to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce the CLASSICS Act and fix this long-standing disparity, and I thank the many different segments of the music industry that have worked hard to achieve this consensus solution.”

“Artists who made music prior to 1972 are getting a raw financial deal because of an antiquated loophole in our legal system.  Our bill, the CLASSICS Act, will give the recognition and compensation these artists deserve,” said Senator Kennedy“Louisiana is the birthplace of jazz.  Artists who contributed to that uniquely New Orleans sound are pioneers who deserve the same copyright protections as everyone else. I will add that, in my opinion, music made after 1972, with the exception of Meatloaf’s work, isn’t as good as the classics anyway.”

“Due to an outdated legal loophole, classical music recorded before 1972 does not enjoy the same copyright protections as today’s recordings,” said Senator Tillis. “The bipartisan CLASSICS Act is an overdue fix that modernizes how artists are compensated and gives our iconic artists the copyright protections and compensation they long deserve.”

“Tennessee is blessed with a vibrant music industry composed of talented songwriters, skilled musicians, and gifted recording artists,” said Senator Corker. “However, while the industry has been transformed with advances in technology, we have yet to modernize the way music creators are compensated for their work. It is nonsensical that today some of our legendary performers may not get paid for the hits they recorded before 1972, and this legislation will provide certainty for those artists.”

“For years, some of our most treasured recording artists have been unfairly denied payments due to loopholes in the federal copyright system that are senseless and arbitrary,” said Senator Booker.  “This common-sense bill will close those loopholes and more fairly compensate legacy artists for their timeless work.” 

The CLASSICS Act is supported by the American Association of Independent Music, the Recording Industry Association of America, Pandora, musicFIRST, the Internet Association, the Recording Academy, SoundExchange, Screen Actors Guild?American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, the Future of Music Coalition, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and the Living Legends Foundation.  


Press Contact

Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov